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World Braces For Spread Of Coronavirus As More Countries Report Cases


An Iranian man wears a protective masks to prevent contracting coronavirus on a bus in Tehran on February 25.
An Iranian man wears a protective masks to prevent contracting coronavirus on a bus in Tehran on February 25.

More than 30 countries have reported cases of a new coronavirus and there are five main clusters, raising concerns that efforts to contain the outbreak have failed and the threshold of a pandemic is approaching.

Most cases are in China, where the virus originated in December, as well as Japan, South Korea, Italy, and Iran.

Brazil's Health Ministry said on February 26 that a Sao Paulo resident who recently travelled to Italy was undergoing testing for the virus, in what could become the first case in South America.

Several European countries -- Austria, Croatia, Spain, and Switzerland -- announced their first coronavirus cases involving people who had been to Italy, as did Algeria in North Africa.

Italy has reported more than 330 cases and 11 deaths.

In recent days, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman also reported their first cases -- all involving people who had come from Iran.

The country has nearly 100 confirmed cases and officially 15 deaths, but there has been speculation that Tehran is underreporting the extent of the outbreak in the country.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded that Iranian officials "tell the truth" about the outbreak.

"The United States is deeply concerned by information indicating the Iranian regime may have suppressed vital details about the outbreak in that country," Pompeo said.

The coronavirus has killed more than 2,700 people and infected over 78,000 others on mainland China. In the rest of the world, there have been more than 40 deaths and over 2,700 cases.

The epidemic's disruption has caused stock markets to slump around the world, restrictions imposed on travelers, and sporting events cancelled.

But Bruce Aylward, who led a World Health Organization-led investigative mission to China, said one of his conclusions for the rest of the world is that it "simply not ready" to contain the outbreak.

"You have to be ready to manage this at a larger scale...and it has to be done fast," Aylward said at a Geneva news conference.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, the BBC, and dpa

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