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Coronavirus death toll passes 3,000 worldwide

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BEIJING : The global death toll from the coronavirus epidemic surpassed 3,000 yesterday after dozens more died at its epicentre in China and cases soared around the world, with a second fatality on US soil.

The virus has now infected more than 89,000 people and spread to over 60 countries after emerging in China late last year.

China reported 42 more deaths yesterday - all in Hubei province. The death toll in China rose to more than 2,900, but it is also surging abroad, with the highest deaths outside China in Iran at nearly 70.

After an increase on Sunday, China's National Health Commission reported 202 new infections yesterday, the lowest daily number since late January, bringing the nationwide total to more than 80,000.

In a symbol of the improving situation, authorities in Wuhan on Sunday closed one of 16 makeshift hospitals that were hastily built or repurposed from public buildings to treat the city's huge number of patients.

By contrast, infections nearly doubled over the weekend in Italy, Europe's hardest-hit country with almost 1,700 cases.

As the toll mounts, the world's economy is tottering.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warned yesterday that the outbreak is plunging the world economy into its worst downturn since the global financial crisis in 2008.

The global economy is set to grow only 2.4 per cent this year, the lowest since 2009 and down from a forecast of 2.9 per cent in November, the OECD said.

It projected that the global economy could recover to 3.3 per cent growth in 2021, assuming the epidemic peaked in China in the first quarter of this year and other outbreaks proved mild and contained. But if the virus spreads through Asia, Europe and North America, global growth could drop as low as 1.5 per cent this year.

"The main message from this downside scenario is that it would put many countries into a recession, which is why we are urging measures to be taken in the affected areas as quickly as possible," said OECD chief economist Laurence Boone. - REUTERS, AFP