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Homeland Security

Australia, Thailand, Japan Report Coronavirus Deaths

By VOA News March 01, 2020

Australia, Thailand and Japan were among countries reporting new deaths from the coronavirus epidemic on Sunday, but in the U.S., Vice President Mike Pence sought to reassure Americans that the "risk remains low" that they will be infected.

In Australia, a 78-year-old man who had been quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship died in Perth, becoming that country's first outbreak fatality, while in Thailand, a 35-year-old salesman described as having had contact with foreign tourists became that country's first death from the disease.

In Japan, a man in his 70s died on the northern island of Hokkaido.

Vice President Pence acknowledged on NBC's "Meet the Press" show, "There will be more cases" in the U.S., but said "it's all hands on deck to do everything possible to prevent the spread of this disease."

A day after the first reported U.S. coronavirus death, Pence told CNN, "The good news is, of the 22 Americans that have contracted the coronavirus, more than half of them are almost fully recovered. And I think it's all a reflection of the fact that early on in this crisis, [President Donald Trump] took the unprecedented step of suspending all travel from China and establishing a quarantining effect."

"We could have more sad news," Pence said, "but the American people should know that the risk for the average American remains low."

In the midst of the U.S. presidential campaign, the onset of the coronavirus in the U.S. led to sharp contentions about the efforts of the Trump-led government to fight the disease.

Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., accused Democrats of a "new level of sickness" of blaming his father's administration for a lax response to the danger.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, looking to win the Democratic presidential nomination to oppose Trump in November's national election, said on ABC News's "This Week" show that the president had cut funding for two key government health agencies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

"You have this president not allowing the scientists to speak," Biden said. "This is incompetence on the part of the president at the expense of the country."

Senator Bernie Sanders, another leading Democratic presidential contender, said, "How pathetic is it that in the midst of an international crisis," Trump took time Friday to campaign in the southern state of South Carolina, where Democrats were hold a presidential nominating contest, but Republicans had no election.

Trump said Saturday that while additional coronavirus cases in the United States were "likely, there is no reason to panic at all."

Robert Redfield, the director of the disease control agency, said there was "no evidence of a link to travel" in the case of the Washington state patient who died.

The governor of Washington state, Jay Inslee, declared a state of emergency Saturday, directing state agencies to use "all resources necessary" to respond to the virus outbreak.

The White House Saturday also announced tightened travel restrictions to Iran to include any foreign national who has visited the country in the last 14 days. Additionally, it raised to the highest level a travel advisory to avoid Italy and South Korea, countries most affected by the virus other than China.

China, where the virus originated, reported 523 new cases and 35 deaths Sunday. China has a total of 79,824 cases.

South Korea, the hardest-hit country outside China, reported the biggest surge Saturday with 376 new cases, raising the total to 3,526.

Iran confirmed 593 cases and 43 deaths, the highest death toll outside China.

The spread of the virus has contributed to growing concern over the possibility of a global recession.

China reported Saturday that manufacturing activity declined dramatically in February, as the virus slowed the world's second largest economy. U.S. stock indexes plunged more than 10% last week as investors feared the effect of the coronavirus on commerce.

Global stock prices finished the week sharply lower Friday, ending one of the worst weeks for world markets since the 2008 financial crisis. In the Mideast, where markets opened Sunday after their Friday-Saturday weekend, stocks plunged, hit by fears the economic slowdown could cut demand for the region's oil.

In related news, there are indications that the economic slowdown in China caused by the outbreak has cut into pollution levels over that country.

The U.S. space agency NASA and the European Space Agency say they have found significant drops in nitrogen dioxide over China, pointing to "evidence that the change is at least partly related to the economic slowdown following the outbreak of coronavirus."

The two space agencies said the nitrogen dioxide drop also coincided with Lunar New Year celebrations, during which pollution usually decreases, but researchers think the decrease is more than a consequence of the holiday or weather.

The World Health Organization raised its global risk assessment of the coronavirus to its highest level on Friday.

The WHO said Saturday that more than 85,000 people worldwide have 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.

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