China reported a sharp fall in new deaths and cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, but world health officials warned it was too early to make predictions about the outbreak as new infections continued to rise in other countries.
Chinese authorities said the mainland had 397 new confirmed cases on Friday, down from 889 a day earlier. The numbers surged elsewhere, though, with outbreaks worsening in South Korea, Iran, Italy and Lebanon.
In South Korea, authorities said on Saturday the number of new infections had doubled to 433, and suggested the tally could rise significantly as more than 1,000 people who attended a church at the centre of the outbreak reported flu-like symptoms.
The World Health Organization welcomed the reported decline in new Chinese cases, but said it was concerned about the number of new infections elsewhere with no clear link to China such as travel history or contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, as the disease caused by the virus is known.
“Our biggest concern continues to be the potential for COVID-19 to spread in countries with weaker health systems,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
The U.N. agency is calling for $675 million to support most vulnerable countries, he said, adding 13 countries in Africa are seen as a priority because of their links to China.
In total, China has reported 75,569 cases to the WHO, and 2,239 deaths, Tedros said. According to available data, the disease remains mild in 80% of patients, and severe or critical in 20%. The virus has been fatal in 2% of reported cases.
The disease has spread to some 26 countries and territories outside mainland China, killing more than a dozen people, according to a Reuters tally.