Fear of coronavirus pandemic grows but China eases curbs as new infections fall
Almaty. February 24. KazTAG - Fears of a coronavirus pandemic grew on Monday after sharp rises in new cases reported in Iran, Italy and South Korea but China relaxed restrictions on movements in several places including Beijing as its rates of new infections eased, reports Reuters.
The surge of infections outside mainland China triggered steep falls in Asian shares and Wall Street stock futures as investors fled to safe havens such as gold. Oil prices tumbled and the Korean won fell to its lowest since August.
“There is lots of bad news on the coronavirus front,” Shane Oliver, chief economist at Sydney-based wealth manager AMP, wrote in a note.
South Korea’s fourth-largest city Daegu became more isolated due to a rapid increase in cases of infection, as Asiana Airlines and Korean Air suspended flights there until next month.
“If we cannot block the spread in the Daegu region in an effective way, there are high possibilities it would lead to a nationwide transmission,” Vice Health Minister Kim Kang-lip told reporters.
Iran, which announced its first two cases on Wednesday, said it had confirmed 43 cases and eight deaths. Most of the infections were in the Shi’ite Muslim holy city of Qom.
More cases appeared in the Middle East with Bahrain reporting its first case, the state news agency said, and Kuwait reporting three cases in people who had been in Iran. Afghanistan also reported its first case.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan imposed travel and immigration restrictions on Iran.
In Europe, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said he would talk to his European counterparts soon to discuss how best to cope with a possible epidemic in Europe, after Italy reported a third death from the flu-like virus and 150 infections, from just three before Friday.
“Tonight, there is no epidemic in France. But there is a problematic situation at the door, in Italy, that we are watching with great attention,” Veran told a news conference.
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