News blog

Is there an explosion of cases outside of China?

March 1, 2020

In the last few days, there has been a rapid increase in the number of countries reporting COVID-19 cases. The increase was particularly fast in South Korea, Italy and Iran, with 3150, 888 and 388 cases as of Feb 29, 2020, and hundreds of new cases per day. Only ten days ago, there were just 51 total cases in South Korea, 3 in Italy and no cases had been reported in Iran.

The epicentre of the epidemic in South Korea is Daegu with 2,055 cases, and has been linked with an outbreak in the Shincheonji religious group. In Italy, the epicentre is the area of Lombardy with 531 cases. In Iran, the outbreak is more widespread, as the virus has spread to 24 of the 31 provinces of the country, but also, the number of deaths is higher than expected for the number of cases. It is quite likely that transmission has been occurring there for a number of weeks.

It is important to recognise that the rapid increase in the numbers of cases reported in South Korea, Italy and Iran might not be due to an explosion in spread but might instead be due to an explosion in testing. If transmission has been occurring for weeks, the numbers of infections will have silently increased. Infections were not identified earlier as some patients would not have sought medical care while those that did perhaps were not recognised as a potential cases and tested. Now a local outbreak or epidemic is discovered, those patients would be tested, found to be positive and then reported.

Here are some news articles discussing this issue in English:

CNN - Coronavirus cases in South Korea rise past 2,000

NPR – Coronavirus Updates: Italy reports 650 cases and 17 deaths

The New Yorker – How Iran became a new epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak

Here are some news articles discussing this issue in Chinese:

新華社 - 四國首現確診新冠病毒感染病例 意大利病例數破千

香港電台 - 伊朗累計病例至近6百宗 世衛上調疫情全球風險級別


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