Virus spreads far, wide; 2,600 dead
Outbreaks fanning fears of pandemic
The number of fatalities in China also continued to soar, with 150 more confirmed deaths taking the official death toll to nearly 2,600. Chinese authorities insist they are making progress in containing the virus, citing slowing infection rates thanks to unprecedented travel lockdowns and quarantines in or near the outbreak’s epicenter. But a rising number of new cases and deaths in other parts of the world have deepened fears about a potential pandemic, with South Korea, Italy and Iran emerging over the past week on the frontlines. Bahrain and Kuwait also announced on Monday their first cases of the virus, as authorities in the Middle East sought to clamp down on people traveling and spreading the disease following eight deaths in Iran. South Korea has seen a rapid surge in infections since a cluster emerged from a religious sect in the southern city of Daegu last week. Another 231 infections and two more deaths were reported in South Korea on Monday, bringing the total cases to more than 830 people—the most outside China. South Korean President Moon Jae-in over the weekend raised the country’s virus alert to the highest “red” level, as kindergarten and school holidays were extended nationally. The start of the new K-league football season, scheduled for this weekend, was also postponed on Monday. At the main high-speed train station in Daegu, a normally bustling city of 2.5 million people, just a small trickle of commuters were seen. A long line of cabs waited for passengers outside the station, and the streets were eerily still, with masks and gloves standard for the few out and about. Italy reported Monday its fifth death from the new coronavirus. The death of an 84-year-old man was the fourth in the northern Lombardy region, as the number of people contracting the virus continued to mount. It was the third death in Lombardy, where villages have been put in lockdown and security measures enforced in a bid to stem the spread of the disease, the region’s health department said. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said that residents could face weeks of lockdown in an effort to sit out the virus. The president of the Lombardy region Attilo Fontana said 165 people had now tested positive in the region, the worst-hit zone in Italy. The country now has the most confirmed cases in Europe. “The number is still rising, but we are sure that the measures taken will prevent it spreading further,” Fontana said. Eleven towns—10 in Lombardy and one in neighboring Veneto—are under lockdown, with some 50,000 residents prohibited from leaving. Several Serie A football games were postponed while the Venice Carnival was cut short and some runway shows were canceled at Milan Fashion Week. In Iran, authorities ordered the closure of schools, universities, and cultural centers across 14 provinces following eight deaths—the most outside East Asia. The outbreak in the Islamic Republic surfaced on Wednesday last week and quickly grew to 47 confirmed infections, prompting neighboring countries to close their borders. Health officials there reported that 12 people have died of the disease. Nearly 30 people outside of China have been confirmed to have died after contracting the virus. Nearly 30 countries have reported infections. In China, the confirmed death toll stood at 2,592 on Monday after 150 more people died of the virus. The number of confirmed new cases fell compared with the previous day to 409, taking the country’s total infections over 77,000. Authorities in Wuhan on Monday reversed a decision that would have allowed some people to leave the quarantined city at the center of China’s deadly virus epidemic, and reprimanded officials who had made the announcement. The city government said in a statement that the previous announcement had been made by a traffic prevention and control group “without the consent” of the local leadership. Wuhan’s government deleted the previous post that had announced the easing of restrictions barely three hours earlier. The city of 11 million has been under lockdown since Jan. 23 after authorities shut down transport links into and out of the city in an effort to contain the new coronavirus outbreak. The now-scrapped decision would have allowed non-residents to leave if they show no symptoms of the new coronavirus and have never had contact with patients, the deleted statement said. People with special reasons to leave the city, including those who needed treatment for other medical conditions and those doing epidemic prevention work, would also have been allowed to exit. In Japan, a third person from a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship quarantined off Yokohama has died, the health ministry said Sunday, as new infections among former passengers emerged. Japan has been criticized in the face of mounting evidence that the quarantine imposed on the Diamond Princess did little to stop the virus spreading.