New coronavirus infections in South Korea exceeded China's for the third straight day, as both countries saw an increase in their daily case numbers on Saturday, with Seoul reporting 594 and Beijing announcing 427.
It was a day after China's National Health Commission reported a record low in new infections for February, at 327. Only four new cases were recorded outside Hubei province - where Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus emerged - the lowest figure recorded outside the province since January 23, when lockdowns and other massive emergency measures were implemented.
A further 47 new deaths were reported in China, bringing the total to 2,835. Mainland China has now recorded 79,251 infections, with 39,002 patients recovered. In South Korea, the total number of infections has reached 2,931.
Coronavirus hits Chinese economy
The first official economic data confirmed fears that the Chinese economy has been badly hit by the coronavirus, with a February plunge in manufacturing activity.
The official manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) slowed to 35.7, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Saturday, having slipped to 50.0 in January when the full impact of the coronavirus was not yet evident.
A PMI reading of 50 marks the point between expansion and contraction.
Test kits, medical supplies and a team of infectious disease experts have been offered by China to Iran, where the numbers of infections and deaths continue to surge, with 388 total infections and 34 deaths reported, as of Friday.
Iran's health ministry denied a report by BBC Persian that at least 210 people in the country had died from the new coronavirus.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has spoken to his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif by telephone and said China was willing to help Iran by sending test kit and medical supplies.
Global Times, a nationalist newspaper affiliated to Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily, reported that China would be sending a team of four infectious disease experts to Iran.
Wang also spoke with Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio on Friday to offer Chinese aid to Italy over the outbreak, including cooperation on medicine and vaccine development and exchanges for epidemic prevention and controls.
Italy has the highest number of cases in Europe, with a death toll of 21, as of early on Saturday, and confirmed cases growing to 888 from 650 one day earlier.
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