World braces for long battle against coronavirus as cases spread
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World braces for long battle against coronavirus as cases spread

Churches close, face masks become a common sight as authorities in dozens of nations race to contain, or at least better manage, the COVID-19 outbreak

  • Workers disinfect subway trains against coronavirus in Tehran, Iran, in the early morning of February 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
    Workers disinfect subway trains against coronavirus in Tehran, Iran, in the early morning of February 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
  • Airport employees wear masks as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus as they work at the Sao Paulo International Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
    Airport employees wear masks as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus as they work at the Sao Paulo International Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
  • In this Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, photo, a man passes by U.S. Army base Camp Walker, in Daegu, South Korea. (Kim Hyun-tae/Yonhap via AP)
    In this Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, photo, a man passes by U.S. Army base Camp Walker, in Daegu, South Korea. (Kim Hyun-tae/Yonhap via AP)
  • A worker disinfects a public bus against coronavirus in Tehran, Iran, in early morning of Wednesday, February 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
    A worker disinfects a public bus against coronavirus in Tehran, Iran, in early morning of Wednesday, February 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
  • The stadium's seats are empty during the Korean Basketball League between Incheon Electroland Elephants and Anyang KGC clubs in Incheon, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (Yun Tai-hyun/Yonhap via AP)
    The stadium's seats are empty during the Korean Basketball League between Incheon Electroland Elephants and Anyang KGC clubs in Incheon, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (Yun Tai-hyun/Yonhap via AP)
  • A man wears a face mask on a pedestrian street in Duesseldorf, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
    A man wears a face mask on a pedestrian street in Duesseldorf, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
  • Police patrol in front of the High School Bundesgymnasium und Bundesrealgymnasium, BGRG 8, after the school was shut down by authorities after a teacher was suspected to be infected with the new coronavirus in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Roland Zak)
    Police patrol in front of the High School Bundesgymnasium und Bundesrealgymnasium, BGRG 8, after the school was shut down by authorities after a teacher was suspected to be infected with the new coronavirus in Vienna, Austria, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Roland Zak)
  • Workers wearing face masks spray disinfectant as a precaution against the new coronavirus in front of Myungsung Church in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (Yun Dong-jin/Yonhap via AP)
    Workers wearing face masks spray disinfectant as a precaution against the new coronavirus in front of Myungsung Church in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (Yun Dong-jin/Yonhap via AP)
  • Visitors wear protective masks Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
    Visitors wear protective masks Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
  • A worker wearing a protective suit sprays disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at a bus garage in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
    A worker wearing a protective suit sprays disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at a bus garage in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
  • A worker wearing a protective suit sprays disinfectant as a precaution against the COVID-19 at a market in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
    A worker wearing a protective suit sprays disinfectant as a precaution against the COVID-19 at a market in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
  • A member of an emergency anti-epidemic headquarters in Mangyongdae District  disinfects a tramcar at Songsan Tram Station to prevent new coronavirus infection in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Cha Song Ho)
    A member of an emergency anti-epidemic headquarters in Mangyongdae District disinfects a tramcar at Songsan Tram Station to prevent new coronavirus infection in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Cha Song Ho)
  • In this photo taken and released by Malaysia's Ministry of Health, a health worker looks at a woman and children arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, after being evacuated from China's Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. (Muzzafar Kasim/Malaysia's Ministry of Health via AP)
    In this photo taken and released by Malaysia's Ministry of Health, a health worker looks at a woman and children arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, after being evacuated from China's Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. (Muzzafar Kasim/Malaysia's Ministry of Health via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Crews scrubbed everything from money to buses, military bases were on high alert and quarantines were enforced Wednesday from a beachfront resort in the Atlantic to an uninhabited island in the Pacific as the world fought the spread of a new virus.

Worries over the ever-expanding economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis multiplied, with factories idled, trade routes frozen and tourism crippled, while a growing list of countries braced for the illness to claim new territory. Even the Olympics, five months away, wasn’t far enough off to keep people from wondering if it would go on as planned.

“We don’t expect a miracle in the short term,” said Kianoush Jahanpour of the health ministry in Iran, where an official tally of infections of 139 was doubted by some who thought the problem was far bigger.

About 81,000 people around the globe were sickened by the coronavirus that kept finding new targets.

A worker disinfects a public bus against coronavirus in Tehran, Iran, in early morning of Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

With Brazil confirming the arrival of Latin America’s first case, the virus had a toehold on every continent but Antarctica.

In Europe, where Germany, France and Spain were among the places with a growing caseload, an expanding cluster of more than 200 cases in northern Italy was eyed as a source for transmissions. In the Middle East, where cases increased in Bahrain, Kuwait and Iraq, blame was directed toward Iran. In Asia, where the crisis originated late last year in China, threats continued to emerge around the region, with South Korea battling a mass outbreak centered in the 2.5 million-person city of Daegu.

Though the virus pushed into countries both rich and poor, its arrival in places with little ability to detect, respond and contain it brought concern it could run rampant there and spread easily elsewhere.

“We’re going to be trying to slow down the spread so that our hospitals are not overwhelmed in one big gulp, one big hit,” said Ian Mackay, who studies viruses at the University of Queensland in Australia.

Officials wearing protective attire work to diagnose people with suspected symptoms of the new coronavirus at a hospital in Daegu, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (Kim Hyun-tae/Yonhap via AP)

In South Korea, workers sanitized public buses, while in China, banks disinfected banknotes using ultraviolet rays. In Germany, authorities stressed “sneezing etiquette,” while in the United States, doctors announced a clinical trial of a possible coronavirus treatment.

Around the world, as Christians marked the start of the holy season of Lent with Ash Wednesday, worshipers found churches closed and rituals changed by virus fears. Even in St. Peter’s Square, many of those gathered for Pope Francis’ weekly audience wore face masks and clergy appeared to refrain from embracing the pontiff or kissing his ring.

Services in Singapore were broadcast online to keep people from crowded sanctuaries where germs could spread, bishops in South Korea shuttered churches for what they said was the first time in the Catholic Church’s 236-year history there, and in Malaysia and the Philippines, ashes were sprinkled on the heads of those marking the start of Lent instead of using a damp thumb to trace a cross of ashes.

“We would like to be cautious so that the coronavirus will not spread,” said the Rev. Victorino Cueto, rector of the National Shrine of our Mother of Perpetual Help in Manila in the Philippines.

A worker wearing a face mask sprays disinfectant as a precaution against the new coronavirus at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (Lee Ji-eun/Yonhap via AP)

Major gatherings were eyed warily, with organizers scrambling to respond in the face of the epidemic. Looming largest of all are the Olympic games, whose opening ceremonies are scheduled for July 24 in Tokyo. A member of the International Olympic Committee, Richard Pound, sounded alarms a day earlier, saying the virus could force a cancellation of the games. The Japanese government, in turn, gave mixed signals, insisting they would go forward yet urging that sports events now be curtailed.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for major sports and cultural events in the coming two weeks to be canceled or postponed to stem further infections. Meanwhile, the top government spokesman said Olympics preparations would proceed and the games would go on as planned.

Among the other crowded places that had officials worried: Military bases.

The South Korean military announced additional infections among its troops, with 20 cases on its bases and some 9,570 people in isolation. The US military, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, confirmed the first infection of an American soldier, a 23-year-old man based at Camp Carroll near Daegu, a day after Americans said a military spouse also had contracted the illness. Bowling alleys, movie theaters and a golf course on four American bases in the country were closed.

South Korean army soldiers wearing face masks check the temperature of a driver at a checkpoint of a military base in Daegu, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (Ryu Hyung-seok/Yonhap via AP)

“This is a setback, it’s true, there’s no getting around that. But it’s not the end of the war,” Col. Edward Ballanco, commander of the US Army Garrison Daegu told troops in a video message. “We are very well equipped to fight this thing off.”

Italy recorded 52 new infections on Wednesday and Greece became the newest country to see a case of the virus. South Korea announced 284 new cases, largely in Daegu, bringing its total to 1,261. China, still the epicenter of the crisis even as new outposts caught the world’s attention, reported 406 new cases and 52 more deaths. The country has a total of 78,604 cases of the virus and 2,715 fatalities.

China said Wednesday that those sickened by the virus included 555 prisoners who officials said likely became infected by guards using the same bus station as a nearby pulmonary hospital. In a twist, China is now heavily regulating arrivals from abroad, with authorities placing South Koreans under monitoring, state broadcaster CCTV reported, after five people on a flight showed signs of fever.

Indonesia said it evacuated 188 crew members from the World Dream cruise ship and planned to take them to remote Sebaru Island. The workers were released from quarantine in Hong Kong after finding no infections, but authorities mandated an additional observation period.

In this photo released by Malaysia’s Ministry of Health, health workers prepare for the arrival of evacuated Malaysians from China’s Wuhan, the epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (Muzzafar Kasim/Malaysia’s Ministry of Health via AP)

And on the opposite side of the world, the MSC Meraviglia was denied permission to land in Grand Cayman, where it was due to arrive Wednesday, following a decision by Jamaica to refuse it entry. The cruise line expressed frustration with the moves, which came after it reported one crew member from the Philippines was sick with common seasonal flu.

It brought reminders of the MS Westerdam, which was repeatedly denied entry to Asian ports before Cambodia welcomed its passengers.

MSC Cruises said the Meraviglia was sailing onward to Mexico.

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