Coronavirus cases surge in South Korea, Iran as Italy reports first death

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International desk, Feb 22: The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned the window of opportunity to stem the deadly coronavirus epidemic was “narrowing” amid concern about a surge in cases with no clear link to China, including in a range of countries in the Middle East.Lebanon and Israel confirmed their first cases on Friday, while Iran’s health ministry reported two more deaths among 13 new cases of the infection, known as COVID-19. That brings the toll in Iran to four and the number of infections to 18, Aljazeera reports.

Italy, meanwhile, reported its first death from the coronavirus as authorities moved to close schools, bars and other public spaces in 10 northern towns.

In mainland China, the death toll stood at 2,345 while the number of infections reached 76,288.

South Korea coronavirus cases surge due to church, hospital outbreaks

South Korea reported 142 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, almost all linked to outbreaks at a hospital in Cheongdo county and a church in Daego city, bringing the national tally to 346.

Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC)designated both the city of Daegu, which has a population of 2.5 million people, and Cheongdo county, home to around 43,000 people, as “special care zones” on Friday as case numbers began to surge.

Cases from the Cheongdo hospital jumped in the latest daily figures, with the total rising from 16 to 108 overnight.

Two cases were reported in Busan, the first in South Korea’s second-largest city, while the Island of Jeju, a spot popular with domestic and international tourists, also recorded its first case.

China reports 397 new confirmed cases on mainland

Mainland China had 397 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections as of the end of February 21, the country’s National Health Commission said on Saturday, down from 889 cases a day earlier.

That brings the total accumulated number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far to 76,288.

The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China had reached 2,345 as of the end of February 21.

The central province of Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, reported 109 new deaths, while in the provincial capital of Wuhan, 90 people died.

Wuhan woman with no symptoms infects five relatives with coronavirus

A 20-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, traveled 675 km (400 miles) north to Anyang where she infected five relatives, without ever showing signs of infection, Chinese scientists reported, offering new evidence that the virus can be spread asymptomatically.

According to the report by Dr. Meiyun Wang of the People’s Hospital of Zhengzhou University and colleagues, doctors isolated the woman and tested her for the virus after her relatives started getting sick.

Initially, the young woman tested negative for the virus, but a follow-up test was positive.

All five of her relatives developed COVID-19 pneumonia, but as of February 11, the young woman still had not developed any symptoms, her chest CT remained normal and she had no fever, stomach or respiratory symptoms, such as cough or sore throat.

The case study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

First Italian patient dies of coronavirus

A patient in the northern city of Padua has died after being infected with the coronavirus, becoming the first Italian victim of the disease, Ansa news agency reported.

The dead man was aged 78, it said.

British passengers from virus-hit cruise ship due to arrive home

Some 35 British passengers were due to arrive back home on Saturday after spending more than two weeks stuck on a quarantined cruise ship in a Japanese port due to the coronavirus outbreak.

They were landing at a defence ministry airfield in southwestern England on a government-chartered plane from Tokyo and being taken straight to quarantine facilities.

The Diamond Princess liner was carrying 3,700 people, including 78 Britons, when it was quarantined in Yokohama on February 5. More than 620 passengers on board have been infected with the coronavirus, the most outside mainland China.