Coronavirus cases top 100,000 worldwide as virus upends lives
Crossing more borders, the new coronavirus has hit a milestone, infecting more than 100,000 people worldwide as it weaves itself deeper into the daily lives of millions, infecting the powerful, the unprotected poor and the vast masses in between.
The virus, which has killed nearly 3,400 people, edged into more and more US states, popped up in at least four new countries and even breached the halls of the Vatican on Friday, local time. It forced mosques in Iran and beyond to halt weekly Muslim prayers. It brought Israeli and Palestinian authorities together to block pilgrims from Jesus' birthplace in Bethlehem. And it upended Japan's plans for the Olympic torch parade.
A firefighter disinfects a shopping area in northern Tehran, Iran.Credit:AP
"Who is going to feed their families?" asked Elias al-Arja, head of a hotel owners' union in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where tourists have been banned and the storied Church of the Nativity shuttered.
Questions swirled around whether Iran could control its outbreak, as the number of reported infections jumped beyond 4,700 on Friday, with 124 deaths. Iran planned to set up checkpoints to limit travel, urged people to stop using paper money and had firefighters spray disinfectant on an 18-kilometre length of Tehran's most famous avenue.
"It would be great if they did it every day," grocery store owner Reza Razaienejad said after firefighters sprayed outside his shop. "It should not be just a one-time thing."
Fresh fruit and vegetable stands are disinfected in Tehran.Credit:AP
The 100,000 figure of global infections is largely symbolic but dwarfs other major outbreaks in recent decades. SARS, MERS and Ebola affected far fewer people but had higher mortality rates.
The economic impact grew along with the number of infected people. World stocks and the price of oil dropped sharply again on Friday. A sharp drop in travel and a broader economic downturn linked to the outbreak threatened to hit already-struggling communities for months to come.
The head of the UN's food agency, the World Food Program, warned of the potential for "absolute devastation" as the outbreak's effects ripple through Africa and the Middle East.
The Grand Princess cruise ship has been quarantined off the California coast.Credit:AP
In the US the number of cases passed 230 people scattered across 18 states. President Donald Trump cancelled a trip to the Centres for Disease Control in Atlanta even as he prepared to sign a $US8.3 billion ($12.5 billion) bill for vaccines, tests, potential treatments, and to help state and local governments.
China reported 143 new cases on Friday, the same as a day earlier and about one-third of what the country was seeing a week ago. Just a month ago, China was reporting several thousand new cases a day. The problem has now flipped, with the outbreak moving to Europe – where Italy, Germany and France had the most cases – and beyond.
South Korea reported 505 additional cases on Friday, down from a high of 851 on Tuesday.
The new virus has spread to about 90 countries. The Netherlands reported its first virus death on Friday while Serbia, Slovakia, Peru and Cameroon announced their first infections. Even Vatican City was hit, with the tiny city-state confirming its first case on Friday but not saying who was infected. The Vatican has insisted that 83-year-old Pope Francis, who has been sick, only has a cold.
The new coronavirus is known to affect the elderly more than other groups.
And in the United States, officials in Washington state are so concerned about having space to care for the sick they were expected to close a $US4 million deal on Friday to take over a roadside motel. The plan to turn the 84-room EconoLodge into a quarantine facility was not sitting well with everyone, including the police chief.
To the south, cruise passengers awaited test results aboard the Grand Princess ship. The vessel, with 3500 aboard, was ordered to stay at sea after a traveller from its previous voyage died of the coronavirus and at least four others were infected. The cruise line said samples were collected from 45 passengers and crew members and results were expected later on Friday.
The Grand Princess is operated by the same line as the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined at a Japanese port last month. More than 700 people on board were infected.
In a sign of hope, a woman infected with the virus gave birth to a girl in Qom, the Iranian Shiite holy city particularly hard-hit by the virus.
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