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S. Korea at 'War' With Coronavirus as Governments Try to Stop Spread

A government official wearing a face mask stretches as he and his colleagues make phone call to members of Shincheonji Church of Jesus to check if they are having symptoms of the COBID-19 illness at Goyang City Hall in Goyang, South Korea, March 3, 2020.

Finance ministers from the Group of Seven leading economies are holding talks Tuesday to discuss how to respond to a coronavirus outbreak that has brought cases to at least 70 countries.

The G-7 talks come as South Korean President Moon Jae-in sought funding in his country to help with medical supplies and to aid small businesses that have been hit by a downturn as people stay home.

South Korea has been one of the hardest-hit nations outside of China, reporting its latest figures Tuesday of nearly 5,000 total cases.

"The entire country has entered a war against an infectious disease," Moon said.

In Iran, another center from which the virus has spread to other countries as people traveled, World Health Organization experts arrived to help local health workers deal with the outbreak. Britain, France and Germany also pledged to send supplies to Iran.

China has seen its number of cases slow, reporting 125 new ones Tuesday, one of its lowest figures in the past two months.

The slowdown in China has come as cases elsewhere surged.

The United States reported four more deaths from the coronavirus on Monday, raising its total to six with about 100 overall cases.

Worldwide, the virus has infected 90,000 people and killed 3,100.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization's director-general, said the focus of all countries should be on efforts to contain the virus.

Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a news conference on the situation of the coronavirus (COVID-2019), in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 28, 2020.
Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a news conference on the situation of the coronavirus (COVID-2019), in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 28, 2020.

"We are in uncharted territory," Tedros said. "We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures."

The spread of coronavirus has impacted people throughout the world. Millions of Japanese schoolchildren are being held out of class for four weeks; contaminated Israelis were forced to vote in Monday's national election at special polling places; and thousands of tourists were turned away from the shuttered Louvre in Paris, the world's most popular art museum.

In Germany, it's common for people to greet each other with handshakes. But when German Chancellor Angela Merkel showed up for a meeting with migrant groups, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer rebuffed her outstretched hand.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris warned that the global economy could shrink for the first three months of the year for the first time since the 2008 recession.

"Global economic prospects remain subdued and very uncertain,'' the agency said.

OECD lowered its 2020 global growth forecast by half a percentage point to 2.4%, which would be the weakest advance since the height of the downturn in 2008.

U.S. manufacturing slowed again in February, the Institute for Supply Management said, as the global supply chain was impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

In the United States, President Donald Trump and his coronavirus task force met at the White House with executives of major drug companies about the possibility of advancing work on the development of a vaccine for coronavirus. The drug industry has said that such a cure is up to 18 months away.

Trump claimed credit for limiting the effects of coronavirus in the U.S.

"I was criticized by the Democrats when I closed the Country down to China many weeks ahead of what almost everyone recommended," he said. "Saved many lives. Dems were working the Impeachment Hoax. They didn’t have a clue! Now they are fear mongering. Be calm & vigilant!"

On Wednesday, top U.S. officials are meeting with airline and cruise ship executives about their plight with the spread of coronavirus cutting discretionary travel.

Monday brought the first two reported cases in Indonesia. Health officials there said they had links to an infected Japanese national.

Italy has been the hardest-hit nation in Europe and saw its number of cases surge to about 1,700 on Sunday. Officials there said they expected that number to rise.

WHO says the majority of the coronavirus patients are adults with symptoms that include fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.

The organization says 80% of victims experience mild illness; 14% experience severe disease; and 5% of those infected become critically ill. WHO says those who experience the most severe cases are people older than age 60 and who have other health problems.