SEOUL: The deadly coronavirus epidemic spread further outside China on Monday as a surge of infections in South Korea made it the biggest hotspot abroad, while authorities in Europe and the Middle East battled to curb outbreaks.
Kuwait said three people, including a Saudi national, who returned from Iran were infected by the new coronavirus, state news agency KUNA reported.
The three cases, the first in the Gulf state, were among the 700 people evacuated from the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad last week, KUNA said.
The first case of the new coronavirus was also detected in Bahrain, the state news agency said on Monday, citing the health ministry.
The Ministry of Health added that it was a Bahraini citizen arriving from Iran.
The number of fatalities in China also continued to soar, with 150 more confirmed deaths taking the official death toll to over 2,600.
Chinese authorities insist they are making progress in containing the virus, citing slowing infection rates thanks to unprecedented travel lockdowns and quarantines in or near the outbreak’s epicentre.
But a rising number of new cases and deaths in other parts of the world have deepened fears about a potential pandemic, with South Korea, Italy and Iran emerging over the past week on the frontlines.
South Korea has seen a rapid surge in infections since a cluster emerged from a religious sect in the southern city of Daegu last week.
Another 161 infections and two more deaths were reported in South Korea on Monday, bringing the total cases to more than 700 people — the most outside China.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Sunday raised the country’s virus alert to the highest “red” level, to strengthen the government response to the spiralling outbreak.
The government has extended kindergarten and school holidays by one week nationwide and plans to enforce tighter two-week monitoring of arrivals from China.
FIFTH DEATH IN ITALY:
Italy reported Monday its fifth death from the new coronavirus, as the number of people contracting the disease continued to mount and officials called for calm.
The death of an 88-year-old man was the fourth in the northern Lombardy region, where villages have been put under lockdown and security measures enforced in a bid to stem the spread of the disease.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said that residents could face weeks in lockdown in an effort to sit out the virus.
Angelo Borrelli, head of the country’s civil protection agency, said 219 people had now tested positive in Italy, which has the most confirmed cases in Europe.
Five people have died of the virus in the past four days, including one in the Veneto region.
An Alitalia flight from Rome was being held in Mauritius Monday, after 40 people from Lombady and Veneto were told they could not disembark unless they consented to being placed in quarantine.
Alitalia said it was arranging for their immediate repatriation instead, despite none of the passengers showing any symptoms.
Eleven towns — 10 in Lombardy and one in neighbouring Veneto — are under lockdown, with some 50,000 residents prohibited from leaving.
Regional authorities have ordered gathering spots, such as bars, restaurants, cinemas and discos to close.
The spread of the virus has disrupted high profile events including Milan Fashion Week and the Venice Carnival, while Serie A football matches have been postponed. Operas have also had to be cancelled at Milan’s famed La Scala.
Masses in churches across the affected regions have been cancelled and funerals limited to immediate relatives only.
The stock market in Milan was down nearly 5.0 per cent on Monday in a broad-based sell-off over virus fears.
The virus is taking an increasingly heavy toll on the global economy, with many factories in China closed or subdued due to quarantines, and global travel choked.
Stock markets in Asia fell on Monday following the surge in infections in South Korea and weekend developments across Europe and the Middle East.
“While the coronavirus is probably slowing in China, it is speeding up elsewhere,” said Charles Gillams, at RJMG Asset Management.
The International Monetary Fund warned Sunday that the epidemic was putting a “fragile” global economic recovery at risk.
G20 financial chiefs also voiced concern about its ripple effects around the world.
Chinese President Xi Jinping acknowledged Sunday that it the virus had become the country’s “largest public health emergency” since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949.
“This is a crisis for us and it is a big test,” Xi said in comments reported by state television.
Officials are expected to decide Monday whether to postpone China’s annual parliament meeting for the first time since the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.