Coronavirus getting bigger, says WHO
GENEVA/BEIJING – The rapid rise in coronavirus (Covid-19) raised fears of a pandemic on Friday, with six countries reporting their first cases, the World Health Organisation warning it could spread worldwide and Switzerland cancelling the giant Geneva car show.
World share markets crashed again, winding up their worst week since the 2008 global financial crisis and bringing the global wipeout to $6 trillion.
Hopes that the epidemic that started in China late last year would be over in months, and that economic activity would quickly return to normal, have been shattered as the number of international cases has spiralled.
“The outbreak is getting bigger,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva.
“The scenario of the coronavirus reaching multiple countries, if not all countries around the world, is something we have been looking at and warning against since quite a while.”
Switzerland joined countries banning big events to try to curb the epidemic, forcing cancellation of next week’s Geneva international car show, one of the industry’s most important gatherings.
Mainland China reported 327 new cases, the lowest since January 23, taking its tally to more than 78 800 cases with almost 2 800 deaths.
China’s three biggest airlines restored some international flights and the Shanghai fashion show, initially postponed, went ahead online.
But as the outbreak eases in China, it is surging elsewhere.
Five more countries have reported their first case, all with travel history connected to Italy. They were Nigeria, Estonia, Denmark, Netherlands and Lithuania, Lindmeier said.
Mexico also detected its first cases of infection in two men who had travelled to Italy, making the country the second in Latin America to register the virus after Brazil.
Countries other than China now account for about three-quarters of new infections.