China's crisis wanes as epidemic takes hold in US, elsewhere

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A worker wearing protective gear sprays disinfectant as a precaution against the new coronavirus at a department store in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, March 2, 2020. South Korea has the world's second-highest cases. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

SEOUL – China's coronavirus caseload continued to wane Tuesday even as the epidemic took a firmer hold beyond Asia, with three countries now exceeding 1,000 cases and the U.S. reporting its sixth death.

The health ministry announced just 125 new cases detected over the past 24 hours, China's lowest number since Jan. 20. Another 31 deaths were reported, all of them in the hardest-hit province of Hubei. The figures bring China's total number of cases to 80,151 with 2,943 deaths.

The global shift in the COVID-19 epidemic was apparent with 2,410 recovered patients being released from Hubei's hospitals and treatment centers, many of them hastily built over recent weeks to cope with the thousands of people sickened by the virus. But new infections outside China were far surpassing its totals.

Clusters of disease grew in South Korea, Italy and Iran, and the virus has turned up for the first time in New York, Moscow and Berlin, as well as Latvia, Indonesia, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Jordan and Portugal. The worldwide death toll topped 3,000, and the number of cases tops 89,000 in about 70 countries.

Global health officials sought to reassure the public that the virus remains a manageable threat.

“Containment is feasible and must remain the top priority for all countries,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Around the world, the crisis reshaped the daily routines of millions of people.

School children in Japan stayed home with schools closed until April. Israelis in quarantine used special booths to vote in national elections. Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel was rebuffed by her interior minister when she extended her hand to greet him. And the United Nations postponed a major conference on women that had been expected to bring up to 12,000 people from its 193 member countries to New York next week.