The coronavirus’ rapid spread in Iran, Italy, South Korea and elsewhere left alarmed governments and people across the globe rushing on Thursday to implement emergency measures, Reuters informs.
For the first time, new infections around the world in the past 24 hours surpassed those in mainland China, where the flu-like disease emerged two months ago but is on the decline after an aggressive containment campaign.
In Japan, where cases rose to 200, there was particular concern after a female tour bus guide tested positive for a second time – one of very few worldwide to do so, Reuters adds.
Tokyo has halted big gatherings and sports events for two weeks, and is closing schools early for the spring break. But it still plans to go ahead with the 2020 Olympics, whose cancellation or relocation would be a massive blow for Japan.
The coronavirus has mainly battered China, causing 78,596 cases and 2,746 deaths. But it has spread to another 44 countries with 3,246 cases and 51 deaths reported.
Though meeting the dictionary definition of a pandemic – widespread contagion across a large region – the World Health Organization (WHO) has so far held back from using that term.
“There is every indication that the world will soon enter a pandemic phase of the coronavirus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said as he ordered hospitals to ensure sufficient medical supplies, protective gear and staff.
President Donald Trump put his vice president, Mike Pence, in charge of America’s response, while France’s President Emmanuel Macron rallied the nation.
“We have a crisis before us. An epidemic is on its way,” Macron said at a Paris hospital where a 60-year-old Frenchman this week became the second person to die from the coronavirus in France.