The fight to contain the coronavirus entered an alarming new phase on Thursday as caseloads soared in Europe and the Middle East, and health officials in the United States and Germany dealt with patients with no known connection to others with the infection. From a report: The German and American cases raised the possibility that the virus could have begun to spread locally, or that infected people had spread it to others sequentially, making it virtually impossible to trace and isolate the origins. Either way, the cases, thousands of miles apart, underscored how quickly the virus was making its way around the globe after emerging in China. Japan’s government closed all schools through March in an effort to combat the outbreak. Iran canceled Friday Prayers in major cities, a cornerstone ritual of the Islamic Republic. Saudi Arabia barred pilgrims from visiting Mecca and Medina.
President Trump announced that Vice President Mike Pence would lead the American effort to combat the virus, but the administration continued to send mixed messages. Public health officials warned of potentially “major disruptions,” while Mr. Trump blamed Democrats and cable news channels for overstating the threat. Financial markets continued their weeklong declines. In the Middle East, concerns built about the growing severity of the outbreak in Iran, the source of infections in many other countries. The government said on Thursday that 245 people had been infected and 26 had died, but experts say there are probably many more cases. Several countries registered new infections that illustrated the diverse ways the pathogen could cross borders.
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