Health officials worldwide say the continued spread of COVID-19 outside China is very worrying—but Iran has denied one of the most alarming figures. Iranian lawmaker Ahmad Amiriabadi Farahani, who represents Qom, said Monday that there had been at least 50 coronavirus deaths in the city and accused the country's health minister of lying about the scale of the outbreak, the Guardian reports. Authorities rejected the report, saying there has been a total of 66 coronavirus infections and 12 deaths in Iran. More:
- New cases in four countries. Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Bahrain reported their first cases of coronavirus Monday, the BBC reports. The cases are believed to be linked to the outbreak in Iran.
- Fear spreads in Europe. The outbreak in Italy has now infected at least 200 people and is spreading in northern regions, prompting the closure of schools and the cancellation of public events, the Wall Street Journal reports. Police have sealed off around a dozen towns and the Venice carnival has been called off. Sources tell the Journal that neighboring countries are considering tighter border controls, including Austria, which temporarily halted train traffic from Italy on Sunday. France has urged anybody who recently visited Lombardy and Veneto, the two worst-hit regions, to wear a face mask if they go outside.
- "An incredible time." A joint team from the World Health Organization and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control plans to visit Italy, the AP reports. "It is an incredible time. Less than two months ago, the coronavirus was completely unknown to us," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. "The past few weeks has demonstrated just how quickly a new virus can spread around the world and cause widespread fear and disruption."
- Cases skyrocket in South Korea. In South Korea, the number of confirmed cases soared to more than 800 Monday after 231 new cases were reported, most of them linked to a fringe religious group, the New York Times reports. President Moon Jae-in has put the country on its highest alert level.
- Wuhan does U-turn on lockdown. In Wuhan, China, the center of the outbreak, there was confusion and anger Monday after authorities said the month-long lockdown was being eased and then reversed the decision, Quartz said. A notice from authorities said some people, including non-residents, would be allowed to leave the city if they had no coronavirus symptoms. Three hours later, city authorities said the notice should not have been released, and those responsible for it would be "seriously" punished. China announced another 150 deaths from COVID-19 Monday, almost all of them in Wuhan and elsewhere in Hubei province.
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