Novel coronavirus cases top 80,000 as markets plunge on pandemic fears

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Novel coronavirus cases top 80,000 as markets plunge on pandemic fears
Multiple outbreaks of the novel coronavirus outside of mainland China have continued to worsen, as experts warn we may be approaching pandemic levels.
 
A World Health Organization landed in Italy late Monday to "support Italian authorities in understanding the situation," the WHO said. The team's focus will be on "limiting further human-to-human transmission" after a rapid rise in cases. At least 229 people have been infected with the virus, and seven people have died in the Southern European nation.
 
In South Korea, more than 893 cases have been confirmed, up from 31 a week ago. At least seven people have died so far, and the virus has spread throughout the country, though the worst outbreak remains in the southern city of Daegu.
 
Chinese authorities announced the postponement of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's rubber-stamp parliament, an unprecedented move in recent times. It comes after President Xi Jinping warned Sunday that that novel coronavirus is the worst public health crisis facing the country since its founding.
 
At the end Monday, China's National Health Commission's recorded confirmed 77,658 cases in the mainland, and 2,663 deaths. The novel coronavirus has now infected at least 80,067 people worldwide and killed 2,698.
 
Markets have plunged on news of the worsening outbreaks worldwide, with the Dow Jones losing more than 1,400 points in the last three trading days, wiping out any gains for the year so far.
 
 
South Korea in crisis
 
Even as the outbreak appeared to be stabilizing in parts of China, with six provinces on Monday lowering their response level, the number of cases worldwide has continued to grow.
 
In South Korea, all flights have been suspended to Daegu, the southern city where the initial outbreak occurred. Several countries and territories have announced restrictions on travel from South Korea, or new warnings for citizens traveling to the country.
 
The Daegu outbreak had been centered around the Shincheonji religious group, but the virus appears to have spread now beyond practitioners.
Several hundred members of the group have tested positive for the virus, and more than 9,000 practitioners have been put into self-isolation while they are tested by health authorities. The infection is believed to have transmitted rapidly because of the mass worship sessions the group holds, which puts them in close contact with one another for long periods of time.
 
Shincheonji has said they are the "biggest victims" of the outbreak, and warned people against "groundless attacks" against them because of the outbreak. They have said they are cooperating with the authorities amid accusations of secret member rolls making it difficult to track potential cases through the country.
 
Speaking late Monday, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said military commanders in Korea "are looking at scaling back the command post training due to concerns about the coronavirus."
 
Esper said he is confident the US and South Korea will "remain fully ready to deal with any threats that we might face together."
Hundreds of cases of the virus have been confirmed across the country, including among the military. Soldiers often live in close confines and there are fears of a self-sustaining outbreak among forces based in various areas.
 
Iran struggling to contain
 
Across the Middle East, flights from Iran have stopped and borders with the country have been closed as the region tries to keep the spread of a deadly coronavirus at bay.
 
Iran is on the front line of the outbreak -- the health ministry has confirmed 61 cases and 12 deaths.
One Iranian lawmaker, Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani from the holy city of Qom, criticized the government's handling of the outbreak, accusing officials of covering up numbers. Farahani said 50 people had died from the virus in Qom, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, though the country's health ministry has denied his claims.
 
The heavy economic sanctions imposed against Iran by the US and other bodies have made tackling the disease harder, with the country struggling to access novel coronavirus test kits, a board member of Iran's Association of Medical Equipment Importers told the semi-official news agency ILNA on Sunday.
 
Ramin Fallah told ILNA that "many international companies are ready to supply Iran with coronavirus test kits, but we can't send them money" because of the US sanctions.

Source: CNN

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