China virus cases surpass SARS as big economic hit looms
BEIJING: Infections from China’s coronavirus spread to more than 8,100 people globally on Thursday, surpassing the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic’s total in a fast-spreading health crisis forecast to pummel the world’s second-largest economy. The vast majority of patients are in China where the virus originated in an illegal wildlife market in Wuhan city and has also claimed 170 lives, latest official data showed.
But more than 100 cases have emerged in other countries, from Japan to the United States, spurring anti-China sentiment and a wave of mask-buying.T
“There’s only so much we can do,” said an official at Kukje Pharma Co, a South Korean firm considering doubling or tripling shifts to cope with a rush of orders for “tens of millions” of masks.
The World Health Organization (WHO), which has so far held off declaring the flu-like coronavirus a global emergency, began another meeting in Geneva to reconsider.
Such a declaration would trigger tighter containment and information-sharing guidelines, but may disappoint Beijing, which had expressed confidence in defeating the “devil” virus.
It could also further spook markets, already shuddering at the ripple effects of damage to China’s economy.
“The fear is that they (the WHO) might raise the alarm bells … so people are taking money off the table,” said Chris Weston, head of research at Melbourne brokerage Pepperstone.
The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome also came from China, killing about 800 people and costing the global economy an estimated $33 billion. – Reuters

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