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More coronavirus deaths, infections outside China raise pandemic fears

More coronavirus deaths, infections 
outside China raise pandemic fears

AFP
Beijing
Fresh deaths and a surge in new coronavirus cases in Iran, Japan and South Korea on Tuesday fuelled fears of a pandemic as the disease took root in more countries.
The rapid spread abroad came as the World Health Organization announced that the epidemic had peaked at its epicentre in China, where it has killed more than 2,600 people and infected over 77,000 others. But the situation has worsened elsewhere with nearly 2,700 other cases and more than 40 deaths globally, prompting restrictions on travellers from infected nations, the cancellation of football matches and national efforts to isolate suspected patients.
South Korea, Italy and Iran have each logged sharp increases in infections and deaths, while several Middle Eastern countries also reported their first confirmed COVID-19 cases.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus insisted the virus could still be contained, but said that countries should do everything they can to “prepare for a potential pandemic” -- a term is used to describe an illness that spreads across numerous communities.
The White House plans to spend $2.5 billion to combat the epidemic, according to US media. There are 53 cases in the United States so far.
Iran has emerged as a major hotspot with the death toll rising to 15 on Tuesday as three more people succumbed to the disease.
Several neighbours have enacted measures to block arrivals from Iran but the virus has already spread to Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East.
The WHO has warned that poorer countries with weak health care systems are the most at risk.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in warned that the outbreak was “very grave” as the country’s death toll rose to 10 and the number of confirmed infections approached 1,000 -- the largest total outside China. In the past 24 hours, the country has seen an increase of 144 coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 977.
Scores of events have been cancelled or postponed as the outbreak has spread in the world’s 12th-largest economy, from K-pop concerts to the World Team Table Tennis championship.
Parliament closed for cleaning on Tuesday after confirmation a person with the coronavirus had attended a meeting last week.
The US Centers for Disease Control warned Americans against “all nonessential travel to South Korea”.
In Japan, a fourth former passenger of the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship died, according to local media. The man was in his 80s.
Nearly 700 people from the quarantined ship have tested positive for the illness so far. Infections have also spiked inside Japan, with at least 160 cases including one death.
The government has expanded the number of hospitals that can receive suspected patients and asked people with moderate symptoms to stay home.
In China, 508 new cases were reported, with all but nine at the outbreak’s epicentre in central Hubei province.
The death toll nationwide reached 2,663 on Tuesday after 71 more people died, the lowest rise in almost three weeks. Reassured by the official numbers, the country is gingerly returning to business.
Beijing is seeing more cars on the street, factories are resuming work, Apple is reopening several stores, and some regions are relaxing traffic restrictions.

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