EU raises alert as virus toll crosses 3,000

Nine times more new COVID-19 cases outside China than inside: WHO; Italy cases double in 48 hours

Updated - March 02, 2020 10:34 pm IST

Published - March 02, 2020 10:25 pm IST - Brussels

Safe voting:  People quarantined for coronavirus arrive to cast their votes in a specially made tent in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday.

Safe voting: People quarantined for coronavirus arrive to cast their votes in a specially made tent in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday.

The death toll from the new coronavirus epidemic surpassed 3,000 on Monday as more people died in China, Iran and the U.S. and Europe raised its state of alert.

The virus has now infected more than 89,000, spread to over 60 countries and threatens to cause a global economic slowdown — after first emerging in China late last year.

Also read |Why is COVID-19 not a pandemic yet?

With fears of a pandemic on the rise, the World Health Organization urged all countries to stock up on critical care ventilators to treat patients with severe symptoms.

China reported 42 more deaths on Monday — all in central Hubei province. The death toll in China alone rose to 2,912, but it is also surging abroad.

The World Health Organization said on Monday that the number of new coronavirus cases registered in the past day in China was far lower than in the rest of the world.

“In the last 24 hours there were almost nine times more COVID-19 cases reported outside China than inside China,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.

In Brussels, EU president Ursula von der Leyen said the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) had increased its risk assessment for Europeans after Italy’s outbreak doubled in 48 hours.

The virus has raised fears for the world economy, with the OECD lowering its global growth forecast by half a point to 2.4%, the worst performance since the 2008 crisis.

China’s economy has ground to a halt with large swathes of the country under quarantine or measures to restrict travel.

Health officials monitoring the virus at the ECDC announced that it had increased its risk assessment to “moderate to high”.

In France, a woman, in her eighties, has died. The Louvre — the world’s most visited museum — closed on Monday after staff refused to work because of fears about the virus.

Elderly vulnerable

The WHO says the virus appears to particularly hit those over the age of 60 and people already weakened by other illness. It has a mortality rate of between 2-5%.

Saudi Arabia on Monday announced its first case of the virus, the Health Ministry said.

Iran reported 12 more deaths on Monday, raising the country’s toll to 66, the second biggest after China.

South Korea, the biggest nest of infections outside China, reported nearly 500 new cases on Monday, raising its total past 4,000. Four more people died, taking its toll to 22.

The leader of a secretive South Korean sect linked to more than half the cases apologised on Monday for the spread of the disease.

Shincheonji head Lee Man-hee’s plea for forgiveness came after Seoul city authorities filed a murder complaint against him for failing to cooperate in containing the epidemic.

U.S. deaths

A second person died in the northwestern U.S. state of Washington as President Donald Trump, who has downplayed the risk of a major outbreak, faced criticism over his administration’s preparedness.

EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: “As of this morning, we have 2,100 confirmed cases in 18 EU member states and we have 38 citizens who have lost their lives.”

After an increase on Sunday, China’s National Health Commission reported 202 new infections on Monday, the lowest daily rise since late January, bringing the nationwide total over 80,000.

By contrast, Iran reported more than 500 new cases, raising its total number of infections to 1,501.

Israel, which has 10 confirmed cases, with more than 5,000 others under home-quarantine, many after visiting at-risk countries, held its first election since the outbreak. Special polling station were set up for quarantined Israelis.

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