Copy of 2020-03-02T142136Z_1504101382_RC2QBF96U2YO_RTRMADP_3_HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS-BRITAIN-1583161137052
A girl is pictured wearing a protective face mask in London on March 2. Image Credit: REUTERS

Seoul/Beijing: The coronavirus continued to exact a toll worldwide with the number of deaths now crossing 3,000. Almost 90,000 people have been infected by the disease.

The coronavirus spread further in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The virus has made its presence felt in 53 countries, with more than 6,500 cases and more than 100 deaths.

But this figure is a conservative estimate.

Iran, which has officially said the virus has killed 66 people among 1,501 confirmed cases, is widely suspected of under-reporting deaths and infections.

Covid numbers March 2
Image Credit: Gulf News / Jay Hilotin

South Korea, one of the worst victims of the virus outside China, sought murder charges against leaders of a secretive church at the heart of its outbreak on Monday. However,the Chinese province at the epicentre reported a fall in new cases.

World stock markets regained some calm as hopes for global interest rate cuts to soften the economic blow of the virus steadied nerves after last week’s worst plunge since the 2008 financial crisis.

The global death toll was up to 3,060.

Reuters reported that in the largest outbreak outside China, South Korea has had 26 deaths and reported another 599 infections on Monday, taking its tally to 4,335 following Saturday’s biggest daily jump.

Of the new cases in South Korea, 377 were from the city of Daegu, home to a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, to which most of South Korea’s cases have been traced after some members visited China’s Wuhan city where the disease emerged.

The Seoul government asked prosecutors to launch a murder investigation into leaders of the church, a movement that reveres founder Lee Man-hee. Lee knelt and apologised to the country on Monday that one church member had infected many others, calling the epidemic a “great calamity”.

40 cases in UK

British health authorities said on Monday there had been four more confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the total to 40.

Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer of England, said the four new patients had recently travelled from Italy.

Earlier on Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the country needed to be prepared for the new coronavirus to spread further.

Fears in America

In the United States, there were new signs that the coronavirus was spreading undetected in some communities for weeks while the government resisted calls for more widespread testing. With testing now ramping up, the Seattle suburb of Kirkland has become an epicentre of both illness and fear, much of it focused on a nursing facility where six coronavirus cases have been confirmed and many more residents and employees have complained of illness.

Wuhan closes hospital

Wuhan, at the centre of the epidemic in Hubei province, closed the first of 16 specially built hospitals, hurriedly put up to treat people with the virus, after it discharged its last recovered patients, state broadcaster CCTV said on Monday.

News of the closure coincided with a steep fall in new cases in Hubei, but China remained on alert for people returning home with the virus from other countries.

“The rapid rising trend of virus cases in Wuhan has been controlled,” Mi Feng, a spokesman for China’s National Health Commission, told a briefing.

“Outbreaks in Hubei outside of Wuhan are curbed and provinces outside of Hubei are showing a positive trend.” The virus broke out in Wuhan late last year and has since infected more than 86,500 people, most in China.

Economic carnage

Global factories took a beating in February from the outbreak, with activity in China shrinking at a record pace, surveys showed, raising the prospect of a coordinated policy response by central banks.

The global spread has forced the postponement of festivals, exhibitions, trade fairs and sports events. It has crippled tourism, retail sales and global supply chains, especially in China, the world’s second-largest economy.

Global airlines stand to lose $1.5 billion this year due to the virus.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that the outbreak was pitching the world economy into its worst downturn since the global financial crisis, urging governments and central banks to fight back.

–With inputs from agencies