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February 27, 2020

Coronavirus claims four more lives in Iran, 52 in China

Top Story

February 27, 2020

TEHRAN/BEIJING/DUBAI/SHANGHAI/SEOUL: Iran accused the United States on Wednesday of fear-mongering over a coronavirus outbreak that has spread across the Islamic republic and claimed 19 lives with four new deaths among 139 cases.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the situation was "improving" even as he called on Iranians to refrain from travel and announced infections in six new provinces. The Islamic republic is scrambling to contain COVID-19 a week after announcing the first two deaths in Qom, a centre for Islamic studies that draws pilgrims and scholars from abroad.

President Hassan Rouhani took aim on Wednesday at Iran´s arch foe the United States for spreading "fear" over the outbreak -- the deadliest for any country other than China. "We shouldn´t let America mount a new virus on top of coronavirus that is called extreme fear," he told a weekly cabinet meeting.

The Americans "themselves are struggling with coronavirus," he said, adding that "16,000 people have died of influenza there but they don´t talk about their own (dead)". There were 15 new cases in Qom, nine in northern Gilan, four in the Tehran, and three in southern Fars.

The ministry added that there was one new case in each of Markazi, Kermanshah, Ardebil, Mazandaran and Semnan provinces.

Newly hit regions included southwestern Khuzestan, which had three cases. The others were Lorestan in the west, Semnan in central Iran, the southern province of Hormozgan, and Sistan and Baluchistan as well as Kohgiluyeh and Boyerahmad in the southeast, which all had two cases.

The health ministry´s spokesman, Jahanpour, appeared optimistic about the situation in the worst-hit province of Qom, south of Tehran.

Meanwhile, China on Wednesday reported 52 new coronavirus deaths, the lowest figure in more than three weeks, bringing the death toll to 2,715.

All the new deaths were in the outbreak epicentre Hubei province, which accounted for 401 of the 406 new infections reported Wednesday, the National Health Commission said.

The number of fresh cases has declined in China, with multiple provinces reporting zero new infections in recent days. Only five cases were reported outside the epicentre, the lowest in over a month.

But the disease, which originated in Hubei’s capital Wuhan late last year and has infected over 78,000 in China, has now reached dozens of countries. South Korea’s death toll rose to 11 on Wednesday, as the country’s total number of infections rose to 1,146, by far the largest outside of China. Italy -- which has reported 10 deaths and more than 300 cases -- has locked down 11 towns. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said the measures could last weeks.

While Beijing’s containment efforts initially focused on monitoring and restricting travel within the country, concern is growing that cases abroad could reintroduce new outbreaks into China.

Meanwhile, China quarantined 94 air passengers arriving from Seoul after three people on the flight were discovered to have fevers, state media reported Wednesday.

The three passengers, all Chinese, arrived in the city of Nanjing on Tuesday morning and were discovered after customs personnel boarded the aircraft on landing to screen passengers for symptoms, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said.

While, the Ministry of Health in Kuwait announced that the number of new infections of coronavirus (Covid-19) has risen to 25 so far, as a result of 13 new confirmed infections with the virus on Wednesday.

The ministry said in a statement that all newly diagnosed cases on Wednesday were all people who visited Iran. In the statement ministry assured that "all cases are stable and the approved protocols of isolation are being administered and all patients are receiving the necessary medical care in one of the hospitals prepared and equipped to receive patients."

By Tuesday night, February 25, Kuwait had reported 11 cases, to go up to 25 on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Asia reported hundreds of new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, including an American soldier stationed in South Korea, as the United States warned of a pandemic, the disease spread in Europe and Brazil confirmed Latin America’s first infection.

World stocks tumbled for the fifth day on fears of prolonged disruption to global supply chains, while safe-haven gold rose back toward seven-year highs.

Stock markets globally have wiped out $3.3 trillion of value in the past four trading sessions, as measured by the MSCI all-country index.

The disease is believed to have originated in a market selling wildlife in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and has infected about 80,000 people and killed more than 2,700, the vast majority in China.

World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, however, advised against referring to a pandemic, defined by the agency as the “worldwide spread” of a new disease.

South Korea, which with 1,261 cases has the most outside China, reported 284 new ones including a US soldier, as authorities readied an ambitious plan to test more than 200,000 members of a church at the center of the outbreak.

Brazil reported the first case in Latin America, a source said on Wednesday - a 61-year-old who had visited Italy.

Kuwait said new coronavirus cases, all linked to travel to Iran, took its tally to 25, while Bahrain said its infections had risen to 26 after three new ones on a flight from Iran.

In Europe, Italy has become a front line in the global outbreak with 322 cases. Italians or people who had recently visited the country, have tested positive in Algeria, Austria, Croatia, Romania, Spain and Switzerland.

Two hotels, one in Austria and one in Spain’s Canary Islands, were also locked down after cases emerged linked to Italy. Spain also reported its first three cases on the mainland.