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Coronavirus outbreak continues in China, fears rise of pandemic

China has reported new deaths and cases of coronavirus infections, amid fears that the viral outbreak is looking increasingly like a global pandemic.

As of the end of Tuesday, China’s National Health Commission (NHC) confirmed 52 deaths and 406 new infections, which brought the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far to 78,064.

The death toll from the outbreak inside the country reached 2,715 by Tuesday midnight, up by 52 from the previous day, the commission said on Wednesday.

All the new deaths were in Hubei Province, the epicenter of the disease, which reported 401 new cases on Tuesday, down from 499 a day earlier, according to the NHC.

China said the number of new cases outside Hubei fell to five, down for the fifth consecutive day and the lowest since last month, when the NHC began publishing nationwide figures.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the epidemic in the country had been in decline since early this month.

South Korea emerging as second virus hotspot

More cases have also been reported in South Korea, which currently has the largest outbreak outside China.

Seoul confirmed over 1,261 cases of the coronavirus — including a US soldier — were diagnosed with the viral disease on Wednesday.

The US military confirmed the case, in a 23-year-old soldier based in Camp Carroll, which is located near a disability center that has had its own outbreak of the virus.

Seoul also reported one additional death, bringing the total number of fatalities to 12.

Japan cancels sports, cultural events

After South Korea, Japan is the country with the largest number of infected people, with at least 164 cases.

On Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered sport and cultural events to be scrapped or curtailed for two weeks.

Japan has previously said the 2020 Summer Olympics — set to begin on July 24 — will take place according to schedule and that preparations for the event are continuing.

Coronavirus spreads in Europe

The virus, which has reached Europe, has so far infected at least 322 people and killed 11 people in Italy.

Algeria, Croatia, Austria, Spain, Romania, and Switzerland have all reported their first confirmed cases as well.

France announces first death

France announced the death of the first French national of the new virus on Wednesday.

The victim, a 60-year-old man, died overnight after being rushed to a Paris hospital in serious condition on Tuesday evening.

A Chinese tourist had died from the virus infection in France earlier this month.

The new coronavirus has so far infected some 19 people in France.

The Middle East

In the Middle East, Iran has reported at least 95 infections and 15 deaths.

Health officials in Bahrain said on Wednesday that the number of infected cases in the country had risen to 26 after three new cases were detected.

Kuwait reported two new cases on Wednesday. The new cases bring the total number in the country to 11.

Iraq, Oman, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and Afghanistan also confirmed cases of the disease.

Outbreak expected in US

Meanwhile, a top official from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that the United States could see the virus spread within its borders as well.

“Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in this country. It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore,” said Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

The US has so far confined 57 cases of the viral infection.

Messonnier also warned on Tuesday that the outbreak could likely turn into a global pandemic as it has had two of the three necessary criteria. The WHO, however, has so far held off on classifying the viral outbreak as a pandemic.

A vaccine for the virus, known as the COVID-19, is approximately 18 months away, experts say.

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