The novel coronavirus has definitely spread beyond China. While at first, many cases seemed to be linked to people who had travelled to China and brought the illness home with them, over the last few days many countries have reported spikes in local cases of COVID-19.
This could signal a shift in the outbreak and means that containment strategies might not be enough anymore, experts say.
As of Monday, Iran was reporting 61 cases of COVID-19. Many of these people likely caught the disease at home in Iran.
Travellers who had visited Iran have also exported the virus to countries in the Middle East, like Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Afghanistan.
A recent Canadian case was also linked to Iran.
Italy has also had a spike in COVID-19 cases, with 220 reported infections and six deaths. Italian authorities have effectively placed 10 towns in the Lombardy region under quarantine and cancelled Venice’s annual carnival.
The virus has also hit South Korea hard, with authorities there reporting 833 COVID-19 cases on Monday, many of which were transmitted through church groups.
“Certainly in the last three days we’ve started to see more and more cases outside of China and especially a lot of local transmission outside of China,” Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital, told Global News on Sunday.
“The leaders in the World Health Organization have really talked about this closing window of opportunity to contain the virus in China. But it appears that if this window truly is closing, it’s almost nearly closed or it has closed, because we’re starting to see a lot of infections outside of China.”
“I think what this means is that it is not possible to control this virus,” said Dr. Allison McGeer, an infectious diseases specialist at the Sinai Health System in Toronto.
Evidence is growing that the virus has several characteristics that make it hard to contain, she said. These characteristics include the possibility that it can be transmitted when a person is showing few symptoms or even none at all.
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