Clusters of novel coronavirus outbreaks are spreading as cases surge in South Korea, Iran and Italy, though the World Health Organization (WHO) said it is still too early to declare a pandemic.
The numbers: The novel coronavirus has infected at least 80,067 people worldwide and killed 2,698. Some 35 of those deaths occurred outside mainland China. In China, the vast majority of cases and deaths remain concentrated in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.
Areas of concern: South Korea reported 60 cases overnight, bringing the total there to 893. Iran is on the front line of the outbreak — the health ministry has confirmed 61 cases and 12 deaths — though one lawmaker in the city of Qom claims the death toll could be as high as 50. In Italy, about 100,000 people are affected by travel restrictions as seven people have died and at least 229 others have been infected with the virus.
More countries report first cases: Oman has announced its first two cases of the virus, after two Omani women returning from Iran tested positive. Meanwhile, an Iranian student who entered Iraq prior to the country’s travel ban on Iran has been confirmed to have the virus.
Markets are nervous: US stocks plunged on mounting worries about the spread of the coronavirus outside China to major economies. The Dow Jones index finished down more than 1,000 points at the closing bell on Monday, its worst day since February 2018.
Outbreak is not a pandemic: Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said it’s too early to declare the novel coronavirus a pandemic — but now is the time to prepare. WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the virus has pandemic potential — but it’s not there yet.
Military drills on hold: The US and South Korea are considering scaling back joint military exercises due to the coronavirus on the Korean Peninsula.
The situation in the US: There are now 53 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in the US, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 36 of whom were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Meanwhile, Alabama’s mayor said the state was not prepared to handle coronavirus patients. President Donald Trump tweeted today that “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.”
Closing access to Iran: Due to Iran’s outbreak, Oman has suspended flights to and from the country. Turkey, Pakistan and Iraq have closed their borders with Iran, while Kuwait Airways, Iraq Airways and Turkey have suspended flights to the country. Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates is banning its citizens from traveling to Iran and Thailand.