5, March 2020
The new coronavirus that causes an illness similar to the flu continues to afflict more people around the globe, with large numbers of new cases emerging in South Korea and Iran, even as death tallies increase at lower paces.
South Korea announced 516 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, most of them in and around the city of Daegu, where a secretive religious sect has been at the center of the outbreak in the country.
The new cases reported by the South Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention bring the national tally to 5,328,with at least 32 deaths.
The flu-like virus has spread rapidly among the members of the Shincheonji religious group in South Korea, particularly in Daegu, the country’s fourth-biggest city, with a population of more than 2.5 million.
Health officials expect the number of cases to increase for the next days as they complete the testing of more than 200,000 members of the religious sect, as well as thousands of other suspected cases from smaller clusters.
Hospitals in South Korea’s hardest hit areas are scrambling to accommodate the surge in new patients. Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said 2,300 people were waiting to be admitted to hospitals and temporary medical facilities in Daegu.
South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said during a special cabinet meeting that “special measures” to cope with the emergency.
The new coronavirus, recently named COVID-19, can cause various symptoms ranging from those of the common cold to more severe diseases such as pneumonia. Common signs include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and other respiratory complications.
The virus, which emerged in central China in late December last year, has so far claimed more than 3,000 lives worldwide.
Over 90,000 people have been infected across 68 countries and territories. While the majority of the deaths have occurred in mainland China, tallies there are slowing down, and other countries are registering cases at a higher pace.
Iran’s death rate now matching that of other countries
Meanwhile, the latest tallies from Iran showed 586 new infections and 15 new deaths on Wednesday.
The new figures announced by the Iranian Health Ministry raised the number of the overall infections in the country to 2,922, and the deaths to 92.
The new figures also reversed a previous trend of a higher death-to-infection rate than other afflicted countries.
WHO updates coronavirus death rate
The World Health Organization (WHO) says about 3.4% of confirmed cases of COVID-19 have died, up from a previous 2% and far above seasonal flu’s fatality rate of under 1%.
But WHO also insists that the virus can be contained.
Speaking at a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the organization, said, “To summarize, COVID-19 spreads less efficiently than flu, transmission does not appear to be driven by people who are not sick, it causes more severe illness than flu, there are not yet any vaccines or therapeutics, and it can be contained.”
But the world’s supplies of protective gear — masks, gloves, and goggles — need to be increased by an estimated 40%, he said, adding, “We continue to call on manufacturers to urgently increase production to meet this demand and guarantee supplies.”
Tunisia reports first coronavirus case
Tunisia has set up two hotlines after a first confirmed case of the new coronavirus was detected in the North African country. People work the phones and prepare information documents at the Tunisian Ministry of Health’s Crisis Center.
The coronavirus has spread to all continents except Antarctica. But the WHO is yet to declare a global pandemic.
17 Italians test positive in India
Meanwhile, 17 Italian nationals have tested positive for the new coronavirus in India.
An anonymous source told AFP on Wednesday that out of the 21 Italian tourists who have been put under quarantine in a special facility in New Delhi, 17 tested positive for the coronavirus.
“We are awaiting test results of the others,” the source added.
Twenty three Italian tourists who arrived in the country’s western state of Rajasthan last month were put under quarantine in New Delhi after two of them tested positive for the virus.
The total number of cases in India now stands at 29.
Italy has the third highest number of cases worldwide, namely 2,500 cases. Its death toll from the epidemic stands at 79.
Germany reports 44 new cases
In Germany, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased to 240 on Wednesday, up from 196 on Tuesday afternoon.
Fifteen of Germany’s 16 federal states have now reported cases of the novel coronavirus, with the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia being the most affected, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).
Germany has not reported a fatality from the disease so far.
Iraq reports its first coronavirus death, in Kurdish region
Meanwhile, Iraq has reported its first death from the coronavirus. The Health Ministry of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said in a statement on Wednesday that a 63-year-old man, who had tested positive for the coronavirus in Sulaymaniyah Province, had died.
Iraq has so far recorded 31 cases of the new coronavirus, including one Iranian student who has since been sent home.