Coronavirus cases top 80,000 as markets plunge on pandemic fears

CNN's Melissa Bell reports from Italy where a large concentration of coronavirus has led to a lockdown.

Posted: Feb 25, 2020 9:01 AM
Updated: Feb 25, 2020 9:01 AM

Multiple outbreaks of the novel coronavirus outside of mainland China have continued to worsen, as experts warn we may be approaching pandemic levels.

A World Health Organization team landed in Italy late Monday to "support Italian authorities in understanding the situation," the WHO said. The team's focus will be on "limiting further human-to-human transmission" after a rapid rise in cases. At least 272 people have been infected with the virus, and seven people have died in the Southern European nation.

In South Korea, more than 970 cases have been confirmed, up from 31 a week ago. At least 10 people have died, and the virus has spread throughout the country, though the worst outbreak remains in the southern city of Daegu.

Chinese authorities announced the postponement of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's rubber-stamp parliament, an unprecedented move in recent times. It comes after President Xi Jinping warned Sunday that that novel coronavirus is the worst public health crisis facing the country since its founding.

At the end of Monday, China's National Health Commission's had recorded 77,658 cases in the mainland, and 2,663 deaths. The novel coronavirus has now infected at least 80,067 people worldwide and killed at least 2,700.

South Korea in crisis

Even as the outbreak appeared to be stabilizing in parts of China, with six provinces on Monday lowering their response level, the number of cases worldwide has continued to grow.

In South Korea, all flights have been suspended to Daegu, the southern city where the initial outbreak occurred. Several countries and territories have announced restrictions on travel from South Korea, or new warnings for citizens traveling to the country.

The Daegu outbreak had been centered around the Shincheonji religious group, but the virus appears to have spread now beyond practitioners.

Several hundred members of the group have tested positive for the virus, and more than 9,000 practitioners have been put into self-isolation while they are tested by health authorities. The infection is believed to have transmitted rapidly because of the mass worship sessions the group holds, which puts them in close contact with one another for long periods of time.

Shincheonji has said they are the "biggest victims" of the outbreak, and warned people against "groundless attacks" against them because of the outbreak. They have said they are cooperating with the authorities amid accusations of secret member rolls making it difficult to track potential cases through the country.

Speaking late Monday, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said military commanders in Korea "are looking at scaling back the command post training due to concerns about the coronavirus."

Esper said he is confident the US and South Korea will "remain fully ready to deal with any threats that we might face together."

Hundreds of cases of the virus have been confirmed across the country, including among the military. Soldiers often live in close confines and there are fears of a self-sustaining outbreak among forces based in various areas.

Italian outbreak

Outside of Asia, one of the worst outbreak is in Italy, where around 100,000 people in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto are facing travel and other restrictions as the country struggles to contain a sudden spike in cases that has so far seen at least 219 confirmed cases.

Strict emergency measures were put in place over the weekend, including a ban on public events in at least 10 municipalities, after a spike in confirmed cases in both regions.

Italy still has not identified "patient zero," the source of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, two officials said Monday.

"The important thing is to identify 'patient zero,' where he/she is from, and to stop this chain of infection," Angelo Borrelli, the head of Italy's civil protection agency, said.

Luca Zaia, the governor of the Veneto region, said "no news" when asked Monday by CNN affiliate Sky 24 about the hunt for the carrier.

Borrelli suggested an explanation for the sudden spike in cases over the weekend: "I believe that the incubation period meant that the infections all exploded at a certain moment."

In a statement Monday, the European Commission said was providing aid worth $250 million to affected regions and sectors of the EU.

"As cases continue to rise, public health is the number one priority. Whether it be boosting preparedness in Europe, in China or elsewhere, the international community must work together. Europe is here to play a leading role," said Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission.

The Commission added that it was stepping up support for member states following developments in Italy.

Stella Kyriakides, commissioner for health and food safety said: "In view of the rapidly evolving situation, we stand ready to increase our assistance. In this vein, a joint expert mission of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the World Health Organization will depart to Italy this week to support the Italian authorities."

Iran struggling to contain

Across the Middle East, flights from Iran have stopped and borders with the country have been closed as the region tries to keep the spread of a deadly coronavirus at bay.

Iran is on the front line of the outbreak -- the health ministry has confirmed 61 cases and 14 deaths.

One Iranian lawmaker, Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani from the holy city of Qom, criticized the government's handling of the outbreak, accusing officials of covering up numbers. Farahani said 50 people had died from the virus in Qom, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, though the country's health ministry has denied his claims.

The heavy economic sanctions imposed against Iran by the US and other bodies have made tackling the disease harder, with the country struggling to access novel coronavirus test kits, a board member of Iran's Association of Medical Equipment Importers told the semi-official news agency ILNA on Sunday.

Ramin Fallah told ILNA that "many international companies are ready to supply Iran with coronavirus test kits, but we can't send them money" because of the US sanctions.

Not a pandemic?

Despite the rapid spread of the virus around the world in the past week, health officials are not yet calling this a pandemic -- though they're close.

William Schaffner, a longtime adviser to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN that "we're on the knife's edge."

There is no precise, mathematical definition of a pandemic. Outbreaks get characterized as pandemics by epidemiologists -- who are not yet using the term. They'll be looking for evidence of sustained transmission among people who have not recently traveled to China or has close contact with someone who recently traveled to China.

As more information emerges over how the virus is being spread in Italy, Iran and South Korea, among other countries, that evidence may soon arise.

Markets have plunged on fears of an imminent pandemic declaration. The Dow has lost more than 1,400 points in the last three trading days, wiping out any gains for the year so far. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq also fell, and Asian markets have been suffering due to the virus and fears of a wider economic downturn.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 448268

Reported Deaths: 6013
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin931011480
Ramsey40016739
Dakota33072340
Anoka30999364
Washington20164228
Stearns17871187
St. Louis13690241
Scott1195496
Wright11614104
Olmsted1048475
Sherburne821365
Carver694836
Clay653280
Rice606868
Kandiyohi554371
Blue Earth541033
Crow Wing482774
Otter Tail457167
Chisago452732
Benton420186
Winona389646
Douglas374166
Nobles370846
Mower365529
Goodhue347958
Polk328658
McLeod325345
Morrison311744
Beltrami310347
Lyon302236
Becker284939
Itasca284543
Isanti282841
Carlton280043
Steele27379
Pine266713
Freeborn245321
Todd231730
Nicollet224636
Brown215134
Mille Lacs214246
Le Sueur210015
Cass207623
Meeker199733
Waseca189316
Wabasha17083
Martin170026
Roseau165416
Hubbard149338
Redwood139727
Renville137539
Houston135913
Dodge13474
Chippewa131332
Cottonwood127218
Fillmore12355
Wadena120116
Rock110212
Sibley10857
Aitkin108433
Watonwan10668
Faribault105916
Pennington99215
Kanabec97818
Pipestone94423
Yellow Medicine93714
Murray8815
Jackson85610
Swift83418
Pope7385
Marshall70215
Stevens7018
Clearwater68514
Lac qui Parle65716
Lake63715
Wilkin6259
Koochiching59610
Lincoln4841
Big Stone4573
Unassigned43768
Grant4298
Norman4248
Mahnomen4107
Kittson37219
Red Lake3174
Traverse2503
Lake of the Woods1951
Cook1140

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 305606

Reported Deaths: 4278
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk45754449
Linn17795275
Scott15444163
Black Hawk13773236
Woodbury13016175
Johnson1211749
Dubuque11387150
Pottawattamie8992112
Dallas888671
Story869434
Webster469771
Cerro Gordo466768
Sioux455157
Clinton450361
Warren443938
Marshall427761
Buena Vista393429
Muscatine390477
Des Moines381841
Plymouth350368
Wapello344198
Jasper321959
Lee317130
Marion304952
Jones271349
Henry264330
Carroll255434
Bremer245048
Crawford231022
Boone218417
Washington217632
Benton209444
Mahaska193136
Jackson192031
Tama187757
Dickinson186026
Delaware173736
Kossuth173644
Clay168820
Wright164824
Fayette162322
Hamilton160029
Buchanan159923
Winneshiek155719
Harrison155162
Hardin154729
Cedar153219
Clayton151448
Butler148224
Page144715
Floyd139636
Cherokee139027
Mills136416
Lyon135332
Poweshiek132724
Hancock130224
Allamakee127928
Iowa125422
Calhoun12279
Grundy121226
Jefferson120724
Madison12039
Winnebago119429
Mitchell116234
Louisa115030
Cass113341
Chickasaw111612
Sac111215
Emmet110831
Appanoose110538
Union108822
Humboldt105519
Guthrie103024
Shelby102926
Franklin102418
Unassigned9310
Palo Alto9079
Montgomery85622
Keokuk85026
Howard84219
Monroe81218
Clarke7957
Pocahontas77611
Ida74630
Greene6927
Davis69121
Adair68820
Lucas6508
Monona64016
Osceola6409
Worth6113
Taylor5949
Fremont5126
Van Buren49712
Decatur4894
Ringgold4389
Audubon4158
Wayne41421
Adams2963
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