South Korea has far overtaken China in the number of new coronavirus cases it records each day.
South Korea reported 516 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, while China, once the epicenter, reported 130.
China appears to have passed a turning point: More people there have recovered from the virus than those who remain sick.
Meanwhile South Korea has become the world’s second-most-infected country, with more than 5,600 cases and 32 deaths.
Iran has recorded fewer infections, but more deaths. Italy is also struggling with lot of cases.
The number of daily coronavirus cases reported by China has been in steep decline for around a week — and it means that South Korea now appears to be the new center of the epidemic.
Though China still has more cases active of the coronavirus than any other country, the pace of its spread has slowed sharply, while the number of recoveries has soared.
Meanwhile, South Korea has become the second-most-infected country, experiencing a spread far more rapid than in China, where the virus first started to spread.
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images
In absolute terms, China is far ahead still, with a total case number of around 80,000 (this does not take into account those who have recovered), and a death toll of 2,981.
But the gap is narrowing.
Elsewhere, Italy and Iran have the highest number of deaths outside of China, with 77 and 79.
Both have reported more than 2,300 cases. The case numbers and death toll in Iran are subject to some doubt after apparent efforts by authorities there to hide the scale of the outbreak.
South Korea’s medical system is overwhelmed, while the virus appears to have peaked in China
The outbreak in South Korea has largely been traced to a religious group in the city of Daegu.
The city, which is the country’s fourth-largest, has seen its health system overwhelmed.
2,300 people were waiting to get into hospitals and temporary medical treatment centers as of Wednesday, the country’s deputy health minister said, according to Reuters.
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Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, said in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday that the “entire nation has entered a state of war against this infectious disease.”
He also apologized for a shortage in face masks, and said: “An explosion in the number of confirmed cases and increasing concern about local infections have made it difficult for supply to keep up with soaring demand, and importing masks is not feasible either.”
In China, the number of daily cases has slowed.
A World Health Organization expert who visited China at the end of February said the virus appeared to have peaked there, even as its spread around the rest of the world advanced.
China had taken extreme quarantine measures, including locking down cities of many millions of people, in a bid to stop the spread.
It built new hospitals from scratch, deployed many thousands of medics to the worst-hit areas, and imposed sweeping restrictions on travel.
Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
In another sign of a potential thaw, China moved towards lifting some of its lockdown measures.
China’s central government said Wednesday that migrant workers outside of the Beijing and Hubei province, where the virus originated, no longer need to go through quarantine procedures if they meet certain criteria.
China has around 300 million migrant workers, but many were stuck in the countryside and unable to go to cities as the virus took hold.
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