The coronavirus continued to spread Saturday amid growing concern over the possibility it could trigger a global recession and the World Health Organization’s decision to raise its impact risk alert to "very high."
China reported Saturday that manufacturing activity declined dramatically in February, as the virus slowed the world’s second-largest economy.
Global stock prices finished the week sharply lower Friday, ending one of the worst weeks for world markets since the 2008 financial crisis.
Qatar reported its first case of the virus Saturday, three days after leader Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani ordered the evacuation of its citizens from Iran, the Middle East’s epicenter of the outbreak.
France announced 16 new coronavirus cases Saturday and a temporary ban on all public gatherings of more than 5,000 people, one day after Mexico, Nigeria, New Zealand, Lithuania, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Iceland reported their first cases.
In Italy, the civil protection agency said eight more patients had died, bringing the total deaths in the country to 29.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration moved Saturday to accelerate hospitals’ abilities to test for the deadly virus. The agency issued guidelines “enabling laboratories to use tests they develop faster in order to achieve more rapid testing capacity in the United States.”
The U.S. reported its fourth case of the virus Friday in a person who had no known history of travel to a country experiencing an outbreak of the disease, known as COVID-19, or no known close contact with an infected person. U.S. health authorities said they were waiting for confirmation of testing results. The newest case was in Washington state. Authorities in Oregon also reported a "presumptive positive" patient Friday.
Test results for the coronavirus are considered "presumptive" until they have been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The WHO raised its global risk assessment of the coronavirus to its highest level on Friday.
"We have now increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of COVID-19 to very high at global level," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.
The outbreak appeared to be easing in China, where the virus originated. China's National Health Commission reported 427 new cases and 47 deaths Saturday. China has a total of 79,251 cases.
South Korea, the hardest-hit country outside China, reported the biggest surge Saturday with 813 new cases, raising the total to 3,150.
Iran confirmed 593 cases and 43 deaths, the highest death toll outside China.
The WHO said Saturday that more than 85,000 people worldwide had been infected in nearly 60 countries and that virus-related deaths topped 2,900.
The worldwide outbreak has led government and companies around the globe to implement closures and restrictions.
Switzerland canceled next week's Geneva international car show, an important event for the auto industry. Amazon.com, the world's largest online retailer, told its employees to defer all nonessential travel.
In Japan, Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan announced closures. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered schools to close at least through March.
The United States and South Korea called off joint military drills.
In Germany, about 1,000 people were being quarantined in the country’s most populous state. The number of confirmed cases in Europe's biggest economy exceeded 50.