China’s health commission confirmed 648 new infections on Sunday – higher than a day earlier – but only 18 were outside of Hubei province, the lowest number outside of the epicenter since authorities started publishing data a month ago.
But new infections outside of China continued to worry world health authorities, with South Korea on Sunday reporting a fourth death due to the virus and 123 new cases, bringing its total to 556, having doubled from Friday to Saturday.
Cases in Italy, Europe’s worst hit country, more than quadrupled to 79 on Saturday, with two deaths. Ten new cases in Iran took the total to 29 there, and six deaths, deepening unease at home and in neighboring countries in the Gulf.
The World Health Organization said it was channeling efforts into helping to prepare vulnerable countries, including 13 in Africa. It expressed concern on Saturday about the number of new infections that had no clear link to China, such as travel history or contact with a confirmed case.
More than half the new cases in South Korea were linked to a Shincheonji Church of Jesus congregation in Daegu, after a woman known as “Patient 31” who attended services tested positive for the virus last week. The woman had no recent record of overseas travel.
The disease has spread to some 26 countries and territories outside China, killing more than a dozen people, according to a Reuters tally. The virus has been fatal in 2% of reported cases, with a risk of death higher for older patients, and relatively few cases among children, according to the WHO.
The potential economic impact of the outbreak overshadowed a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Saudi Arabia, at which the International Monetary Fund chief said the disruption caused by the coronavirus would likely lower China’s economic growth this year to 5.6%, down 0.4 percentage points from its January outlook, and shave 0.1 percentage points from global growth.