The world has broken new ground in the fight against the deadly corona virus, the UN health agency warned, as new infections in China declined dramatically on Tuesday, but increased abroad and the death toll in the US rose to six.
The virus has killed more than 3,100 people worldwide and infected over 90,000, although there is a clear shift in the crisis. According to the WHO, nine times as many cases were registered outside of China as within China.
China has introduced draconian quarantines and travel restrictions to keep large sections of the population at home for weeks. This strategy seems to have paid off as new cases declined this month.
While Italy has blocked cities, other countries have stopped mass quarantines and instead discouraged large gatherings, delayed sporting events and banned arrivals from virus-infected countries.
South Korea, Iran and Italy have become major COVID-19 hotspots that are believed to have started in a market where wild animals were sold in central China's Wuhan city at the end of last year.
South Korea, the largest cluster outside of China, approached 5,000 cases on Tuesday when 477 new infections were reported. Two other deaths claimed 28 lives.
"The whole country has entered into an infectious disease war," said South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
China currently imports 13 infections, including eight Chinese nationals who worked in the same restaurant in the northern Italian region of Lombardy.
"We are in uncharted territory," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday.
"We have never seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of being transmitted by the community, but that can also be contained with the right measures."
Community transmission means that infections within a population are not imported from another area affected by viruses.
The United States is now facing a possible epidemic. Six people die in northwestern Washington State, where officials warned residents that the fight against the disease is moving from containment to containment.
"The risk that we will all become infected will increase," said Jeff Duchin, a health officer in King County, where five of the deaths occurred.
The county has more than two million inhabitants and is home to Seattle, a major trading and transportation hub in the Pacific Northwest.
US Eye Treatment
The White House, which has been accused of downplaying the virus threat, continued to be bullish.
Vice President Mike Pence said treatment "could be literally available by summer or early fall."
He was probably referring to remdesivir, an antiviral drug developed by the pharmaceutical company Gilead and already used to treat a US patient and approaching two end-stage, expansive studies in Asia.
Pence also announced that American pharmaceuticals would form a virus-fighting consortium and that South Korea and Italy would screen all of their passengers heading for the United States.
Despite the world-class hospitals and the latest research, the US is vulnerable to an epidemic because the availability of healthcare services with nearly 28 million people without cover varies widely.
China falls below
China reported 125 new cases on Tuesday, the lowest daily increase in six weeks, with the exception of 11 infections in Hubei Province, whose capital is Wuhan.
The nationwide death toll rose to 2,943 with 31 more deaths, all in Hubei.
Chinese officials have touted progress in the fight against the epidemic that has hit the world's second largest economy and threatened to restrict global growth.
Equity markets rallied last week, but recovered on Monday after governments and central banks announced they would take action if necessary to mitigate the blow.
The Australian central bank cut interest rates to a record low on Tuesday.
Finance ministers and central bank heads from G7 countries will hold talks on this topic on Tuesday.
United Nations medical experts arrived in Iran on Monday to tackle the world's second deadliest coronavirus outbreak, with 66 deaths and more than 1,500 infections.
China has also sent experts to Iran, while Germany, France and the UK have pledged medical supplies such as test equipment, body suits and gloves.
In Italy, tourist hotpots, including the Milan Cathedral, were reopened to visitors, but access was limited to avoid overcrowding.
Italy, Europe's worst affected country with around 1,700 infections, announced on Monday that the death rate from the virus had increased by 18 to 52.
The WHO says the virus particularly affects people over 60 and those who are already weakened by other diseases.
The mortality rate is between two and five percent – higher than the seasonal flu.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)