Virus alarms sound worldwide, but China sees crisis ebbing

BEIJING (AP) — Iranians hoarded medical supplies, Italians urged doctors out of retirement and South Koreans prepared to pump billions into relief efforts yesterday as the virus epidemic firmed its hold around the globe.

Mushrooming outbreaks in the Mideast, Europe and South Korea contrasted with optimism in China, where thousands of recovered patients were going home.

A growing outbreak in the United States (US) led schools and subways to sanitise, quickened a search for a vaccine, and spread fears of vulnerability for nursing home residents.

“We are in unchartered territory,” said World Health Organization (WHO) leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

South Korea saw its largest daily increase in new cases yesterday, with 851 new infections reported, largely in and around the southeastern city of Daegu. In all, 5,186 in South Korea have tested positive for the virus.

In the capital of Seoul, drive-through virus testing centres began operating, with workers dressed head-to-toe in white protective suits leaning into cars with mouth swabs, a move meant to limit contact with possible carriers of the illness.

Troops were also dispatched across the city to spray streets and alleys with disinfectants.

Most Asian and European stock indexes rose, following the Dow Jones Industrial Average surging nearly 1,300 points, or five per cent. Finance ministers and central bank leaders from the Group of Seven major industrial countries convened by phone yesterday to discuss their response to the virus outbreak.

“The fear factor is still very high,” said Kirk Hartman, president of Wells Fargo Asset Management.

Worldwide, more than 90,000 people have been sickened and 3,100 have died from the virus.

A constantly expanding list of at least 70 countries have been affected, with Ukraine the latest to report a first case.

In China, the count of new virus cases dropped again yesterday, with just 125 new cases after a six-week low of 202 a day earlier. It’s still by far the hardest-hit country, with 80,151 cases and 2,943 deaths.