More new cases of coronavirus outside China than inside, says WHO as fears of infection loom over sporting events, tourism and trade
The world is working to halt the fast-spreading coronavirus that for the first time counted more new cases outside China than inside the country where the epidemic originated
Worries over the ever-expanding economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis multiplied, with factories idled, trade routes frozen and tourism crippled, while a growing list of countries braced for the illness to breach their borders
The World Health Organization, meanwhile, reported that the number of new cases reported outside China on Tuesday exceeded the number of new cases in China for the first time
With Brazil confirming the arrival of Latin America's first case, the virus had a toehold on every continent but Antarctica
Seoul: Crews scrubbed everything from money to buses, military bases were on high alert and quarantines were enforced Wednesday from a beachfront resort in the Atlantic to a remote island in the Pacific, as the world worked to halt the fast-spreading virus that for the first time counted more new cases outside China than inside the country where the epidemic originated.
Worries over the ever-expanding economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis multiplied, with factories idled, trade routes frozen and tourism crippled, while a growing list of countries braced for the illness to breach their borders. Even the Olympics, five months away, wasn't far enough off to keep people from wondering if it would go on as planned.
"We don't expect a miracle in the short term," said Kianoush Jahanpour of the health ministry in Iran, where an official tally of infections of 139 was doubted by some who thought the problem was far bigger.
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The World Health Organization, meanwhile, reported that the number of new cases reported outside China on Tuesday exceeded the number of new cases in China for the first time. "The sudden increases of cases in Italy, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea are deeply concerning," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday. About 81,000 people around the globe have been sickened by the coronavirus that kept finding new targets.
With Brazil confirming the arrival of Latin America's first case, the virus had a toehold on every continent but Antarctica.
In Europe, where Germany, France and Spain were among the places with a growing caseload, an expanding cluster of more than 200 cases in northern Italy was eyed as a source for transmissions. In the Middle East, where cases increased in Bahrain, Kuwait and Iraq, blame was directed toward Iran. In Asia, where the crisis originated late last year in China, threats continued to emerge around the region, with South Korea battling a mass outbreak centered in the 2.5 million-person city of Daegu.
The illness had now spread to 37 counties, said world health officials, who simultaneously cautioned against the risks of unnecessary fears or stigma. "We are in a fight that can be won if we do the right things," WHO director-general Ghebreyesus said.
Though the virus pushed into countries both rich and poor, its arrival in places with little ability to detect, respond and contain it brought concern it could run rampant there and spread easily elsewhere. "We're going to be trying to slow down the spread so that our hospitals are not overwhelmed in one big gulp, one big hit," said Ian Mackay, who studies viruses at the University of Queensland in Australia.
In South Korea, workers sanitized public buses, while in China, banks disinfected banknotes using ultraviolet rays. In Germany, authorities stressed "sneezing etiquette," while in the United States, doctors announced a clinical trial of a possible coronavirus treatment.
Around the world, as Christians marked the start of the holy season of Lent with Ash Wednesday, worshipers found churches closed and rituals changed by virus fears. Even in St. Peter's Square, many of those gathered for Pope Francis' weekly audience wore face masks and clergy appeared to refrain from embracing the pontiff or kissing his ring.
Services in Singapore were broadcast online to keep people from crowded sanctuaries where germs could spread, bishops in South Korea shuttered churches for what they said was the first time in the Catholic Church's 236-year history there, and in Malaysia and the Philippines, ashes were sprinkled on the heads of those marking the start of Lent instead of using a damp thumb to trace a cross of ashes. "We would like to be cautious so that the coronavirus will not spread," said the Reverend Victorino Cueto, rector of the National Shrine of our Mother of Perpetual Help in Manila in the Philippines.
Major gatherings were eyed warily, with organizers scrambling to respond in the face of the epidemic. Looming largest of all are the Olympic games, whose opening ceremonies are scheduled for 24 July in Tokyo. A member of the International Olympic Committee, Richard Pound, sounded alarms a day earlier, saying the virus could force a cancellation of the games. The Japanese government, in turn, gave mixed signals, insisting they would go forward yet urging that sports events now be curtailed.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for major sports and cultural events in the coming two weeks to be canceled or postponed to stem further infections. Meanwhile, the top government spokesman said Olympics preparations would proceed and the games would go on as planned.
Among the other crowded places that had officials worried: Military bases. The South Korean military announced additional infections among its troops, with 20 cases on its bases and some 9,570 people in isolation. The US military, which has 2,8,500 troops in South Korea, confirmed the first infection of an American soldier, a 23-year-old man based at Camp Carroll near Daegu, a day after Americans said a military spouse also had contracted the illness. Bowling alleys, movie theaters and a golf course on four American bases in the country were closed.
"This is a setback, it's true, there's no getting around that. But it's not the end of the war," Colonel Edward Ballanco, commander of the US Army Garrison Daegu told troops in a video message. "We are very well equipped to fight this thing off."
Italy recorded 52 new infections on Wednesday and Greece became the newest country to see a case of the virus. South Korea announced 284 new cases, largely in Daegu, bringing its total to 1,261. China, still the epicenter of the crisis even as new outposts caught the world's attention, reported 406 new cases and 52 more deaths. The country has a total of 78,604 cases of the virus and 2,715 fatalities.
China said Wednesday that those sickened by the virus included 555 prisoners who officials said likely became infected by guards using the same bus station as a nearby pulmonary hospital. In a twist, China is now heavily regulating arrivals from abroad, with authorities placing South Koreans under monitoring, state broadcaster CCTV reported, after five people on a flight showed signs of fever.
Indonesia said it evacuated 188 crew members from the World Dream cruise ship and planned to take them to remote Sebaru Island. The workers were released from quarantine in Hong Kong after finding no infections, but authorities mandated an additional observation period.
And on the opposite side of the world, the MSC Meraviglia was denied permission to land in Grand Cayman, where it was due to arrive Wednesday, following a decision by Jamaica to refuse it entry. The cruise line expressed frustration with the moves, which came after it reported one crew member from the Philippines was sick with common seasonal flu.
It brought reminders of the MS Westerdam, which was repeatedly denied entry to Asian ports before Cambodia welcomed its passengers. MSC Cruises said the Meraviglia was sailing onward to Mexico.
The group of scientists wants a new inquiry to include biosecurity and biosafety experts to investigate the origins of COVID-19.
"This practice of politicising the search for the origins of the virus is extremely unethical," the Chinese foreign ministry said after WHO chief Tedros Ghebreyesus Tuesday said that "all hypotheses are open" and "warrant complete and further studies"
Tokyo Olympics 2020: Water polo test event cancelled over coronavirus restrictions, confirm organisers
Test events function as dress rehearsals for each sport, and the two-day water polo test was supposed to open on Saturday but will now be held in May or June, Tokyo 2020 organisers said.