World 'in uncharted territory' as coronavirus spreads: WHO
March 02 2020 11:19 PM
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a daily press briefing on the new coronaviru
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a daily press briefing on the new coronavirus , at the WHO headquarters in Geneva

Reuters Seoul/Beijing

* China reports big fall in new cases at centre of epidemic
* Global death toll rises above 3,000; over 89,000 infected
* Stock markets steady after plunge; US talks down panic
*Outside of China, the virus has spread to 66 countries

Coronavirus is now spreading much more rapidly outside China than within the country, leading the world into uncharted territory, but the outbreak can still be contained, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

Almost nine times as many cases had been reported in the past 24 hours beyond China than inside, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, adding that the risk of coronavirus spreading was now very high at a "global level".

He said outbreaks in South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan were the greatest concern, but that there was evidence surveillance methods were working in South Korea, the worst affected country outside China, and the epidemic could be contained there.

"We are in uncharted territory - we have never seen before a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission but at the same time which can also be contained with the right measures," he told a news briefing in Geneva.

Finance ministers of the G7 group of leading industrialised democracies were expected to hold a conference call today to discuss measures to deal with the economic impact.

World stock markets regained some calm as hopes for global interest rate cuts to soften the economic blow steadied nerves after last week's worst plunge since the 2008 financial crisis.

The global death toll was up to 3,044, according to a Reuters tally. More than 89,000 have been infected in over 66 countries.

A senior US official said he was concerned the numbers in the United States, currently at more than 75 confirmed cases and five deaths, could jump in coming weeks.

South Korea has had 26 deaths and reported another 599 infections on Monday, taking its tally to 4,335 following Saturday's biggest daily jump.

Of the new cases in South Korea, 377 were from the city of Daegu.

Wuhan, at the centre of the epidemic in Hubei province, shut the first of 16 specially built hospitals, hurriedly put up to treat people with the virus, after it discharged its last recovered patients, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said.

"The rapid rising trend of virus cases in Wuhan has been controlled," Mi Feng, a spokesman for China's National Health Commission, told a briefing.

Outside China, it has in recent days spread rapidly, now to 66 countries, with more than 6,500 cases and more than 130 deaths.

The death toll in Italy, the hardest hit European country, has jumped to 52 and the number of cases to more than 2,000.

Another of the worst-hit nations, Iran, reported infections rising to 1,501 on Monday, with 66 deaths, including a senior official.

Latvia, Saudi Arabia and Senegal reported their first cases. In Britain, which has 36 confirmed cases, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to be prepared for further spread of the virus.

Global factories took a beating in February from the outbreak, with activity in China shrinking at a record pace, surveys showed, raising the prospect of a coordinated policy response by central banks.

The global spread has forced the postponement of festivals, exhibitions, trade fairs and sports events. It has crippled tourism, retail sales and global supply chains, especially in China, the world's second-largest economy.

Middle East airlines have lost an estimated $100mn so far due to the outbreak and governments should help the carriers through this "difficult period", an official of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said.

Global airlines stand to lose $1.5bn this year due to the virus, he added.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that the outbreak was pitching the world economy into its worst downturn since the global financial crisis, urging governments and central banks to fight back.

Roughly $4 trillion has been wiped off the value of US stocks.

US stock indexes rose on Monday with investors hoping that monetary stimulus from central banks would help tide over the potential economic impact.

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