TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club(YJC)_The following is a selection of today's most noteworthy items:
UN Human Rights Council to suspend session over COVID-19
The top UN rights body decided Thursday to suspend its main annual session at the end of this week over the new coronavirus pandemic.
"With the agreement of the council, we will suspend the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council on the 13th of March until further notice," council president Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger told country representatives.
There were no objections to the proposal, which came a day after the World Health Organization said COVID-19 could now be classed as a pandemic.
The Human Rights Council, which kicked off its main annual session on February 24 and had been scheduled to continue through to March 20, would wrap up some work, including a debate on racial discrimination, before closing up shop on Friday.
On Friday afternoon, she said, the council would appoint 19 mandate-holders whose appointments had been planned for next week.
At the same time, all resolutions during the session would still need to be tabled by Friday, but they would only be acted upon once the session resumes, Tichy-Fisslberger said.
The UN's top rights body had until now put off a total shutdown, but had halted some activities and moved its sessions to a larger chamber to avoid crowding.
Thursday's news came after Geneva, which is home to the UN's European headquarters and the rights council, decided to ban all events counting more than 100 people.
Already in late February, the Swiss government banned all events with more than 1,000 participants, sparking a flurry of cancellations of large events like the Geneva Motor Show.
Earlier this week, the World Trade Organization said it would suspend all meetings until March 20 after a staff member contracted the disease.
Europe's science lab CERN said Wednesday it was closing its doors to tourists after a case surfaced there.
UK insurers stop selling travel policies over virus
British insurer LV= on Thursday said it had suspended sales of travel policies owing to turmoil linked to the coronavirus pandemic.
Many travelers do not ordinarily purchase travel insurance but the virus fallout has seen a spike in demand.
"In light of the significant impact that coronavirus is having globally, LV=... has taken the difficult decision to pause the sale of travel insurance to new customers," the company said in a statement.
"In the last couple of weeks, we've seen the number of policies sold double."
LV= stressed that the suspension was a temporary move, adding there would be no change for existing customers.
"We will continue to monitor the situation closely and review the decision on an ongoing basis," the company said.
UK insurer Aviva has meanwhile adjusted its travel cover to reflect risks posed by COVID-19.
New customers can still buy insurance but would not be able to select add-on cover for "travel disruption" or "airspace closure", it added.
Aviva has paused also the sale of single-trip insurance for customers travelling to Italy -- the European country hardest hit by the coronavirus.
Ireland orders shutdowns to curb coronavirus
Ireland on Thursday announced the closure of all schools and colleges, and recommended the cancellation of mass gatherings as part of measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said "schools, colleges and childcare facilities will close from tomorrow (Friday)", as would state-run cultural institutions.
Indoor events of more than 100 people and those outdoor involving over 500 "should be cancelled", Varadkar said in a statement in Washington, where he was on an official visit.
Ireland has 43 confirmed cases of the disease and on Wednesday announced the country's first death. Varadkar said more cases and deaths were expected as the world moved into "uncharted territory".
The premier said the new measures were part of the government's "duty to protect" the public and the restrictions would be in place until March 29.
He said people could still go to work, as public transport was not affected, but recommended home-working, staggered working and break times wherever possible, to minimize contact.
The new guidance follows a meeting between the prime minister and the government's National Public Health Emergency Team on Wednesday night.
In Dublin, foreign minister Simon Coveney told a news conference: "This is a phase that we have been planning for some time."
He called them "the right measures, at the right time" and were based on best public health advice.
Varadkar traveled to Washington for St Patrick's Day celebrations on March 17 for Ireland's patron saint.
The annual parades in Ireland, which attract hundreds of thousands of people, have been cancelled because of fears about the spread of COVID-19.
Similar parades in Boston and New York have also been cancelled.
Spain government switches to video meetings after minister catches coronavirus
Spain cancelled top-flight soccer, shut schools across a swathe of the country and
announced the prime minister will hold his meetings by video, after a minister tested positive for coronavirus and the death toll nearly doubled overnight.
Spain, which at first took few steps against the outbreak, changed tack this week after infections soared, declaring a ban on flights from Italy, closing some schools and cautioning against domestic and foreign travel.
The death toll from coronavirus rose to 84 on Thursday from 47 on Wednesday, the health ministry said, a rise of nearly 80 percent overnight and a threefold increase from Monday.
Schools will shut down for two weeks in Catalonia, the Basque Country, Galicia and Murcia, officials said, adding to a shutdown already in place in the wider Madrid region.
The majority of multi-ethnic Singapore's citizens are ethnic Chinese and do not follow Islam, but the country is also home to a substantial Muslim minority.
Authorities in Muslim-majority Malaysia have also reported a handful of virus infections linked to the gathering, and are trying to track down thousands of citizens who attended it.
Malaysia has not ordered the closure of all mosques or banned communal prayers on Fridays -- the holiest day for Muslims -- although authorities have recommended some steps such as shortening sermons.
A man from Brunei also became infected after attending the event, and then passed on the virus to several people when he returned to the tiny sultanate neighboring Malaysia.
Malaysia has so far reported 158 cases of COVID-19, while Singapore has reported 187.