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Coronavirus: World is in 'uncharted territory'

March 3, 2020

The COVID-19 disease has spread to more countries and capitals with almost nine times as many cases reported outside China as inside in the past 24 hours. The EU has raised risk levels as global deaths passed 3,000.

Officials in protective suits prepared to check Indonesian evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
Image: Reuters/Antara Foto/M. Adimaja

The coronavirus continues to spread worldwide, with both Europe and the US recording a rise in the number of cases every day. The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said the world was in "uncharted territory."

"We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing.

Almost nine times as many cases were reported outside China as inside over the past 24 hours.

WHO added that the outbreaks in South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan were its greatest concern.

Read more: All Monday's developments on coronavirus as they happened

How many cases are there worldwide?

More than 90,000 cases have been confirmed in more than 60 countries, with the total number of fatalities crossing 3,100.

The vast majority of the deaths have been reported in China. However, Beijing announced in its daily update Tuesday that infections were dropping, with 125 new cases in the past 24 hours. That is the lowest rate since January 21. It also said 59% of people diagnosed (80,151) had recovered.

South Korea recorded 851 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total infection figure to over 5,100 — the highest number outside China.

The United States, which has so far been among the least affected countries, confirmed its sixth death on Monday — all in the state of Washington.

Read more: Will warmer weather stop the spread of the coronavirus?

What is the situation in Europe?

Germany and the coronavirus

More than 2,100 cases have been confirmed in the European Union, with Italy as the worst-hit country. More than 2,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed by Italian authorities. As of Monday, 52 people who had tested positive in Italy have died.

In Germany on Monday, the number of fresh cases doubled in 24 hours. The next day the total number of infections in the country rose to 188. Thirteen of Germany's 16 federal states have reported cases of the novel coronavirus. 

The EU on Monday raised the risk level from "low to moderate" to "moderate to high."

Where are the new cases?

The virus surfaced in a number of global cities Monday, including New York, Moscow and Berlin. Infections were also confirmed for the first time in Saudi Arabia, Latvia, Indonesia, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Jordan and Portugal.

Read more: Coronavirus: How Africa has been preparing for outbreak

What about the economic impacts?

Countries across the world expect a slump in their economy due to the outbreak. The International Monetary Fund last week said it was likely to downgrade its growth forecast for the global economy.

China, however, is confident of meeting its economic goals for 2020, despite the "negative impact" of the coronavirus on the country's economy, Chinese ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun said on Monday.

The European Central Bank, on the other hand, said it was ready to take action amid concerns over the state of the global economy. "We are ready to take appropriate and targeted measures, as necessary and commensurate with the underlying risks," said Christine Lagarde, the European Central Bank chief. 

G7 finance ministers will hold talks on Tuesday to tackle to the rising global uncertainty.

Read more: Coronavirus set to infect global airlines' fragile health

Is a treatment in sight?

US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said it has identified antiviral compounds with potential as coronavirus treatments, according to Reuters. The company said it was working with a third party to screen the compounds, and if successful, will start testing by the end of the year. 

US President Donald Trump urged pharmaceutical companies to develop a vaccine quickly. Vice President Mike Pence said the treatment for the coronavirus could be available by summer or early fall. "The vaccine may not be available until late this year or early next, but the therapeutics to give relief to the people who contract the coronavirus could be available by summer or early fall," Pence said at a news conference.

FAQs: Answers from a virologist at Germany's Robert Koch Institute

adi/rt (Reuters, AFP)

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