A new virus took aim at a broadening swath of the globe, with officials in Europe and the Middle East scrambling to limit the spread of an outbreak that showed signs of stabilizing at its Chinese epicenter but posed new threats far beyond.
In Italy, authorities set up roadblocks, called off soccer matches and shuttered sites including the famed La Scala opera house. In Iran, the government said 12 people had died nationwide, while five neighboring countries — Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Afghanistan — reported their first cases of the virus, with those infected all having links to Iran.
Across the world, stock markets and futures dipped on fears of a global slowdown due to the virus spread, with the Dow down more than 800 points in the opening minutes of trading.
The number of people sickened by the coronavirus topped 79,000 globally, and wherever it sprung up, officials rushed to try to contain it.
"The past few weeks has demonstrated just how quickly a new virus can spread around the world and cause widespread fear and disruption," said the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
"Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, yes," Tedros said, but "for the moment we're not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus."
Recognition grew that the virus was no longer stemming only from contact with infected people in China.
"Many different countries around the world may be sources of COVID-19 infections," said Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh. "This makes it much harder for any one country to detect and contain."
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Photos: Virus spread slows in China but expands elsewhere
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