coronavirus outbreak

Update on coronavirus expansion. The world "not ready for it".

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The coronavirus COVID-19 continued to spread on Wednesday across the world which, according to a WHO expert, "is simply not ready to deal with it". The epidemic that began in December in central China has already reached a peak in that country, where it infected some 78,000 people, of whom more than 2,700 died, Chinese authorities said Wednesday.

It is affecting more and more countries, including Europe: Covid-19 disease now affects, apart from China, more than 30 states where it has caused more than 40 deaths and 2,500 contaminations.

The world is "simply not ready" to deal with it, warned Bruce Aylward, the expert leading the joint WHO/China mission back from Beijing on Tuesday. "You have to be ready to deal with this on a larger scale, and it has to be done quickly," he added, praising Beijing's work to contain the disease.

U.S. health officials said Tuesday that they expect the epidemic to spread across the United States, encouraging schools, businesses and local governments to consider precautionary measures such as cancelling public events. The Trump administration plans to spend $2.5 billion (€2.3 billion) to fight the disease.

President Donald Trump has planned to speak on the "Caronavirus" (sic) at 23H00 GMT, but he has already accused his Democratic opponents and some media of blackening the picture and panicking the markets, while U.S. health authorities have said they expect a spread in the United States. They also fear that the outbreak could threaten the US drug supply chain, as many of the ingredients used in the manufacture of medicines are made in China, from where the virus originated.

Europe affected

In Europe, Italy is the European country most affected by this virus, with more than 370 cases and 12 deaths, thus appears as a platform for the spread of the virus. Several capitals have advised against going there and are supervising the return of people who have stayed there, although its neighbours have undertaken to keep their borders open.

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Photo Andrea Pattaro / AFP

All of Italy's neighbours "committed themselves to keeping their borders open, as to close them would be wrong and disproportionate", at a ministerial meeting in Rome between Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria and Croatia, which was also attended by Germany and the European Union. They also decided to "assess on a case-by-case basis" the possible cancellation of major events, according to a joint communiqué.

Austria reported two first cases of coronavirus in the region of Tyrol bordering Italy. A hotel in the tourist city of Innsbruck, capital of this region in the heart of the Alps, has been quarantined. An Italian receptionist infected with the virus was working there.

Switzerland has also announced a first case in a region close to Italy, while in Croatia a young man who recently returned from Italy was contaminated, the first known case in the Balkans.

The coronavirus continues to progress and France is no longer escaping the upward trend. The number of people infected in France has risen to 38 confirmed cases, compared with 18 the day before, announced the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, on Thursday evening, 27 February. "We are only at the beginning of the epidemic," warned President Macron.

In the Canary Islands, several hundred tourists are confined to a hotel on the Spanish island of Tenerife where an Italian who may be a carrier of the coronavirus stayed.

Threat of pandemic

"We must not fall into panic," European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in Rome on Wednesday, while calling on European countries to "prepare for an increase in cases and to coordinate well".

Cultural and sporting events cancelled, the economy at half mast and the financial markets tumbling: at a global level, the WHO is concerned about the epidemic and its consequences. The world is "simply not ready" to deal with it, warned Bruce Aylward, the expert leading the joint WHO/China mission, on Tuesday.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday warned that the world remains threatened by a "pandemic", an epidemic of international proportions.

The UN agency is particularly concerned about the risks for poor countries, which are ill-equipped to detect and combat the new virus.

 

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In China, where the new coronavirus appeared in December in Wuhan (centre), the decline continued on Wednesday morning. The country recorded 52 new deaths in 24 hours, the lowest number in nearly three weeks (there had been 71 the day before), in addition to 406 new infections.

China, the cradle of the virus, is ready to offer assistance and medical supplies to African countries in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, President Xi Jinping said. On the African continent precisely, after Egypt, a second infection has been officially registered: in Algeria, on an Italian who arrived in that country on February 17.

In Iran, the mission of a WHO expert team has been delayed but is still planned. Tehran announced on Tuesday three new deaths, bringing its death toll to 15, the heaviest outside China. The Vice Minister of Health himself, Iraj Harirchi, tested positive for coronavirus.

In a context of high tensions between Washington and Tehran, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded that Iran tell "the truth".

 

The United Arab Emirates on Tuesday suspended all flights to and from Iran, a decision that primarily concerns Dubai airport, the world's largest airport for foreign passengers. Several countries in the region have reported cases of contamination among returnees from Iran.

 

In South Korea, the situation is "very serious," President Moon Jae-in said, while the number of cases of infection has risen again to nearly 1,000. The country, which counts 11 deaths according to the balance sheet announced Wednesday morning, is thus the first world hearth of contamination after its Chinese neighbour. The number of infections in South Korea has reached 1,146 people, after the addition of 169 new cases on Wednesday morning. Most of the confirmed cases are linked to a Christian-inspired sect, one of whose followers is said to have infected hundreds of other believers.

Nearly 100 people on a plane from Seoul to Nanjing (eastern China) were quarantined because three Chinese passengers were showing symptoms when a customs team came on board to check for possible symptoms.

 

A first case was detected on Wednesday in Brazil, heightening concerns around the world. The Brazilian patient, a 60-year-old from Sao Paulo, Latin America's largest megalopolis with 12 million inhabitants, had been staying in Italy. He was placed in isolation at home.

>>This map produced by researchers at Johns Hopkins University allows the evolution of the epidemic to be monitored in real time.

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