Scientists race to find a treatment, crews scrub everything from money to buses, and quarantines are being enforced from a beachfront resort in the Atlantic to an uninhabited island in the Pacific as the world fights the spread of the coronavirus.

Medical personnel wearing protective suits stay near a block's entrance on the grounds of a residential estate in Hong Kong, early on February 11, 2020.
Medical personnel wearing protective suits stay near a block's entrance on the grounds of a residential estate in Hong Kong, early on February 11, 2020. (AFP)

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday there were now more new daily cases of the coronavirus outside China than inside the hard-hit country, marking a shift in the outbreak.

"Yesterday, the number of new cases reported outside China exceeded the number of new cases in China for the first time," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told diplomats in Geneva.

The UN health agency put the number of new cases in China Tuesday at 411 while those registered outside the country stood at 427.

Global cases 

WHO said about 81,000 people around the globe were sickened by the coronavirus that keeps finding new targets.

Iraq banned its citizens from travelling to Iran, China, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Italy, Kuwait, and Bahrain.

The country also suspended schools and university and ordered closure of public gathering places such as cinemas, restaurants, coffee shops and clubs from February 27 to March 7 as it tries to contain the spread of coronavirus

Georgia announced its first confirmed case in the South Caucasus region.

"A Georgian national has tested positive for the novel coronavirus," Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze told a press conference, adding that the infected man has been placed in isolation in a Tbilisi hospital.

The origin of the virus was Iran.

In Europe, where Germany, France and Spain were among the places with a growing caseload, an expanding cluster of more than 200 cases in northern Italy was eyed as a source for transmissions. 

In the Middle East, where cases increased in Bahrain, Kuwait, and Iraq, blame was also directed toward Iran.

In Asia, where the crisis originated late last year in China, threats continued to emerge around the region, with South Korea battling a mass outbreak centred in the 2.5 million-person city of Daegu.

Though the virus pushed into countries both rich and poor, its arrival in places with little ability to detect, respond and contain it brought concern it could run rampant there and spread easily elsewhere.

“We’re going to be trying to slow down the spread so that our hospitals are not overwhelmed in one big gulp, one big hit,” said Ian Mackay, who studies viruses at the University of Queensland in Australia.

In South Korea, workers sanitised public buses, while in China, banks disinfected banknotes using ultraviolet rays. In Germany, authorities stressed “sneezing etiquette,” while in the United States, doctors announced a clinical trial of a possible coronavirus treatment.

Around the world, as Christians marked the start of the holy season of Lent with Ash Wednesday, worshipers found churches closed and rituals changed by virus fears. 

Even in St Peter’s Square, many of those gathered for Pope Francis’ weekly audience wore face masks and clergy appeared to refrain from embracing the pontiff or kissing his ring.

Services in Singapore were broadcast online to keep people from crowded sanctuaries where germs could spread, bishops in South Korea shuttered churches for what they said was the first time in the Catholic Church’s 236-year history there, and in Malaysia and the Philippines, ashes were sprinkled on the heads of those marking the start of Lent instead of using a damp thumb to trace a cross of ashes.

Outbreak in Italy

Italy saw a fresh jump in the number of cases of the new coronavirus Wednesday, with another death also reported to bring the total to 12 and 374 infections.

The new toll published by the country's civil protection department is a jump from the 322 cases and 10 deaths recorded on Tuesday evening.

All of those who have died so far in Italy were either elderly or had pre-existing medical conditions.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies