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WHO raises global risk of spread, impact from COVID-19 from 'high' to 'very high'

Last Updated Mar 4, 2020 at 10:55 am PDT

FILE: This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. According to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, a wide share of Americans are at least moderately confident in U.S. health officials’ ability to handle emerging viruses, and more express concern about catching the flu than catching the new coronavirus. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Summary

For a second day, number of COVID-19 cases reported outside China has been larger than the number inside

The list of countries hit by COVID-19 has now grown to 57, with many taking steps to try and contain the outbreak

A British man who was infected by the new coronavirus on a quarantined cruise ship in Japan has reportedly died

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – For a second day, the number of COVID-19 cases reported outside China has been larger than the number inside, and the World Health Organization is again warning the new coronavirus could hit most, “if not all,” countries.

The WHO announced on Friday it was raising the global risk of virus spread and impact from “high” to “very high,” however, it also noted the situation involves linked epidemics, meaning most cases are still being traced back to known contacts or clusters.

The number of infections continues to grow, albeit slowly, in Canada. Ontario reported its seventh positive case on Friday, one day after Quebec announced that province’s first presumptive case.

The Quebec patient is a woman who had recently returned from Iran, and if confirmed by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg, would raise the number of people who’ve fallen ill in this country to 15. This number excludes those who were on evacuation flights out of China and Japan, who are either in quarantine or have completed their quarantine once returning. Other patients have been contained to B.C. and Ontario.

Meanwhile, the first case of COVID-19 has now been reported in sub-Saharan Africa, where a businessman in Nigeria tested positive for the virus. The worry is that as the virus appears on the continent, there are countries whose health systems are not well-positioned to deal with it. Mexico has also reported its first case of the virus.

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The list of countries hit by COVID-19 has now grown to 57. Besides Nigeria, countries like Belarus, Lithuania, and New Zealand are now also reporting their first cases.

This comes as Iran and Italy continue to be major centres of infection, with people travelling from there and spreading the virus farther afield.

South Korea, however, remains the country hardest-hit by the virus outside China, with more than 2,000 cases reported so far. That country is one of many who have taken extra steps in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19, including strengthening the punishment for those violating self-isolation.

There has been a global run on the sales of face masks, despite medical experts’ advice that most people who aren’t sick don’t need to wear them. Many businesses are sold out, while others have been heard to limit how many one person can buy at a time.

It’s event forced online shopping giant Amazon to police its site to ensure sellers don’t gouge panicked buyers.

Employees of a department store prepare to sell face masks at a department store in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. Countries take harsh containment steps as a new virus spreads. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Rumours that toilet paper and napkins could be used as masks have emptied store shelves in Asia of paper goods over the past few weeks, too.

The virus is also impacting major attractions in many places around the world, including Tokyo Disneyland. It’s also forced the K-pop group BTS to call off its tour.

When it comes to the death toll by country, the virus has, of course, claimed the most lives in China, however, Iran has come in second with more than two dozen reported deaths so far. There have been reports Iran may be under-reporting the number of people infected as well as killed by COVID-19.

It was also announced on Friday that a British man who was aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan has since died after an outbreak on that vessel left a number of people sick. He’s the sixth person who was aboard the ship to die because of the virus.

The Diamond Princess was placed under a two-week quarantine in Yokohama after an oubreak on the ship. A number of Canadians were on board, but none are among those who have died.

-With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press