Coronavirus cases hit 100,000 as cruise ship fears grow

BEIJING (AFP) – The number of cases from the new coronavirus topped 100,000 worldwide as official data yesterday showed a significant hit to Chinese exports after the deadly outbreak brought much of the country to a halt.

The World Health Organization (WHO) called the spread of the virus “deeply concerning” as a wave of countries reported their first cases of the disease – which has now killed more than 3,500 people and infected more than 100,000 across 94 nations and territories.

The United States (US) was battling to contain an outbreak on a cruise ship where 21 people have tested positive for the virus.

The Grand Princess has been stranded off San Francisco since Wednesday – when it was supposed to dock – after it emerged that two people who had been on the ship during its previous voyage had contracted the virus. One later died.

US Vice President Mike Pence said the ship will be brought to a non-commercial dock this weekend and all 3,533 passengers and crew will be tested.

The Grand Princess belongs to Princess Cruises, the same company which operated the coronavirus-stricken ship held off Japan last month on which more than 700 people tested positive.

In China, where the outbreak began last December, the virus has wreaked havoc on the world’s second-largest economy, shutting down businesses and disrupting global supply chains.

The negative impact was shown in official data yesterday, with China’s exports plunging 17.2 per cent in the first two months of the year.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has urged “that all countries make containment their highest priority.”

Colombia, Costa Rica and Malta have announced their first cases.

Florida confirmed two deaths from the virus – the first US fatalities outside the west coast states of Washington and California – taking the country’s death toll to 16.

The number of infections in South Korea breached 7,000 yesterday – the highest in the world outside China.

Two apartment blocks in Daegu – the fourth-largest city and the epicentre of its outbreak – have been quarantined after dozens of residents tested positive.

Iran yesterday reported 21 new deaths from the novel coronavirus and 1,076 fresh cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the overall tolls to 145 dead and 5,823 infected.

The number of cases recorded in France rose to 716 with 11 deaths. Italy, meanwhile, began recruiting retired doctors yesterday as part of urgent efforts to bolster the healthcare system with 20,000 additional staff.

In China, the number of new cases reported yesterday nationwide was the lowest in weeks.