The World Health Organization says time is running out to stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak as the number of cases outside of China grows.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday, "We are still in a phase where containment is possible,” but he warned, “our window of opportunity is narrowing."
China reported Saturday nearly 76,300 cases of the coronavirus, with 2,345 deaths from the outbreak. There were 397 new confirmed cases in China, a sharp decline from 889 new cases the day before.
Outside China, more than 1,200 others have been infected with the virus and more than a dozen have died.
Tedros said that while the number of cases outside of China remained "relatively small," he expressed concern about the rise in cases around the world with no clear link to China.
South Korea reported Saturday an eight-fold jump in the number of cases in just four days. Officials said there are 229 new cases of the virus, bringing the country's total to 433 who have been infected with the virus, most of them linked to a church and hospital in the city of Daegu. South Korea is now the hardest-hit country outside China. Reuters reports that Samsung Electronics has confirmed a case of coronavirus at its mobile device factory in Gumi, South Korea. The plant will remain closed until Monday morning.
Tedros said Friday, “I hope South Korea will do everything to contain this outbreak at this early stage.”
The WHO head also expressed concern over new cases of the virus in Iran, an Iranian traveler who carried the virus to Lebanon, and another traveler who spread the virus from Iran to Canada.
Iranian health officials reported Saturday that a fifth person has died from the virus and that there were 10 new cases, raising the country’s total to 28.
Iran said Saturday it has suspended religious pilgrimages to Iraq during the coronavirus surge.
Lebanon confirmed its first coronavirus case Friday — a 45-year-old woman who had arrived from Iran and was being quarantined in a hospital.
"We confirmed the first case today," Lebanon Health Minister Hamad Hassan told a news conference, adding that two other suspected cases are being investigated. The woman arrived Thursday on a flight from the city of Qom, Iran.
In neighboring Turkey, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said officials have started to screen travelers arriving from Iran at border gates and are refusing entry to anyone who has traveled to Qom in the past 14 days or who has signs of illness.
Previously, there have been few virus cases in the Middle East. Nine cases have been confirmed in the United Arab Emirates, and one case in Egypt.
Italy became the first European country Friday to report a death of a citizen due to the virus, triggering a lockdown of about a dozen towns in several northern regions of the country. Two people have now died from the virus in Italy, where authorities said Saturday there are about 54 cases in the country.
In China, the country’s National Health Commission reported Saturday that as of Feb. 21, more than 618,000 Chinese have been “identified as having had close contact with infected patients.” That figure has more than tripled this month, from 189,583 on Feb. 2. The organization lists 113,564 individuals as “under medical observation.”
Also Friday, two Australians and an Israeli evacuated from a cruise ship in Japan tested positive for the virus after returning to their home countries. Israel's Health Ministry said this is the first case to be reported inside Israel.
VOA's Natalie Liu contributed to this report.