Countries around the world are stepping up efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as the number of confirmed global cases hit 80,000.
After the World Health Organization (WHO) warned yesterday that the world should prepare for a possible pandemic, worst-hit countries outside of China such as Italy, South Korea and Japan have all introduced rigorous new measures to limit further infections.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that although the new cases were “deeply concerning” and had pandemic “potential”, “we are not witnessing large scale severe disease or deaths” for the moment.
Nine people have now died in South Korea, with more than 900 infected across the whole country.
Many of the cases are linked to Christian sect the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, with government officials now taking steps to test 200,000 of the church’s members.
Officials said their first priority was the test around 1,300 of the 9,200-strong Daegu chapter of the church, which is responsible for 16 of the 60 new cases reported so far today.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also raised its warning level for South Korea, telling Americans to avoid all non-essential travel to the country.
Japan, of whose 850 confirmed cases the majority are quarantined on the cruise liner Diamond Princess, has urged companies to stagger working hours and introduce teleconferencing to prevent further spread.
Italy, which has Europe’s largest number of cases with 229, has also brought it new measures to contain the outbreak, the BBC said.
Almost 50,000 residents of towns in Lombardy and Veneto in the country’s north will not be able to leave without special permission for the next two weeks.
In addition, several Serie A football matches will be played without spectators over the coming weekend.
Iran, where, according to local media, 14 people have died from the virus, has introduced school closures and is disinfecting the underground system daily.