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Coronavirus

Coronavirus deaths top 3,000 worldwide as second man dies in US

South Korean soldiers wearing protective gear sanitize Daegu railway station in Daegu, South Korea, February 29, 2020.
South Korean soldiers wearing protective gear sanitize Daegu railway station in Daegu, South Korea, February 29, 2020. Yonhap via REUTERS
4 min

The global death toll from the coronavirus epidemic has surpassed 3,000 after dozens more died at the epicentre in China. Cases around the world continue to soar, with a second fatality on US soil and the first cases of infection reported in Indonesia.    

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The virus has now infected more than 89,000 people and spread to over 60 countries after first emerging in China late last year.

A second person died in the northwestern US state of Washington as New York reported its first case in a woman who had visited Iran. President Donald Trump, who has downplayed the risk of a major outbreak, is facing criticism over his administration's preparedness for the outbreak.

South Korea, the biggest nest of infections outside China, reported nearly 500 new cases on Monday, raising its total past 4,000.

Half of South Korea's cases are linked to a sect whose leader apologised Monday for the spread of the disease. Seoul's city government asked prosecutors to press murder charges against him.

Indonesia also reported its first confirmed cases, a 64-year-old woman and her daughter, 31, who tested positive at a Jakarta hospital.

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 of the deadly respiratory disease.

The rapid spread of the coronavirus has raised fears over its impact on the world economy, causing global markets to log their worst losses since the 2008 financial crisis, though Asian markets rebounded on Monday.

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

Other countries have started to enact their own drastic containment measures, including banning arrivals from virus-hit countries, locking down towns, urging citizens to stay home and suspending major events such as football matches and trade fairs.

In a stark example of growing global anxiety, the Louvre -- the world's most visited museum -- closed on Sunday after staff refused to work over fears about the virus.

China reported 42 more deaths on Monday -- all in central Hubei province. The virus is believed to have originated in a market that sold wild animals in Hubei's capital, Wuhan.

The death toll in China alone rose to 2,912, but it is also rising abroad, with the second-highest tally in Iran, at 54. The United States and Australia had their first fatalities from the disease over the weekend.

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 ranging between two and five percent -- much higher than seasonal flu, at 0.1 percent, but lower than another coronavirus-linked illness, SARS, which had a 9.5 percent death rate when it killed nearly 800 people in 2002-2003.

But infections are now rising faster abroad than in China, as the country's drastic measures, including quarantining some 56 million people in Hubei since late January, appear to be paying off.

Infections double in Italy

After an increase on Sunday, China's National Health Commission reported 202 new infections on Monday, the lowest daily rise since late January. There have been more than 80,000 infections in the world's most populous country.

By contrast, infections nearly doubled over the weekend in Italy, Europe's hardest-hit country with nearly 1,700 cases.

Four more people died in South Korea, taking its toll to 22.

South Korea's cases are expected to rise further as authorities test more than 260,000 people associated with the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a religious group often condemned as a cult, that is linked to more than half the infections.

"I would like to offer my sincere apology to the people on behalf of the members," said Shincheonji's 88-year-old head Lee Man-hee, his voice breaking at a press conference where he got down on his knees twice to bow.

Seoul's city government has asked prosecutors to press charges, including murder, against him and 11 other sect leaders for failing to cooperate in containing the spread of the virus.

Lee insisted that the group was "actively cooperating with the government".

A 61-year-old female member developed a fever on February 10 but attended at least four church services in Daegu before being diagnosed.

(AFP)

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