President Trump has appealed for calm and put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of America’s coronavirus response, insisting the country is “very, very ready” to tackle the deadly disease even if it starts to spread more widely inside the U.S.
Mr. Trump said the risk to Americans remained very low, but his bid to ease nerves — and shore up jittery stock markets in an election year — came as officials confirmed the first case of suspected “community transmission” of the COVID-19 disease in the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define community spread as the occurrence of cases for which the source of infection is unknown.
The World Health Organization continues to say there’s time to rein in the virus that emerged late last year in central China, and is declining to label it a global pandemic. But with cases in more than 45 countries and the disease spreading fast outside China, most significantly in South Korea, Italy and Iran, the WHO chief said the world had reached a “decisive point” in the battle against it.
South Korea announced its largest daily jump in confirmed cases on Thursday, with 505 more patients and a 13th death. As of Friday, more than 2,000 people were infected, making it the largest outbreak to date outside China. With an American service member among those infected, the U.S. has postponed scheduled joint military drills with South Korea and urged Americans to avoid travel to the country.
Italy, home to the biggest outbreak outside Asia and the source of smaller disease clusters in neighboring European countries, saw a 25% increase in cases on Wednesday. The virus has also gained a foothold in the Middle East, spreading to a growing number of countries from Iran, where there are widespread concerns the government is underreporting the true scale of the outbreak.