S. Korea reports 161 new virus cases, bringing total to 763

(AP) - South Korea has reported 161 new cases of the new virus that has spread rapidly in the region surrounding its southwest city of Daegu, bringing its total number of cases to 763.

In this Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, file photo, medical staff check passengers arriving from Iran in the airport in Najaf, Iraq. Coronavirus-infected travelers from Iran already have been discovered in Lebanon and Canada. (Source: AP Photo/Anmar Khalil, File)

Officials on Monday also confirmed two more deaths of virus patients, bringing its death toll to seven.

South Korea’s president has put the country on its highest alert for infectious diseases, ordering officials to take “unprecedented, powerful” steps to stem the spread of the outbreak.

President Moon Jae-in says the outbreak has reached “a crucial watershed” and that “the next few days will be a very important critical moment.” He made the comments at the start of a government meeting.

Most of the new cases came from the fourth-largest city of Daegu and surrounding areas, linked to a local church and a hospital.

Italy rushes to contain Europe’s first major virus outbreak

Italian authorities have announced they are shutting down Venice’s famed Carnival events in a bid to stop the spread of the new virus, as the number of infected people in the country soars to at least 152, the most outside Asia.

Austria stopped all train traffic to and from Italy for several hours after suspicions that a train at its southern border with Italy had two passengers possibly infected with the virus.

Austria’s interior ministry said it was informed by Italy’s railway company that two people had fever and stopped the train before it could enter Austria.

The ban was lifted several hours later after the interior minister said the passengers tested negative for the virus.

Iran’s health minister says virus came from China travel as death toll rises to 8

Iran’s health ministry says the death toll from the new virus in the Middle Eastern country has risen to 8 people, confirming 43 cases of the illness.

The outbreak in Iran has centered on the holy city of Qom, where officials say travellers from China brought the new coronavirus.

The Iranian health minister told state TV that one of the Iranians dead from the virus was a merchant who regularly shuttled between the two countries using indirect flights in recent weeks, after Iran stopped direct passenger flights to China.

Iran reported its first case of the virus last Wednesday.

Moscow targets Chinese with raids amid virus fears

Russian authorities are going to significant lengths to keep the virus in China from surfacing in Moscow.

Local officials ordered police raids of hotels, dormitories, apartment buildings and businesses to track down the shrinking number of Chinese nationals left in the capital. They also authorized using facial recognition technology to find people suspected of evading a 14-day quarantine upon arrival from China.

City bus drivers complained to their union about instructions to call dispatchers if they spot Chinese passengers. Subway workers with questionnaires are stopping riders thought to be from China.

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