Coronavirus has spread to almost every country in the world.
Coronavirus has spread to almost every country in the world.

The countries claiming to be virus-free

Coronavirus has spread to almost every country on the planet.

At least 166 countries have at least one confirmed case of the insidious virus, which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan only three months ago.

As it spreads across the globe, it's making light work of unleashing total havoc. It's bringing the most sophisticated health care systems to their knees and dismantling some of the strongest economies in the world.

China still holds the majority of confirmed cases, which is at more than 81,054 as of midday. But Italy has taken its mantle as the epicentre of the pandemic and has the highest death toll with 5476 deaths.

Coronavirus cases worldwide.
Coronavirus cases worldwide.

 

A recent surge in cases in the past week has seen the United States reach 33,546 cases and 419 deaths across all 50 states. Spain is another emerging virus hotspot, clocking 28,603 cases and 1756 deaths.

The pandemic has now stretched its tentacles to Africa, where there are grave concerns how it will impact nations with unstable governments, underdeveloped health care systems and existing humanitarian crises.

There have been more than 1000 cases across Africa, where the virus has reached 40 of 54 countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa has the most cases (274) followed by Burkina Faso, a particularly impoverished west African nation where a large number of government ministers are among the infected. Burkina Faso has 75 cases as of today.

So what countries in the world don't have coronavirus?

North Korea says it has zero cases of the contagion, which is doubtful given its close cultural and travel links to China and its only other land neighbour, South Korea, having close to 9000 cases and 102 deaths.

North Korea observers have told Al Jazeera they have heard from those inside the rouge nation it is secretly battling an outbreak.

"I've spoken directly with people in North Korea and have heard that North Korea declared a state of emergency," Seo Jae-pyoung, an activist and defector from North Korea, said.

"I heard that the first case in North Korea was confirmed on January 27, and that the People's Army locked down roads and railways in provincial cities, and that people were not even able to walk in the streets."

In a further example of these extraordinary times, US President Donald Trump confirmed he has written to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and offered to help with any "anti-epidemic work".

Laos is another country that claims it hasn't had a case yet, which is unlikely for a country that borders China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, and where the state-run media is closely controlled.

Myanmar, which also borders China, also claims to be virus-free - despite reports at least four patients with symptoms consistent with coronavirus have died quarantine, according to Singapore's Strait Times.

For other countries, getting on this most undesirable of scoreboards is only a matter of time.

Yemen, already ravaged by war and famine, is bracing for the outbreak to reach its borders.

As the virus spreads across Africa, panic-buying has begun in war-torn Libya and a curfew has been introduced by its UN-backed government, which is yet to confirm a case. The virus has already hit all six countries with which Libya shares a border.

Meanwhile a 20-year-old woman has today been confirmed as the first case in war-ravaged Syria, another struggling country in which it's feared the pandemic may unleash a humanitarian catastrophe.

Originally published as The countries claiming to be virus-free