Experts warn world is approaching coronavirus tipping point

An employee of Thailand's underground MRT (Metropolitan Rapid Transit) service wearing a protective mask walks inside a station in Bangkok, Thailand, 24 February 2020. The number of people infected with COVID-19 according to data provided by Thailand's Public Health Ministry, stands at 35. Of these, 20 have already been discharged and 15 remain in hospitals. EPA-EFE/DIEGO AZUBEL

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The world is fast approaching a tipping point in the spread of the coronavirus, according to experts, who warn that the disease is outpacing efforts to contain it, after major outbreaks forced Italy and Iran to introduce stringent internal travel restrictions and South Korea’s president placed the country on red alert.

Some of the countries most affected by the virus are scrambling to halt its progress two days after Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), said the international community needed to act quickly before the narrowing “window of opportunity” closed completely.

With almost 78,000 cases of Covid-19 now confirmed across the globe, experts say the situation will soon reach a critical threshold.

See also: The on-line map that tracks the coronavirus in real time

While the number of patients worldwide is increasing, some virus clusters have shown no obvious link to China, leaving experts struggling to determine where they started.

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia and an authority on the new coronavirus infection, echoed Tedros’s warning and said the time for containing the disease was running out.

“The director general of the WHO has recently spoken of a narrowing of the window of opportunity to control the current epidemic,” he said. “The tipping point after which our ability to prevent a global pandemic ends seems a lot closer after the past 24 hours.”

Hunter said that while cases were declining in China, where the outbreak began, the weekend had seen some “extremely concerning developments elsewhere”.

He said the surge in South Korean cases had been unprecedented so far in the epidemic, adding: “The identification of the large cluster of cases in Italy is a big worry for Europe and we can expect there to be quite a few more cases identified in the next few days.”

Hunter also said the situation in Iran could have major implications for the Middle East. “A further problem with the Iranian cases is wider armed conflicts in the region,” he said.

Read more via The Guardian

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