Patients fill hospitals in more places as new virus expands

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – South Korea’s viral outbreak surged and millions of children in Japan stayed home from school yesterday as officials wrestled with the epidemic in more than 60 countries, including the United States (US), where two people have died.

As new battle fronts against the coronavirus opened with surprising speed around the globe, recovered patients left China’s hastily built hospitals and isolation wards, freeing up patient beds in the city where the COVID-19 illness has hit hardest.

China, where the epidemic began in December, reported a mere 202 new cases over the previous 24 hours, with another 42 deaths. That brings the country’s total number of cases to 80,026 with 2,912 deaths recorded in all. The city of Wuhan accounted for most of the new cases, but also saw 2,570 patients released.

Yesterday’s increase was China’s lowest since Jan. 21. China still has about three-fourths of the world’s nearly 89,000 cases worldwide, but outbreaks were surging in other countries with South Korea, Italy and Iran seeing sharp increases.

The US counted 80 cases as of Sunday and two deaths, both men with existing health problems who had been hospitalised in Washington state.

The US total includes evacuees from a virus-stricken cruise ship and from Wuhan, but new cases among California health workers, in New York, Rhode Island and Washington raised concerns on both US coasts.

The second US fatality was a man in his 70s from a nursing facility near Seattle where dozens of sick people were tested for the virus, Washington state health officials said.

Researchers said earlier the virus may have been circulating for weeks undetected in Washington state.

Worker wear face masks to spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at a shopping street in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: AP