South Korea was racing Tuesday to contain the largest outbreak of the new coronavirus outside China, as the new COVID-19 disease claimed more lives there and spread farther in Italy — Europe’s first significant cluster of cases. The nearly 1,000 cases and 10 confirmed deaths from the illness in South Korea pushed the global tally of cases over 80,000 and the death toll closer to 3,000. Iran also reported more deaths from the disease on Tuesday, amid fears the Islamic clerics who run the country could be under-reporting cases there.
With 53 cases confirmed in the U.S. as of Monday, the Trump administration has sought billions of dollars in additional funding from Congress to buy protective gear and work on treatments and a vaccine for the new virus. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lambasted the White House funding plan as “long overdue and completely inadequate to the scale of this emergency.”
The World Health Organization has called it a global health emergency, but has thus far declined to use the label “pandemic,” a term used when a disease takes hold in multiple regions and spreads rampantly within communities. But the dramatic spread in South Korea, in particular, has stoked fears that COVID-19 could reach pandemic status.
Those fears have jarred stock markets around the world, prompted increased travel restrictions and sparked a race to test hundreds of thousands more people in South Korea for the disease.