Virus hits more countries as health official warns world ‘not ready’

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Bruce Aylward, who headed an international expert mission to China, said that other nations were ‘simply not ready’ to contain the coronavirus outbreak. (AFP)
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Commuters wearing protective face masks amid fears of the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus ride an elevated train in Bangkok. (AFP)
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Updated 26 February 2020

Virus hits more countries as health official warns world ‘not ready’

  • Virus has rapidly spread in parts of Asia, Europe and the Middle East
  • In the rest of the world, there have been more than 40 deaths and 2,700 cases

BEIJING/PARIS: A 60-year-old Frenchman has died of the new virus in a Paris hospital, the second virus-related death in France since it emerged in China late last year.

The head of France’s national health service, Jerome Salomon, made the announcement Wednesday, but didn’t say where the man contracted the virus or provide other details.

The man was among three new cases of the virus announced in France on Wednesday.

Greece also confirmed its first coronavirus case, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

The patient was a 38-year-old Greek woman who had traveled from an area of northern Italy, said Sotiris Tsiodras, a representative of the Ministry of Health.

The new coronavirus epidemic swelled on Wednesday with cases in South Korea surging past 1,000 after deaths soared in Iran and infections appeared in previously untouched countries, prompting dire warnings that the world was not ready to contain it.

The virus has rapidly spread in parts of Asia, Europe and the Middle East, even as the number of deaths and fresh cases decline at the disease epicenter in China.

Towns and cities have been sealed off in an attempt to stop the contagion, while hotels in the Canary Islands and Austria were locked down on Tuesday because of suspected cases.

In Germany, A 25-year-old man living in the southern German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg has tested positive for coronavirus after a trip to Milan, and another man further north is in a critical condition with the disease, authorities said on Tuesday.

Neighboring Switzerland confirmed its first case of the coronavirus earlier on Tuesday.

In Iran, which has reported 15 deaths out of nearly 100 infections, even the country’s deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi said he had contracted the virus.

At the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Bruce Aylward, who headed an international expert mission to China, hailed the drastic quarantine and containment measures taken by the country.

But he told reporters that other nations were “simply not ready” to contain the outbreak.

“You have to be ready to manage this at a larger scale ... and it has to be done fast,” Aylward said.

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The virus has killed 2,715 people and infected over 78,000 in China. There were 52 more deaths reported on Wednesday — the lowest in three weeks — with no fatalities outside the epicenter in central Hubei province.

The National Health Commission also reported a drop in new infections to 406, with only five outside Hubei — a figure that will boost confidence that the rest of the country is containing the epidemic.

In the rest of the world, there have been more than 40 deaths and 2,700 cases.

The disease has now reached dozens of countries, with Austria, Croatia and Switzerland the latest to declare cases.

The epidemic’s disruption has also grown, with stock markets tumbling around the world, restrictions imposed on travelers and sporting events canceled.

The WHO, the UN health agency, has called for countries to “prepare for a potential pandemic” — a term used to describe an epidemic that spreads throughout the world.

Poor countries are particularly at risk, the WHO has warned.

South Korea reported 169 new infections on Wednesday, raising its total tally to 1,146 — by far the largest outside China — while an 11th person died.

The vast majority — 90 percent — of the new infections were in Daegu, the country’s fourth-largest city and the epicenter of the outbreak, and the neighboring province of North Gyeongsang.

The streets of Daegu — which has a population of 2.5 million — have been largely deserted for days, apart from long queues at the few shops with masks for sale.

Authorities urged the public to exercise extra caution, advising citizens to stay home if they have a fever or respiratory symptoms.

China quarantined 94 air passengers arriving in Nanjing from Seoul after three people, all Chinese, on the flight were discovered to have fevers on Tuesday.

Gulf countries announced new measures to cut links with Iran in an attempt to stop the spread.

Meanwhile Italy — which has reported 10 deaths and more than 300 cases — has locked down 11 towns and ordered Serie A football games to be played to empty stadiums.

A young man who returned to Croatia from Italy became the first case in the Balkans region.

In the United States, which has a few dozen cases, health authorities urged local governments, businesses, and schools to develop plans like canceling mass gatherings or switching to teleworking as the country braces for the virus to spread further.


South Korea’s Daegu city reports zero new coronavirus cases

Updated 17 min 14 sec ago

South Korea’s Daegu city reports zero new coronavirus cases

  • Daegu accounts for more than half of all South Korea’s 10,450 infections

SEOUL: The South Korean city of Daegu, which endured the first large coronavirus outbreak outside of China, on Friday reported zero new cases for the first time since late February, as new infections across the country dropped to record lows.
With at least 6,807 confirmed cases, Daegu accounts for more than half of all South Korea’s 10,450 infections.
South Korea on Friday reported 27 new cases as of the night before, a new low since daily cases peaked at more than 900 in late February, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
The death toll also rose by four to 208, the KCDC said.
The spread of infections at a church in Daegu drove a massive spike in cases in South Korea beginning in late February.
The outbreak initially pushed the tally of confirmed cases much higher than anywhere else outside of China, before the country used widespread testing and social distancing measures to bring the numbers down.