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Coronavirus fears grow as global cases spike

The University of Hong Kong
The University of Hong Kong

There’s great concern about the spread of the novel coronavirus in countries outside China and among people with no connection to China or Wuhan, World Health Organization (WHO) director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday.

There’s still a chance to contain the virus, Tedros said, “but the window of opportunity is narrowing.”

The WHO is calling on countries to continue containment measures while preparing for community transmission, he said. He said China’s containment measures in Wuhan and elsewhere are “hammering” the virus and can help contain it.

"We must not look back and regret that we failed to take advantage of the window of opportunity we have,” he said.

The outbreak can still go any direction, Tedros said, and countries need to prepare for any eventuality.

Dr. Sylvie Briand, director of the WHO's Infectious Hazards Management Department, said the agency is working to prepare countries’ health care workers with training and making sure they know how to protect themselves, and to make sure countries have enough workers to handle a number of cases.

A 78-year-old man who tested positive for the novel coronavirus has died at a hospital in Padua, northern Italy.

It is Italy's first death from the coronavirus, that is quickly spreading around the world. The country has reported 14 new confirmed cases of the virus, all in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, bringing the country's total to 17.

Italian news agency ANSA said the patient also suffered from “previous pathologies.”

The death was also reported by the president of the Veneto region, Luca Zaia, in a TV interview.

Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza announced severe restrictions in areas of the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto, which have recorded most of Italy's coronavirus cases.

All public events have been canceled, schools, shops and local enterprises closed and sporting activities have been suspended.

Anyone who has come into contact with people who have tested positive for the virus must go into quarantine and those who live in villages where coronavirus cases have been reported must stay in isolation at home, according to ordnance issued by Italy’s health ministry.