Feb 27, 2020 - Health

Fear of coronavirus pandemic escalates

people in face masks

Photo: Abdulgani Basheer/AFP/Getty Images

In the blink of an eye, we've entered a new phase on the coronavirus.

The big picture: Italy, Iran and South Korea are at "decisive" points in their responses, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

  • "We are actually in a very delicate situation in which the outbreak can go in any direction based on how we handle it," said WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Iran now has 245 cases and 26 deaths, has closed schools and canceled its Friday prayers. At least six Iranian government officials have fallen ill, the N.Y. Times reports.

  • Saudi Arabia is closing its borders to religious pilgrims, with the hajj coming this summer.
  • Italy has seen its number of cases double in three days.

Between the lines: The world's big democracies are suddenly facing internal transmissions, with less police state control to tamp the spread.

  • California has a shortage of testing kits and is monitoring 8,400 people for the virus, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.
  • Obama's Ebola czar, Ron Klain, tore into the White House over a report in the N.Y. Times that all public statements and appearances by health officials must be coordinated with the office of Vice President Mike Pence.
  • The European Union's open borders policy seems to be holding, and 14 European countries are now reporting cases.
  • South Korea's and Japan's responses to the virus have been far less severe than China's. Japan wants its schools to close until April, and Korea delayed schools from starting for another week.

The bottom line: "The risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said today.

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