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Struggle to contain coronavirus as cases jump

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

Health services across the world are ‘dangerously ill-equipped’ to tackle the growing global outbreak, experts fear.

China's coronavirus caseload has continued to wane as the epidemic took a firmer hold beyond Asia, with three countries now exceeding 1,000 cases and the US reporting its sixth death.

The health ministry announced just 125 new cases detected over the past 24 hours, China's lowest number since January 20.

Another 31 deaths were reported, all of them in the hardest-hit province of Hubei.

The figures bring China's total number of cases to 80,151 with 2,943 deaths.

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The global shift in the COVID-19 epidemic was apparent, with 2,410 recovered patients being released from Hubei's hospitals and treatment centres, many of them hastily built over recent weeks to cope with the thousands of people sickened by the virus.

But new infections outside China were far surpassing its totals.

Global spread of Coronavirus

Clusters of disease grew in South Korea, Italy and Iran, and the virus has turned up for the first time in New York, Moscow and Berlin, as well as Latvia, Indonesia, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Jordan, Ukraine and Portugal.

The worldwide death toll topped 3,110, and the number of cases tops 91,000 in 74 countries.

Global health officials sought to reassure the public that the virus remains a manageable threat.

"Containment is feasible and must remain the top priority for all countries," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

On Tuesday, he commented that he wants the world to stop hoarding masks, gloves and other protective equipment.

"We are concerned that countries' abilities to respond are being compromised by the severe and increasing disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment, caused by rising demand, hoarding and misuse," he said.

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"Shortages are leaving doctors, nurses and other frontline health workers dangerously ill-equipped to care for COVID-19 patients... we can't stop COVID-19 without protecting our health workers."

His comments came just hours after French President Emmanuel Macron said his government is requisitioning all current and future stocks of protective masks.

Around the world, the crisis reshaped the daily routines of millions of people.

Coronavirus containment measures

School children in Japan stayed at home with schools closed until April.


The school closures come near the end of Japan's academic year, leaving little or no time for final exams or graduation ceremonies for the country's 12.7 million students.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the plan last Thursday.

He said the coming period is critical in determining whether Japan can take control of the outbreak.

Nearly 1,000 people, including Australians on quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess, have been infected in the country and 12 have died.

Abe excluded daycare centres and after-school clubs from the school closures to help parents with pre-schoolers or others who cannot get off work early enough, triggering questions about the effectiveness of the shutdowns.

Critics also note that children appear to be far less likely to test positive for the virus, and say the government should focus instead on the elderly and infirm who account for most of the deaths.

Pre-season baseball games in Japan took place in deserted stadiums and horse races went ahead without spectators.

Sunday's Tokyo Marathon, which was expected to have 38,000 participants, was limited to elite runners.

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The race, which doubles as an Olympic trial for Japanese marathon runners, had just over 200 participants.

France's education minister says the country has closed about 120 schools and may shut more. For now, around 35,000 students are affected, primarily in Brittany and a region north of Paris with clusters of the new virus.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was "highly likely" the number of coronavirus cases in Britain will grow. There have been 51 confirmed so far.

His government revealed a 25-page "action plan" for a worst-case scenario on Tuesday, which included calling retired doctors and nurses back to work and stopping police investigation into minor crimes – through Britain is yet to introduce some of the preventative measures adopted by European countries, such as prohibiting large gatherings.

It said millions could be affected within a short time, and that one-fifth of the UK workforce could be off sick, putting business, schools and hospitals under heavy pressure.

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"We have the resources, we have got the health service, we have got the expertise to do it," Johnson said, expressing confidence in his country's ability to manage the spread of the virus.

Israelis in quarantine used special booths to vote in national elections.

A German cruise ship with 1,200 passengers is moored in southern Norway waiting for the test results of two passengers who had been on land to be tested for the new coronavirus, officials said Tuesday. After visiting the ship, a doctor said none of the passengers showed symptoms of having the COVID-19 illness.

Cruise ships have also been turned away from Caribbean ports due to concerns over the virus, though no passengers on any of those ships has been confirmed to have the disease.

Coronavirus spread

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel was rebuffed by her interior minister when she extended her hand to greet him.

Countries with confirmed coronavirus cases according to WHO.

And the United Nations postponed a major conference on women that had been expected to bring up to 12,000 people from its 193 member countries to New York next week.

Over 100 cases have been confirmed in the US, including two now in New York.

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Many stores in the city have run out of sanitary supplies such as hand sanitiser, masks and antibacterial wipes.

"In this situation, the facts defeat fear. Because the reality is reassuring. It is deep-breath time," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

The message was echoed by global health officials, who said they were encouraged that even in some countries that had taken far less aggressive measures than China's to contain the spread, the virus remains largely in check.

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About 100 health workers are under isolation in northern Spain and at least 120 others are being closely watched by authorities after at least five doctors and nurses were infected with the new virus in hospitals.

Authorities said Tuesday that Spain has 149 virus cases, 35 more than the previous day. Spain's health emergency coordination centre says most of the infections have been traced to overseas travel, mainly to Italy.

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Spain has had no deaths linked to the outbreak.

Coronavirus versus the flu

Because the virus is not transmitted as easily as the flu, "it offers us a glimmer... that this virus can be suppressed and contained," said Dr Mike Ryan, the WHO's emergencies chief.

The worst-hit places outside China were South Korea, Iran and Italy.

South Korea on Tuesday reported 851 new cases, bringing its totals to 5,816 with 28 deaths.

Most are in the south-eastern city of Daegu and neighbouring towns.

Capital city Seoul has opened "drive-through" coronavirus testing centres around the city.

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The centres have been set up to enable people showing suspected symptoms to get tested for the new virus with minimum human contact.

Pro basketball and volleyball games are being played in thoroughly disinfected arenas with no spectators.

Meanwhile, there are concerns that the notoriously secretive North Korean government may be concealing the extent of the spread of the virus there.

Church services have been cancelled.

In Iran, a confidant of Iran's supreme leader died from the virus. Three dozen government officials have been infected.

The Islamic Republic confirmed 2,336 cases and 77 deaths, but many believe the true number is larger.

Its reported caseload surged more than 250 per cent in just 24 hours.

Italy's caseload rose to 2,502, including 79 deaths – a figured that doubled in 24 hours, and the highest outside of China.

Four coronavirus deaths have been confirmed at a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington.

Officials said it could take up to two weeks before they know whether measures including quarantining 11 towns in northern Italy are slowing the spread of the virus.

Many Ash Wednesday services were cancelled and a soccer match between Inter Milan and Ludogorets was played without fans.

In Paris, the Mona Lisa hung in a vacant room of the closed Louvre in Paris.

France has reported 204 cases of the virus, including three on French Caribbean islands, and four deaths.

The Geneva International Motor Show was called off after the Swiss government banned all large events.

– Reported with Associated Press.

Source: 9News

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