As more confirmed cases of COVID-19 and fatalities from this contagious disease have been reported worldwide, many countries and international organizations are taking actions to mitigate the virus' potential impact on economic growth.
MORE CONFIRMED CASES
Chile, Argentine, Ukraine and Andorra joined the list of countries reporting their first cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.
The case in Chile involves a 33-year-old man in the city of Talca in central Chile's Maule region who recently traveled extensively through Asia and returned via Europe. The report came a day after the country announced it would send experts to China to learn from its anti-virus experience.
All of the cases in the other three countries were linked to travel to Italy.
Among some of the worst-hit countries, South Korea confirmed 851 more cases on Tuesday, raising the total number to 5,186 with 31 deaths.
The country has raised its four-tier virus alert to the highest level, and designated Daegu, the epicenter of the viral spread in the country, and its neighboring county to the south, Cheongdo, as "special care zones."
Japan reported six more infections on Tuesday, bringing the total number to 986 and the death toll to 12, with 706 confirmed cases linked to the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was previously quarantined near Tokyo.
Iran has confirmed 2,336 cases with 77 deaths as of Tuesday. The country's Emergency Center said the center's chief Pir Hossein Kolivand has been infected with COVID-19.
Italy reported a total of 2,036 confirmed cases on Tuesday and 52 deaths. Several towns in the country's most-infected Lombardy and Veneto regions have been locked down. Public gatherings have been banned, and schools and universities are closed.
Within Europe, France reported its fourth death from COVID-19 on Tuesday. The number of confirmed cases has risen to 212, with 13 regions affected.
French President Emmanuel Macron said early Tuesday that the stage two of the epidemic in the country, which means an epidemiological mosaic with different situations at the regional level, "will last for weeks and even months."
BRACING FOR IMPACT
As for Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday set out the government's action plan to tackle the spread of COVID-19 -- containing the virus, delaying its spread, researching its origins and cure, and finally mitigating the impact should the virus become more widespread -- as the number of infections reached 51.
Johnson also congratulated the Chinese authorities on the speedy sharing of outbreak information that "has serious international implications."
As cases are growing across the world, many countries and international organizations have stepped up efforts to mitigate downside risks to the economic outlook.
In a monetary policy review released Monday, Nepal's central bank said it will offer loans at cheaper rates to enterprises affected by COVID-19, and allow those struggling to repay the loans to reschedule repayments.
President of the European Central Bank Christine Lagarde said Monday the bank stands "ready to take appropriate and targeted measures, as necessary and commensurate with the underlying risks."
Earlier on Tuesday, the central bank of Australia, a country which has confirmed 33 cases, announced its decision to lower the official interest rate to a record low of 0.5 percent.
New Zealand's Economic Development Ministry said on the same day that local businesses affected can access immediate government support after two more initiatives are approved.
In a surprise announcement on Tuesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve lowered the target range for the federal funds rate by 50 basis points to 1-1.25 percent amid COVID-19 concerns.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration is considering more tax cuts, and stands ready to work closely with Congress on an emergency funding package to deal with the spreading disease.
The country now has a total of 100 confirmed cases, with the nine deaths all from Washington state. According to a New York Times report on Sunday, COVID-19 may have been spreading in the state for six weeks after researchers examined the genomes of two infections in the state.
The U.S. rate cut came after finance ministers of Group of Seven (G7) and central bank governors sat for an emergency conference call earlier on Tuesday, reaffirming their commitment to "use all appropriate policy tools" to achieve growth and safeguard against downside risks given the potential impact of COVID-19 on global growth.
The officials from the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada said in a joint statement that they "are ready to take actions, including fiscal measures where appropriate, to aid in the response to the virus and support the economy during this phase."
Following the G7 conference, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would like to make "full use" of a fiscal 2019 reserve fund of 270 billion yen (2.5 billion U.S. dollars) as a second emergency package to combat the outbreak.
The World Bank Group also announced Tuesday it is making available an initial package of up to 12 billion dollars in immediate support to assist countries coping with the health and economic impacts of the outbreak.
By 1500 GMT on Tuesday, data from the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that 11,480 cases have been confirmed in 73 countries outside China, with 177 deaths.
During a daily briefing on Tuesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said personal protective equipment supplies worldwide need to be increased by 40 percent, calling on manufacturers to urgently increase production.
He reiterated that COVID-19 can be contained by a comprehensive approach, while urging countries to adapt their existing healthcare systems to contain the disease.
The WHO chief said last week that when a country takes containment measures like China is doing, it "can actually see a decline in the cases and ultimately it can be contained."
Similarly, Maria van Kerkhove, technical lead for the WHO's Health Emergencies Program, said Tuesday that China's sending a medical team to Iran sets "an excellent example of 'peer to peer' experience sharing," adding the WHO is looking forward to seeing more direct interaction of that kind.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Wednesday slammed some media organizations that had called the novel coronavirus "China virus," saying the wording was "extremely irresponsible."
Zhao said the World Health Organization (WHO) had made it clearly for many times that using COVID-19 as the name of the novel coronavirus disease, instead of referring to a geographical location, was to prevent the use of other names that can be stigmatizing.
The spread of the virus was a global issue and the work to track the source of the coronavirus is still underway with no conclusions made, Zhao said.
He also quoted renowned respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan as saying that the epidemic first appeared in China but did not necessarily originate from China.
"What we should oppose is 'information virus' or 'political virus'," Zhao said, adding that those media organizations' ill intentions to use the "China virus" phrase were to have China blamed for having created the epidemic.
He said COVID-19 is a global challenge that requires concerted efforts of international community to contain the epidemic in a scientific, rational and cooperative manner, while rejecting rumors and prejudice.
China has stepped up efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Here are the latest developments:
-- Chinese health authority said Thursday it received reports of 139 new confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection and 31 deaths on Wednesday on the Chinese mainland.
All the deaths were in Hubei Province, according to the National Health Commission.
Meanwhile, 143 new suspected cases were reported, said the commission.
-- A total of 2,189 patients of the novel coronavirus were discharged from hospital after recovery Wednesday on the Chinese mainland, the National Health Commission said Thursday.
In total, 52,045 patients had been discharged from hospital by the end of Wednesday, the commission said in its daily report.
-- Hubei Province, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, reported 134 new confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection and 31 new deaths on Wednesday, the provincial health commission said Thursday.
The latest report brought the total confirmed cases in the hard-hit province to 67,466 and that of total deaths to 2,902.
Wuhan, the provincial capital, reported 131 confirmed cases and 23 deaths on Wednesday. In total, the city has registered 49,671 confirmed cases and 2,305 deaths.
Croatia, in cooperation with other EU member states and NATO, will do everything to prevent a new wave of migrants, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said here on Wednesday after talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Plenkovic noted that he and visiting NATO Secretary General discussed the migrant crisis. "For Croatia, which has experienced a big wave of migrants in 2015 and 2016, it is important to prevent this situation," the prime minister said after meeting with Stoltenberg. He explained that there will be no major threats if the Greek and Bulgarian borders stay impervious.
"We have agreed that there is a firm view at the European Union level and among many EU and NATO members that illegal migration should be prevented," Plenkovic told reporters.
People who are already in a difficult position shouldn't be put in the belief that the borders are open, which causes additional humanitarian difficulties and crises, explained the prime minister.
The two also discussed the situation in Afghanistan and Syria.
Stoltenberg praised Croatia as a valuable NATO partner and pointed out the crucial role Croatia plays in maintaining stability in the Western Balkans.
COVID-19 cases in France rose to 285 on Wednesday, up by 73 from a day earlier, Health General Director Jerome Salomon said at a daily briefing over the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Death toll from the disease stayed at four, while 15 patients are being treated in intensive care, according to the senior official of the French Health Ministry.
Most of the new cases were detected as a result of the identification of so-called "contact people" of identified clusters, said the official.
Of all the cases, 172 patients are part of an identified chain of infection, while 52 were infected during their trips to affected countries. Investigations to trace the chain of infection of another 65 are still underway.
Salomon reiterated the government's determination to curb the spread of the virus and protect the non-affected areas by adopting measures in line with the situation of each region.
President Emmanuel Macron will meet on Thursday afternoon a group of doctors, scientists and laboratory chiefs at the Elysee Palace to discuss the virus outbreak and ways to contain its fast spread, according to the presidential office.