Fears of global coronavirus pandemic increase as 2 more die in Iran

Fears of global coronavirus pandemic increase as 2 more die in Iran

February 22, 2020

Fears of a global coronavirus pandemic have been heightened after several more deaths were reported outside of China Friday — with health officials concerned the window of opportunity to contain the outbreak is “narrowing.”

Two more people died from the illness in Iran as the number of documented cases in South Korea doubled to 200. Meanwhile, in Italy, the first coronavirus fatality was reported Friday after another six Italians tested positive in what is the first known cases of local transmission in the European country, health officials said.

The coronavirus death count in Iran is now four, destressing officials at the World Health Organization.

“This is very concerning,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, said at a news conference Friday, calling the situation in Iran “serious.”

“We’re getting information, but we have to engage them even more,” Tedros added.

The majority of coronavirus cases and deaths have taken place in China — where more than 75,500 people have fallen ill and more than 2,230 have died, according to the WHO.

“Although the total number of cases outside China remains relatively small, we are concerned about the number of cases with no clear epidemiological link, such as travel history to China or contact with a confirmed case,” he said.

Ghebreyesus said he and others were “wondering” about an impending uptick of reported cases outside of China.

“Although the window of opportunity is narrowing to contain the outbreak, we still have a chance to contain it,” he said.

Iran was reportedly the home for the first coronavirus-related fatality in the Middle East, where health officials have confirmed 14 cases. Seven have been recorded in the holy city of Qom; four in the capital, Tehran; and two in the northern city of Rasht, Alireza Vahabzadeh, an adviser to Iran’s health minister told Al Jazeera.

Health officials are recommending people to limit their travels in and out of religious sites in Qom, Vahabzadeh said.

In South Korea, authorities located two-thirds of the cases in the city of Daegu — with the spread of most those cases traced back to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a Christian organization that is often described as a cult, The New York Times reported.

More than 400 other churchgoers have reported potential symptoms, health officials said.

Kwon Young-jin, the mayor of Daegu, has described the outbreak in the city of 2.5 million as an “unprecedented crisis” as officials designated Daegu and the neighboring Cheongdo county as “special care zones” where medical staff and isolation facilities are being deployed.

With Post wires

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