Scary coronavirus detail that has 'never been seen before'

·3-min read

“Uncharted territory.”

That’s the stark message from the World Health Organisation as the deadly coronavirus continues to spike outside of mainland China and rapidly spreads globally.

Almost nine times as many cases have been reported in the past 24 hours beyond China than inside, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

He added that the risk of coronavirus spreading was now very high at a "global level".

He said outbreaks in South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan were the greatest concern, but there is evidence surveillance methods are working in South Korea, the worst-affected country outside China, and the epidemic can be contained there.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), addresses a press conference about the update on COVID-19 at the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned the world is in "uncharted territory". Source: AP

"We are in uncharted territory - we have never seen before a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission but at the same time which can also be contained with the right measures," he told a news briefing in Geneva on Monday.

On Monday health officials confirmed the first case contracted on Australian soil without the patient leaving the country. It came a day after the country’s first confirmed death.

NSW Minister for Heath Brad Hazzard urged people to take precautions – even urging people to stop shaking hands.

And while misinformation continues to spread online about the virus, including people likening it to the flu, experts have warned not to dismiss its threat.

“It’s definitely worse than the flu and the worst case scenario (is) not that far off the Spanish flu,” Dr Timonthy Newsome, a virologist from the University of Sydney, told Yahoo News Australia.

World responds to global surge

The fight against the coronavirus should become a bridge for peace, Tedros said, commending the US for supporting sending medical aid to Iran despite the tension between them.

Commuters wearing masks stand in a packed train at the Shinagawa Station in Tokyo, Monday, March 2, 2020. Coronavirus has spread to more than 60 countries, and more than 3,000 people have died from the COVID-19 illness it causes. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Commuters wearing masks on a Tokyo train on Monday. Source: AP

Finance ministers of the G7 group of leading industrialised democracies are expected to hold a conference call on Tuesday to discuss measures to deal with the economic impact, three sources told Reuters.

The global death toll was up to 3044, according to a Reuters tally.

South Korea had 26 deaths and reported another 599 infections on Monday, taking its tally to 4335 following the country's biggest daily jump on Saturday.

Of the new cases in South Korea, 377 were from the city of Daegu, home to a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, to which most of South Korea's cases have been traced.

Some members of the church visited China's Wuhan city, where the disease emerged.

The Seoul government asked prosecutors to launch a murder investigation into leaders of the church amid allegations they did not co-operate to stop the spread of the virus.

China closes coronavirus hospitals as cases drop

Wuhan, at the centre of the epidemic in Hubei province, shut the first of 16 specially built hospitals after it discharged its last recovered patients, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said.

News of the closure coincided with a steep fall in new cases in Hubei, but China remained on alert for people returning home with the virus from other countries.

The virus broke out in Wuhan late last year and has since infected more than 86,500 people, mostly in China.

FILE - In this Feb. 27, 2020, file photo, a worker wears a face mask to spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at a shopping street in Seoul, South Korea. As the coronavirus spreads around the world, International health authorities are hoping countries can learn a few lessons from China, namely, that quarantines can be effective and acting fast is crucial. On the other hand, the question before the world is to what extent it can and wants to replicate China’s draconian methods. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)
Workers wear protective gear in Seoul to spray streets with disinfectant. Source: AP

Outside China, it has in recent days spread rapidly, now to 53 countries, with more than 6500 cases and more than 100 deaths.

The death toll in Italy, the hardest hit European country, has jumped to 52 from 18 and the number of cases to more than 2000 from 1694, the Civil Protection Agency said on Monday.

Another of the worst-hit nations, Iran, reported infections rising to 1501 on Monday, with 66 deaths, including a senior official.

Latvia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Senegal reported their first cases.

With AAP

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