Worldwide response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) is ramping up as the number of global cases has surpassed 90,000. According to a new tweet by the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), health officials are operating in “uncharted territory” as the disease can now be found in more than 73 countries and territories, as reported by CNN.
While the majority of those cases still exist in mainland China — 80,151 of the over 90,000 cases have been identified in that country — the virus has now spread to every continent except Antartica. These new cases include “outbreak clusters” in South Korea, Italy, and Iran. South Korea reported more than 4,800 cases with 28 deaths, Italian officials stated their country has at least 1,835 people infected and 52 deaths, and Iran has declared 2,336 infections with 77 people succumbing to the disease — including a top government official.
While the WHO has not yet called the situation a global pandemic, there is the possibility of it being classified as such in the near future. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, claims that cases are currently spreading faster outside mainland China, as the disease’s spreading seems to be stabilizing there.
“In the last 24 hours, there were almost nine times more COVID-19 cases reported outside China than inside,” the director-general said.
Knowing & understanding an epidemic is the first step to defeating it.
We are in unchartered territory with #COVID19. We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures.
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) March 2, 2020
Governments are taking steps to avoid further infections, shutting down schools and limiting public events. Those nations surrounding Iran have closed their borders with the country and Shanghai and Beijing are enforcing quarantines for those who have traveled to countries that have significant outbreaks. Public spaces across Europe followed China’s lead and have closed attractions like the Louvre in Paris and La Scala opera in Milan, Italy. Events like the Paris half-marathon have also been canceled, and some French officials are cautioning against the traditional “bisou” greeting of two kisses on the cheek to help limit contact.
The United States has also seen an uptick in cases, with over 100 infections in 11 states. Six people have now died of the infection in the U.S., all located in Washington state. However, Vice President Mike Pence — who was tapped to lead the coronavirus task force by President Trump — has called for calm. He assured the country that new travel advisories have been put in place for Italy and South Korea, and that those arriving in the U.S. from these countries will receive multiple screenings before being released to the general public.
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams has also stated there is no reason to panic.
“Caution is appropriate. Preparedness is appropriate. Panic is not,” he said, per CNN.
These assurances come as the virus is impacting the global economy. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development stated on Monday that COVID-19 has caused the global economy to take a significant downturn, one not seen since the financial crisis of 2009. To combat this, the U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates by half a percentage point, the biggest single cut since the 2008 financial recession, as reported by The New York Times. The cut seems to be doing what it was intended, as the S&P 500 bounced back a full percentage point as soon as the reduction was announced, somewhat lessening investors’ fears.