WUHAN, China. — The number of cases of the novel coronavirus has risen to over 69,000 worldwide, with the first death from Covid-19 reported in Europe.
As of Sunday morning, there were 68,500 cases of the virus recorded in mainland China, an increase of 2,009 on the previous day. Chinese health authorities recorded an additional 142 deaths on Saturday, bringing the global total to 1,669, all but four of which occurred in mainland China.
The first death to occur outside of Asia was reported in France on Saturday: an 80-year-old Chinese tourist who had been receiving treatment for Covid-19 since January 25. Deaths have also occurred in Hong Kong, the Philippines and Japan.
So far, almost 9,500 patients with the coronavirus have been treated and discharged from hospitals across China, the country’s health authorities said.
There are concerns, however, that the stringent quarantine measures taken across the country may have not been enough to contain the virus’ spread — several major cities have now been on lockdown for nearly a month. On Saturday, authorities in Beijing ordered a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all travelers returning to the city, with anyone found violating the rules subject to potential legal repercussions.
With the head of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warning that the virus will likely be with us “beyond this season, beyond this year,” attention is turning to how to contain it while avoiding too much disruption to the global economy.
China is struggling to return to work after businesses were shut and schools suspended for weeks. Millions are now working from home, with Chinese President Xi Jinping warning on Monday that the country needed to stabilize its economy and avoid mass layoffs.
But it’s not just China affected — the closing of Chinese plants has disrupted supply chains globally, threatening to cause a recession in Germany and smartphone shortages worldwide.
Economists say the current level of disruption is manageable. If the number of new coronavirus cases begins to slow, and China’s factories reopen soon, the result will be a fleeting hit to the Chinese economy in the first quarter and a dent in global growth.
If the virus continues to spread, however, the economic damage will increase rapidly.
“This is continuing to grow in scope and magnitude,” said William Reinsch, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It could end being really, really big, and really, really serious.”
(PHOTO: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images/CNN)