Virus pushes beyond Asia, taking aim at Europe, Mideast

  • A man wearing a sanitary mask walks past the Duomo gothic cathedral in Milan, Italy, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. Italy has been scrambling to check the spread of Europe's first major outbreak of the new viral disease amid rapidly rising numbers of infections and calling off the popular Venice Carnival, scrapping major league soccer matches in the stricken area and shuttering theaters, including Milan's legendary La Scala. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno) Luca Bruno

  • Workers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at a market in Bupyeong, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. South Korea reported another large jump in new virus cases Monday a day after the the president called for "unprecedented, powerful" steps to combat the outbreak that is increasingly confounding attempts to stop the spread. (Lee Jong-chul/Newsis via AP) Lee Jong-chul

  • A chef looks out from behind a display of food products at a restaurant in Beijing, China, on Saturday. AP

  • In this Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020, photo, sumo wrestlers wearing masks arrive at Shin Osaka railway station in Osaka, western Japan. A viral outbreak that began in China has infected more than 79,000 people globally. The World Health Organization has named the illness COVID-19, referring to its origin late last year and the coronavirus that causes it. (Kyodo News via AP) 194643+0900

  • A worker in protective gear stacks plastic buckets containing medical waste from coronavirus patients at a medical center in Daegu, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. South Korea reported another large jump in new virus cases Monday a day after the the president called for "unprecedented, powerful" steps to combat the outbreak that is increasingly confounding attempts to stop the spread. (Lee Moo-ryul/Newsis via AP) Lee Moo-ryul

  • Italian soldiers wearing sanitary masks patrol Duomo square in downtown Milan, Italy, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. At least 190 people in Italy’s north have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and four people have died, including an 84-year-old man who died overnight in Bergamo, the Lombardy regional government reported. (Claudio Furlan/Lapresse via AP) Claudio Furlan

  • A woman wearing a sanitary mask talks on the phone as she walks in the Vittorio Emanuele Gallery shopping arcade, in downtown Milan, Italy, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. At least 190 people in Italy’s north have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and four people have died, including an 84-year-old man who died overnight in Bergamo, the Lombardy regional government reported. (Claudio Furlan/Lapresse via AP) Claudio Furlan/LaPresse

  • Tourists wearing sanitary masks move a few steps of dance, in downtown Milan, Italy, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. In Lombardy, the hardest-hit region with 90 cases Coronavirus infections, schools and universities were ordered to stay closed in the coming days, and sporting events were canceled. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni) Antonio Calanni

  • An aerial view of empty main roads is seen in Daegu, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. South Korea reported another large jump in new virus cases Monday a day after the the president called for "unprecedented, powerful" steps to combat the outbreak that is increasingly confounding attempts to stop the spread. (Kim Hyun-tae/Yonhap via AP) Kim Hyun-tae

  • Workers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. South Korea reported another large jump in new virus cases Monday a day after the the president called for "unprecedented, powerful" steps to combat the outbreak that is increasingly confounding attempts to stop the spread. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) Ahn Young-joon

  • A worker wearing protective gears sprays disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at a market in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. South Korean President Moon Jae-in said his government had increased its anti-virus alert level by one notch to “Red,” the highest level. It allows for the temporary closure of schools and reduced operation of public transportation and flights to and from South Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) Ahn Young-joon

  • In this Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020, photo, paramilitary policemen wearing protective face masks walk by the empty Tiananmen Square against the back drop of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. China announced Monday it has postponed its most important political meeting of the year because of the outbreak of the new virus. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) Andy Wong

  • Workers wearing protective gears spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at a market in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. South Korea's President Moon Jae-in on Sunday put the country on its highest alert for infectious diseases and says officials should take "unprecedented, powerful" steps to fight a viral outbreak.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) Ahn Young-joon

  • In this Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020, photo, a volunteer sits on a chair keep guard as residents stand near the barricades blocked a residential area in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Sunday. Warning that China's virus epidemic is "still grim and complex," President Xi Jinping called Sunday for more efforts to stop the outbreak, revive industry and prevent the disease from disrupting spring planting of crops. (Chinatopix via AP)

  • A workers wearing protective gears sprays disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at a market in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. South Korean President Moon Jae-in said his government had increased its anti-virus alert level by one notch to “Red,” the highest level. It allows for the temporary closure of schools and reduced operation of public transportation and flights to and from South Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) Ahn Young-joon

  • Workers wearing protective gears spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at a market in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. South Korean President Moon Jae-in said his government had increased its anti-virus alert level by one notch to “Red,” the highest level. It allows for the temporary closure of schools and reduced operation of public transportation and flights to and from South Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) Ahn Young-joon

  • Italian soldiers wearing sanitary masks patrol Duomo square, in downtown Milan, Italy, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. At least 190 people in Italy’s north have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and four people have died, including an 84-year-old man who died overnight in Bergamo, the Lombardy regional government reported. (Claudio Furlan/Lapresse via AP) Claudio Furlan/LaPresse

Published: 2/24/2020 6:09:54 PM

The new virus took aim at a broadening swath of the globe Monday, with officials in Europe and the Middle East scrambling to limit the spread of an outbreak that showed signs of stabilizing at its Chinese epicenter but posed new threats far beyond.

In Italy, authorities set up roadblocks, called off soccer matches and shuttered sites including the famed La Scala opera house. In Iran, the government said 12 people had died nationwide, while five neighboring countries – Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Afghanistan – reported their first cases of the virus, with all those infected having links to Iran.

Across the world, stock markets and futures dipped on fears of a global slowdown due to the virus spread, with the Dow down more than 900 points during midday trading.

The number of people sickened by the coronavirus topped 79,000 globally, and wherever it sprung up, officials rushed to try to contain it.

“The past few weeks has demonstrated just how quickly a new virus can spread around the world and cause widespread fear and disruption,” said the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, yes,” Tedros said, but “for the moment we’re not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus.”

“I have spoken consistently about the need for facts not fear. Using the word pandemic now does not fit the facts but it may certainly cause fear,” Tedros said, speaking in Geneva.

He said a WHO expert team currently in China believes the virus plateaued there between Jan. 23 and Feb. 2 and has declined since. The team also said the fatality rate in China was between 2% and 4% in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, and 0.7% outside of Wuhan.

Clusters of the virus continued to emerge outside China, including in Qom, an Iranian city where the country’s semiofficial ILNA news agency cited a lawmaker as reporting a staggering 50 people had died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The country’s Health Ministry rejected that, insisting the death toll remained at 12, with total infections numbering 61.

The conflicting reports raised questions about the Iranian government’s transparency concerning the scale of the outbreak. But even with the lower toll of 12, the number of deaths compared to the number of confirmed infections from the virus is higher in Iran than in any other country, including China and South Korea, where the outbreak is far more widespread.




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