South Korea to launch mass coronavirus testing, U.S. pledges $1bn for vaccine

South Korea aims to test over 200,000 members of a church at the centre of a surge in coronavirus cases, as countries stepped up efforts to stop a pandemic of the virus.

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The virus emerged in China and is now spreading in Europe and the Middle East.

Over 80,000 people have been infected in China since the outbreak began in an illegal wildlife market in the central city of Wuhan in December 2019.

China’s death toll was 2,663 by the end of Monday, up 71 from the previous day.

However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said the epidemic in China peaked between Jan. 23 and Feb. 2 and has been declining since.

However, fast-spreading outbreaks in Iran, Italy and South Korea, and first cases in several Middle East countries, have fed worries of a pandemic, or worldwide spread of the virus.

“We are close to a pandemic, but there is still hope the epidemics in Iran, Italy, South Korea, etc. can be controlled,” said Raina MacIntyre, head of the Biosecurity Program at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales.

South Korea has the most virus cases outside China and reported its tenth death and 144 new cases, for a total of 977.

President Moon Jae-in said the situation was “very grave”.

In Europe, Italy has become a new front line, with 220 cases reported on Monday, up from just three on Friday.

The death toll in Italy is seven.

Global stock markets stabilised after a wave of early selling petered out and Wall Street futures managed a solid bounce after a sharp selloff the previous day on fears about the spreading coronavirus.

“If travel restrictions and supply chain disruptions spread, the impact on global growth could be more widespread and longer lasting,” Jonas Goltermann, senior economist at research consultancy Capital Economics in London, said.


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