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WHO raises COVID-19 alert to 'very high' as virus spreads to six more countries

The coronavirus spread further on Friday, with cases reported for the first time in six countries across three continents, battering markets and leading the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise its impact risk alert to 'very high'.
 
Hopes that COVID-19 epidemic that started in China late last year would be over in months, and that economic activity would quickly return to normal, have been shattered.
 
The latest WHO figures indicate more than 82,000 people have been infected, with more than 2,700 deaths in China and 57 deaths in 46 other countries.
 
Mexico, Nigeria, Estonia, Denmark, the Netherlands and Lithuania reported their first cases, all with travel history connected to Italy, the worst-affected European country. 
 
Mexico is the second Latin American country to register the virus, after Brazil, and the Nigerian case is the first in sub-Saharan Africa.
 
An official in China said some recovered patients had been found to be infectious, suggesting the epidemic may be even harder to eradicate than previously thought.
 
A WHO spokesman said the organization was looking very carefully into reports of some people getting re-infected.
 
In addition to stockpiling medical supplies, some governments ordered schools shut and cancelled big gatherings to try to halt the flu-like disease. 
 
The outbreak appears to be easing in China, where it first emerged late last year in a market illegally trading wildlife.
 
Mainland China reported 327 new cases in the last 24 hours, the lowest in the country in more than a month, and the country's three biggest airlines restored some international flights.
 
But the virus is surging elsewhere. 
 
Countries other than China now account for about three-quarters of  new infections.
 
South Korea, with the most cases outside China, reported 571 new infections on Friday, bringing the total to 2,337, with 13 people dead.
 
The death toll in Italy rose to 17 and those testing positive is nearly 900. 
 
Cafes and schools have been closed as daily life has ground to a halt.
 
A WHO spokesman also said Iran's outbreak may be worse than realized. 
 
Its toll of 34 dead is the highest outside China, although there are reports of much higher numbers. 
 


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