The coronavirus has claimed its first victim in the United States as the number of cases shot up in Iran, Italy and South Korea and the spreading outbreak shook the global economy.
Governments stepped up efforts to contain the disease. Saudi Arabia closed Islam’s holiest sites to foreign pilgrims. In Japan, professional baseball teams played in deserted stadiums. The French government advised the public to forgo customary greeting kisses.
Ireland and Ecuador among the countries reporting their first cases Saturday. More than 85,000 people worldwide have contracted the virus, with deaths topping 2,900.
China recorded 573 new virus cases and 35 more deaths in the 24 hours through midnight Saturday, according to the National Health Commission. That raised the total for the country where the disease emerged in December to 2,870 deaths and 79,834 cases.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a 270 billion yen ($2.5 billion) emergency economic package to help fight the virus. Abe said at a news conference that Japan is at critical juncture to determine whether the country can keep the outbreak under control ahead of the Tokyo summer Olympics.
Streets were deserted in the city of Sapporo on Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido, where a state of emergency was issued until mid-March. Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan announced they would close, and big events were canceled, including a concert series by the K-pop group BTS.
In France, the archbishop of Paris advised parish priests not to administer communion by placing the sacramental bread in worshippers’ mouths. Instead, priests were told to place the bread in their hands. The French government cancelled large indoor events.