The U.S. has reported its first coronavirus-related death. Officials in the western U.S. state of Washington said it was a patient in a hospital in the city of Kirkland. U.S. President Donald Trump said Saturday at a White House news conference the victim was a “medically high-risk patient in her late 50’s” who died overnight.
“The U.S. has taken the “most aggressive action in modern history to confront the spread of this disease,” the president said. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, said there was “no evidence of a link to travel” in the case of the woman who died.
The White House also announced tightened travel restrictions to Iran to include any foreign national who has visited the country in the last 14 days. Additionally, it raised to the highest level a travel advisory to avoid Italy and South Korea, countries most affected by the virus other than China.
The coronavirus continued to spread Saturday amid growing concern over the possibility it could trigger a global recession and the World Health Organization’s decision to raise its impact risk alert to “very high.”
China reported Saturday that manufacturing activity declined dramatically in February, as the virus slowed the world’s second largest economy.
Global stock prices finished the week sharply lower Friday, ending one of the worst weeks for world markets since the 2008 financial crisis.
New cases worldwide
Qatar reported its first case of the virus Saturday, three days after leader Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani ordered the evacuation of its citizens from Iran, the Middle East’s epicenter of the outbreak.
France announced 16 new coronavirus cases Saturday and a temporary ban on all public gatherings of more than 5,000 people, one day after Mexico, Nigeria, New Zealand, Lithuania, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Iceland reported their first cases.
In Italy, the civil protection agency said eight more patients had died, bringing the total deaths in the country to 29.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration moved Saturday to accelerate hospitals’ abilities to test for the deadly virus. The agency issued guidelines “enabling laboratories to use tests they develop faster in order to achieve more rapid testing capacity in the United States.”
A fourth case of the virus was reported Friday in a person who had no known history of travel to a country experiencing an outbreak of the disease, known as COVID-19, or no known close contact with an infected person. U.S. health authorities said they were waiting for confirmation of testing results. There are more than 60 confirmed cases in the U.S.
WHO raises risk assessment
The World Health Organization raised its global risk assessment of the coronavirus to its highest level on Friday.
“We have now increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of COVID-19 to very high at global level,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.
The outbreak appeared to be easing in China, where the virus originated. China’s National Health Commission reported 427 new cases and 47 deaths Saturday. China has a total of 79,251 cases.
South Korea, the hardest-hit country outside China, reported the biggest surge Saturday with 813 new cases, raising the total to 3,150.
Iran confirmed 593 cases and 43 deaths, the highest death toll outside China.
The WHO said Saturday that more than 85,000 people worldwide have been infected in nearly 60 countries and that virus-related deaths topped 2,900.
The worldwide outbreak has led government and companies around the globe to implement closures and restrictions.
Switzerland canceled next week’s Geneva international car show, an important event for the auto industry. Amazon.com, the world’s largest online retailer, told its employees to defer all nonessential travel.
In Japan, Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan announced closures. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered schools to close at least through March.
The United States and South Korea called off joint military drills.
In Germany, about 1,000 people are being quarantined in the country’s most populous state. The number of confirmed cases in Europe’s biggest economy exceeded 50.