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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.

Confirmed Cases: 90942

Reported Deaths: 2021
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin26054922
Ramsey10572318
Dakota7216125
Anoka5801132
Stearns381223
Washington361055
Scott245833
Olmsted231927
Nobles193616
Blue Earth16116
Wright15407
St. Louis140034
Carver13607
Rice13088
Mower12935
Clay128140
Sherburne110414
Kandiyohi9332
Winona85218
Lyon6524
Waseca5338
Freeborn5223
Steele5222
Benton5153
Watonwan5064
Nicollet50416
Todd4792
Chisago4581
McLeod4522
Le Sueur4454
Crow Wing43918
Otter Tail4004
Beltrami3795
Goodhue3329
Martin3299
Pine2840
Itasca28213
Polk2754
Isanti2650
Douglas2622
Becker2482
Carlton2451
Cottonwood2190
Pipestone2159
Unassigned21252
Morrison2081
Dodge2020
Chippewa1971
Sibley1843
Meeker1832
Brown1802
Wabasha1800
Yellow Medicine1622
Murray1572
Rock1550
Mille Lacs1503
Redwood1420
Renville1367
Jackson1341
Faribault1320
Cass1313
Swift1231
Roseau1170
Houston1140
Pennington1121
Fillmore1110
Koochiching1113
Kanabec1098
Lincoln1020
Stevens931
Pope890
Hubbard830
Aitkin731
Big Stone700
Wadena670
Grant594
Lake570
Wilkin563
Norman520
Marshall501
Lac qui Parle470
Mahnomen461
Red Lake390
Traverse300
Clearwater260
Lake of the Woods211
Kittson120
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 80698

Reported Deaths: 1275
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15366259
Woodbury504263
Johnson501127
Black Hawk437586
Linn3808108
Story331517
Dubuque282341
Scott281827
Dallas269838
Pottawattamie200238
Buena Vista195112
Marshall176234
Sioux13723
Wapello127157
Webster120214
Clinton107419
Muscatine106854
Plymouth105820
Crawford10145
Cerro Gordo100221
Warren9326
Jasper77232
Des Moines7407
Marion7265
Tama69431
Carroll6375
Henry6204
Lee5997
Wright5631
Dickinson4876
Boone4788
Bremer4687
Washington43211
Louisa42515
Mahaska34619
Delaware3423
Franklin34218
Hamilton3153
Jackson3043
Floyd3023
Winneshiek2995
Clay2963
Benton2871
Hardin2841
Winnebago27511
Butler2622
Lyon2603
Clarke2563
Emmet25210
Poweshiek2528
Buchanan2511
Allamakee2486
Jones2483
Shelby2441
Clayton2343
Guthrie2315
Kossuth2310
Cedar2231
Chickasaw2220
Sac2200
Grundy2062
Madison2062
Cherokee2042
Fayette2002
Iowa1921
Mitchell1830
Howard1826
Harrison1812
Humboldt1763
Hancock1742
Calhoun1722
Mills1691
Palo Alto1630
Pocahontas1542
Lucas1526
Monroe15010
Page1420
Monona1401
Cass1362
Jefferson1341
Osceola1300
Appanoose1253
Taylor1241
Union1223
Davis1164
Van Buren1111
Ida1030
Worth1030
Keokuk911
Fremont900
Greene890
Montgomery885
Wayne842
Audubon681
Adair671
Decatur600
Ringgold442
Adams290
Unassigned70
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