The coronavirus outbreak has now spread to 23 countries, and experts are increasingly pessimistic about the chances of containing it. Chinese authorities say there have been more than 17,000 cases, but scientists believe the real figure could be closer to 100,000, the New York Times reports. They warn that it is very likely to become a pandemic—a new disease that spreads worldwide—but what's still unclear is how deadly the coronavirus will turn out to be. Officials say the mortality rate so far has been around 2%, but that figure is likely to drop when more mild cases are detected. "It’s very, very transmissible, and it almost certainly is going to be a pandemic,” says Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "But will it be catastrophic? I don't know."
- New evidence of origin. Chinese researchers presented more evidence in two studies released Monday that the virus, like the viruses that cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, originated in bats, though it may have infected humans via another species, the AP reports. "In essence, it’s a version of SARS that spreads more easily but causes less damage," says Ian Jones, a professor of virology at the University of Reading. "The virus also uses the same receptor, the door used to get into human cells, which explains transmission and why it causes pneumonia."
- Deaths surge again. The Chinese government announced Monday that another 57 coronavirus patients had died, bringing the total to 361, more than the number killed in China during the 2003 SARS outbreak, the Guardian reports. All but one of the deaths announced Monday were in Hubei province.
- China accuses US of causing "panic." China accused the US on Monday of causing "panic" and "spreading fear" with its response to the outbreak, the BBC reports. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the US, which has banned non-US citizens who have recently visited China from entering the country, was setting a bad example for the rest of the world by imposing "excessive restrictions."
- Medical workers strike in Hong Kong. Hundreds of doctors, nurses, and medical workers walked off the job in Hong Kong Monday to protest the government's refusal to close the border with mainland China, reports RTHK. Chief Executive Carrie Lam said almost all crossings would be closed at midnight, but a bridge to Macau and the mainland would remain open, and flights from the mainland would still be permitted to arrive.
- Countries in danger. Experts say closing borders will slow but probably not halt the spread of the coronavirus, the Times reports. They say they are most worried about countries with relatively fragile health care systems, including India, Russia, the Philippines, and countries in Africa, where there are more than 1 million Chinese expatriates.
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