Virus death toll tops 3,000

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The global death toll from the new coronavirus epidemic surpassed 3,000 on Monday after more people died at its epicentre in China, as cases soared around the world and US officials faced criticism over the country’s readiness for an outbreak. The virus has now infected more than 88,000 people and spread to more than 60 countries after first emerging in China late last year.  South Korea, the biggest nest of infections outside China, reported nearly 500 new cases on Monday, bringing its total past 4,000.

The rapid spread of the coronavirus has raised fears over its impact on the world economy, causing global markets to log their worst losses since the 2008 financial crisis. China’s economy has ground to a halt with large swathes of the country under quarantine or measures to restrict travel. Other countries have started to enact their own drastic containment measures, including banning arrivals from virus-hit countries, locking down towns, urging citizens to stay home and suspending major events such as football matches or trade fairs.

China reported 42 more deaths on Monday — all in central Hubei province. The virus is believed to have originated in a market that sold wild animals for food in Hubei’s capital, Wuhan. The death toll in China alone rose to 2,912, but it is also rising abroad, with the second highest tally in Iran with 54, while the United States and Australia had their first fatalities from the disease over the weekend.

President Donald Trump has downplayed concerns of a major outbreak in the US but his government has come in for criticism over its response to the threat. Vice President Mike Pence and Health Secretary Alex Azar defended the administration’s handling of the virus, while seeking to reassure Americans and promising to make up for shortfalls in virus testing kits. The assurances came a day after officials confirmed that a man in his 50s had died in northwestern Washington state. He was one of a handful of people with no known links to global hot zones to have contracted the virus — indicating that the pathogen was now likely spreading in communities.

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