An alarming surge of new coronavirus cases outside China, with fears of a major outbreak in Iran, is threatening to transform the contagion into a global pandemic, as countries around the Middle East scrambled to close their borders and continents so far largely spared reported big upticks in the illness.
In Iran, which had insisted as recently as Tuesday that it had no cases, the virus may now have reached most major cities, including Tehran, and has killed at least four people, according to health officials. Already, cases of travelers from Iran testing positive for the virus have turned up in Canada and Lebanon.
The number of cases also soared in South Korea, with the sudden spread tied to a secretive church where hundreds of congregants attended services with numerous people infected with the virus.
The United States now has 34 cases, with more expected, and Italy experienced a spike from three cases to 17 and ordered mandatory quarantine measures.
— Farnaz Fassihi (@farnazfassihi) February 22, 2020