China and South Korea announced new cases of the coronavirus, raising concerns in both nations about how long it could take for normal life to return. South Korea confirmed 144 more cases, bringing its total to 977, the most outside China. President Moon Jae-in visited the city of Daegu, where more than half of the country’s confirmed cases have been found, Tuesday afternoon local time.
In Italy, the epicenter of Europe’s outbreak, the death toll rose to 11 amid 322 confirmed infections. Austria, Croatia and Switzerland reported their first cases, most of which health authorities linked to Italy.
Travel disruptions also continued to spread, with the United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s most critical aviation hubs, saying it would suspend all travel to and from Iran, the Middle East’s coronavirus epicenter. Health authorities in Bahrain, Iraq, and Oman also announced new cases Tuesday, while in Iran, an opposition lawmaker and the deputy health minister were among 95 people who’ve tested positive for the virus. The latter had appeared on Iranian television just the day before, offering assurance the situation was under control.
Here are the latest developments:
● The Dow Jones dived 900 points Tuesday afternoon after the CDC warned of coronavirus inevitability in the United States. “Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in the United States,” Nancy Messonnier, a top official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters. “It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses.”
● A Chinese health official warned that at least 28 days without new cases are needed to be able to say an area is free of the outbreak, raising questions about how long it will take for normal life to resume.
● A fourth former passenger from the Diamond Princess cruise liner has died. Japan says 691 people on the ship tested positive for the virus, although that figure does not include more than 20 people found to have the virus after returning to their home countries.
February 25, 2020 at 10:00 PM EST
Trump defends U.S. response amid criticism from Democratic candidates
President Trump defended his administration’s response to the coronaivirus epidemic against a flurry of criticism from Democratic presidential candidates, who said in Tuesday night’s primary debate that he wasn’t doing enough to address the deadly outbreak.
“CDC and my Administration are doing a GREAT job of handling Coronavirus, including the very early closing of our borders to certain areas of the world,” Trump tweeted.
“No matter how well we do, however, the Democrats talking point is that we are doing badly,” he wrote. “If the virus disappeared tomorrow, they would say we did a really poor, and even incompetent, job. Not fair, but it is what it is.”
The president’s tweets came as Democrats on the debate stage in South Carolina blasted the way the administration has handled the public health crisis.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ridiculed Trump’s recent unfounded assertion that the outbreak could “miraculously” subside by April — a claim that health experts say is dubious at best.
Sanders, former vice president Joe Biden and former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg criticized the White House for cutting funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) criticized Trump’s muted response to the crisis. Trump has made few public comments about the coronavirus aside from playing down the economic fallout from the outbreak and touting his administration’s actions to stop the spread of the virus in the United States.
By Derek Hawkins
February 25, 2020 at 9:30 PM EST
China reports more than 400 new cases, 52 new deaths
The Chinese government on Wednesday announced there were 406 new coronavirus cases by the end of the day Tuesday and 52 new deaths in the country, all of which were in the Hubei province.
This brought China’s cumulative totals to 78,064 infections and 2,715 deaths, according to official figures.
The number of new cases and deaths announced Wednesday were a slight decrease from the day before, but experts have warned against gleaning too much from Chinese statistics and day-to-day changes.
By Michael Brice-Saddler
February 25, 2020 at 9:20 PM EST
First U.S. service member tests positive for coronavirus
A soldier stationed in South Korea has become the first U.S. service member to test positive for coronavirus, the United States Forces Korea confirmed late Tuesday.
The 23-year-old soldier is in self-quarantine at an off-base residence, officials said in a statement. He is stationed at Camp Carroll, and health professionals are working to determine if others may have been exposed.
“USFK is implementing all appropriate control measures to help control the spread of COVID-19 and remains at risk level ‘high’ for USFK peninsula-wide as a prudent measure to protect the force,” the USFK wrote Tuesday.
By Michael Brice-Saddler
February 25, 2020 at 8:20 PM EST
South Korea coronavirus cases exceed 1,100
SEOUL — South Korea reported 169 additional cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing up the national tally to 1,146.
Of the latest cases, 134 are in southern city of Daegu, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited the virus-hit city with aides on Tuesday. After one of attendees at a Daegu meeting with Moon tested positive for the virus, presidential aides and reporters who attended the meeting have been advised to quarantine themselves, according to South Korea’s state-funded Yonhap News Agency. A spokesman for the president said he could not confirm the media report.
South Korea’s National Assembly canceled its plenary session on Monday and temporarily closed its buildings after a coronavirus patient had been found to have attended a parliamentary forum last week. Several lawmakers who attended the event also got tested for the virus this week.
South Korea’s 500,000-strong military said 18 soldiers have been diagnosed with the virus as of Wednesday. Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo told soldiers not to leave their barracks other than for exceptional situations.
By Min Joo Kim
February 25, 2020 at 7:40 PM EST
What’s going to happen once WHO declares coronavirus pandemic?
Experts say the coronavirus is on the cusp of becoming a pandemic. Some say it’s already there.
So far, the World Health Organization has declined to officially declare a pandemic. What happens once WHO crosses that line?
In some ways, nothing. Invoking the P-word won’t trigger any new funding, protocols or disaster response, experts say. It is more an acknowledgement of reality.
That’s why WHO may be hesitating to make the declaration because there’s little upside to it and plenty of downside such as causing widespread fear and panic.
“Using the word pandemic now does not fit the facts, but it may cause fear,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news briefing last week.
That’s not to say, however, such a declaration wouldn’t be a big deal. A pandemic declaration would mean that this new disease can no longer be contained and that countries need to shift their efforts instead to dealing with the fallout.
In the past, WHO’s declarations of pandemic had much bigger policy implications. The last time WHO declared a pandemic during the 2009 H1N1 swine flu, it triggered aggressive actions by many, such as millions in spending to buy vaccines. But H1N1 turned out not to be as deadly and disruptive as feared and a lot of governments were mad about buying vaccines that they ended up not using, and harshly criticized WHO for its declaration. Burned by that response, WHO got rid of the six-stage procedure that led up to it declaring influenza pandemic.
“Each time they went up a stage, it raised alarm. When they finally reached pandemic stage it caused enormous panic,” said Lawrence Gostin, global health law professor at Georgetown University. “It was so dysfunctional and caused so much fear and panic that WHO abandoned that approach.”
WHO’s current approach is much more vague, essentially leaving it up to leaders to declare a pandemic when they deem it necessary. Experts say WHO officials may be leery of causing panic as in the past, but if they wait too long, they risk losing the public’s trust — an essential element in public health crises.
“In many ways whether we’re in a pandemic is a semantic question,” said Alexandra Phelan, a global health lawyer at Georgetown’s Center for Global Health Science and Security. “But if officials delay describing something as what it is, that can undermine their authority and cause mistrust.”
By William Wan
February 25, 2020 at 6:30 PM EST
President of El Salvador bans travelers from South Korea and Italy
Nayib Bukele, the president of El Salvador, announced on Tuesday that he’d directed his mirgration and immigration department to restrict entry of people traveling from South Korea and Italy to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country.
In his announcement, Bukele said citizens and diplomats traveling from these countries will be required to spend 30 days in quarantine.
By Michael Brice-Saddler
February 25, 2020 at 6:05 PM EST
Could the Olympics be affected by coronavirus? IOC has three months to decide, one official says.
Olympics officials are warily watching the spread of the coronavirus as they begin to consider the potential implications for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.
Moving the Games to another city is unlikely, as is postponing them for a year and then holding them in Tokyo, an official told the Associated Press. A decision on whether to hold the Games or take action, up to a complete cancellation, could be delayed until late May, two months ahead of the July 24 Opening Ceremonies.
“You could certainly go to two months out if you had to,” Dick Pound, an International Olympic Committee official since 1978, told the AP. “A lot of things have to start happening. You’ve got to start ramping up your security, your food, the Olympic Village, the hotels. The media folks will be in there building their studios.”
If coronavirus makes it difficult to hold the Games as originally scheduled, Pound said, “you’re probably looking at a cancellation.” He added, “This is the new war and you have to face it. In and around that time, I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo, or not?’ ”
The IOC will continue to confer with the World Health Organization and keep watch, although Pound said “all indications” point to the Games coming off without a hitch and on schedule. Still, much remains unknown and the WHO has warned countries to be “in a phase of preparedness,” although it has declined to categorize the outbreaks as a pandemic, in which epidemics become rampant in multiple countries and continents simultaneously.
By Cindy Boren
February 25, 2020 at 5:15 PM EST
First confirmed coronavirus case in Algeria
Algeria on Tuesday confirmed its first case of coronavirus, according to the Italian news agency AdnKronos.
The virus was reportedly found in an Italian citizen who arrived in the North African country Feb. 17. The man was reportedly put into quarantine, according to AdnKronos, who cited Algreia’s health minister.
By Michael Brice-Saddler
February 25, 2020 at 5:05 PM EST
San Francisco mayor declares state of emergency over coronavirus
San Francisco Mayor London Breed declared a state of emergency for the city Tuesday amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Even though there have been no confirmed cases in San Francisco, the outlet noted that the emergency declaration will allow the city to be better equipped to combat the disease, providing resources as needed.
“The global picture is changing rapidly, and we need to step-up preparedness,” Breed said in a statement. “We see the virus spreading in new parts of the world every day, and we are taking the necessary steps to protect San Franciscans from harm.”
The Chronicle notes that a state of emergency will allow health officials to expedite emergency planning measures and bolster the city’s rapid response capabilities. Other California cities, including San Diego, and Santa Clara County, have taken similar steps to be prepared if more cases of coronavirus occur locally.
By Michael Brice-Saddler
February 25, 2020 at 4:55 PM EST
Air Canada extends suspension of direct flights to China
TORONTO – Canada’s largest airline said Tuesday that it is extending its suspension of direct flights to China from the end of February until early April because of the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Air Canada, which operates 33 flights from Canada to Beijing and Shanghai each week, had first said that service would be suspended on those routes until Feb. 29 – a reaction to the federal government’s advisory against non-essential travel to China. Now, the suspension is slated to last until at least April 10.
“Air Canada will continue to monitor this evolving situation closely in consultation with the Public Health Agency of Canada, Transport Canada and Global Affairs and will adjust its schedule as appropriate,” the Montreal-based carrier said in a statement.
The company said it would also be extending the suspension of its service from Toronto to Hong Kong until April 30 because of “reduced market demand.” Passengers can continue to fly to Hong Kong on the seven weekly flights to the city from Vancouver.
Canada updated its travel advisory for northern Italy on Tuesday, advising Canadians to “exercise a high degree of caution” because of the spread of the novel coronavirus there.
By Amanda Coletta
February 25, 2020 at 4:21 PM EST
Top health officials back off CDC messaging that coronavirus spread in U.S. is inevitable
In an afternoon news conference, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and other top health officials backed off the CDC’s strong warning earlier Tuesday that the spread of the coronavirus in the United States was inevitable.
The briefing was scheduled on short notice, and the markedly different tone came after the Dow fell more than 800 points in the wake of the CDC’s warning.
Instead, Azar, a top CDC official who was not on the CDC call earlier Tuesday and other leading public health officials said the United States wanted to have a large-scale response prepared “just in case” there was person-to-person spread.
“We believe the immediate risk here in the United States remains low, and we’re working hard to keep that risk low,” said Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during the news conference that the government was about a month and a half away from beginning early clinical safety tests for a coronavirus vaccine, adding that it would take a year to a year and a half before the vaccine was widely available.
By Yasmeen Abutaleb
February 25, 2020 at 3:50 PM EST
As stocks plunge, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow says U.S. has coronavirus ‘contained’
The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 900 points Tuesday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned domestically of an inevitable coronavirus outbreak. But Larry Kudlow, director of the White House’s National Economic Council, nonetheless presented an upbeat assessment Tuesday.
“We have contained this,” he told reporters. He said U.S. government prevention efforts were “pretty close to airtight.”
Kudlow warned against panic, saying, “I don’t think there’s going to be an economic tragedy at all.”
“This is very tightly contained in the U.S.,” he said. “Elsewhere it’s a human disaster.”
Kudlow’s comments came in stark contrast to concerns in the United States about how prepared federal and state authorities are for a possible outbreak, as well as the effectiveness of preventive policies in place.
By Miriam Berger
February 25, 2020 at 2:40 PM EST
Dow Jones industrial average dives 3.3 percent in coronavirus-fueled sell-off
Wall Street whipsawed Tuesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average digging itself into a 900-point hole, or 3.3 percent, as investors absorbed increasingly worrisome forecasts about the coronavirus, which is spreading faster and more broadly than thought and renewing recessionary anxiety.
The plunge worsened after health officials warned that the spread of coronavirus in the United States appears inevitable. In separate briefings to lawmakers and reporters on Tuesday, officials said they were no longer assessing the outbreak in terms of if there would be community spread, but when. The warnings by officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and other agencies markedly changed the tone about risks from the virus.
“We are finally starting to see the markets react to the coronavirus,” said Nicole Tanenbaum, chief investment strategist at Chequers Financial Management. “There has been a lot of complacency in the market and a sentiment-driven rally that hasn’t taken into account that this virus may not be as contained as we hoped it would be.”
The volatility followed a dismal session that saw the Dow slide more than 1,000 points in one of the steepest point losses in history. The three major U.S. indexes all posted declines of 3.5 percent or more on Monday.
By Rachel Siegel and Thomas Heath
February 25, 2020 at 2:20 PM EST
The latest target of racist rumors about coronavirus: the ubiquitous dance troupe Shen Yun
At a performance by the ubiquitous Chinese dance troupe Shen Yun, the only thing audiences risk exposure to is a little culture and some religious and political propaganda. But for the past few days, health officials in Utah have had to quash social media-fueled rumors linking the dancers to covid-19, better known as the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The Shen Yun performances scheduled to begin Tuesday were preceded by days of inaccurate rumors circulating around Salt Lake City claiming that the dancers had recently come from South Korea and may pose a health risk, said Nicholas Rupp, a spokesman with the Salt Lake County Health Department. Calls to local and state health departments about coronavirus are not unusual, but the link to Shen Yun was “something new this weekend,” Rupp told The Washington Post on Monday night.
The County Health Department on Monday issued an announcement via Twitter reminding people that coronavirus risk is linked to recent travel to China, where the outbreak originated, and not to groups of people or particular ethnic groups.
Epidemiologists with the Utah Department of Health have been averaging about 25 calls a day about the coronavirus, which department spokeswoman Charla Haley characterized as high.
“We heard some rumors that were going around in regards to the Shen Yun troupe, and we just wanted to make sure people knew it was safe to go to the performance, that we weren’t worried about any of the dancers having coronavirus,” Haley told The Post.
Shen Yun issued a statement confirming that the coronavirus outbreak was not affecting performances and reminding audiences that members of the New York-based group that comprises seven traveling dance companies are in fact banned from China.
By Kim Bellware and Herman Wong
February 25, 2020 at 2:10 PM EST
U.S. is vastly unprepared for coronavirus outbreak, Democratic lawmakers say
Democratic lawmakers are raising alarm that the United States may be vastly unprepared for the possibility of an impending domestic coronavirus outbreak, citing concerns over supply shortages amid proposed cuts to health agencies responsible for overseeing medical emergencies.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) tweeted Tuesday that a briefing on the virus should have been open to the public, writing, “they would be as appalled & astonished as I am by the inadequacy of preparedness & prevention.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday that “warning lights are flashing bright red.”
“We have a crisis of coronavirus, and President Trump has no plan, no urgency, no understanding of the facts or how to coordinate a response,” he said. The White House has requested that Congress approve a $2.5 billion plan to combat the virus, and Schumer and Trump have butted heads on Twitter over the proposal, which includes dipping into a fund for Ebola preparedness. Schumer called Trump’s proposal “indicative of his towering inadequacy.” Trump, who is visiting India, tweeted that Schumer is “incompetent.”
At a briefing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, lawmakers grilled Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar over how the plan to trigger emergency funding for coronavirus preparedness squares with cuts to health programs.
By Siobhán O’Grady
February 25, 2020 at 1:40 PM EST
Health officials consider expanding airport screening to travelers from other countries
Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that they would consider, but have not determined, whether they will expand screening at U.S. airports to include travelers coming from countries such as Italy and South Korea where the number of infections has spiked in recent days.
“Certainly we are considering what the spread of illness in other countries looks like” and how it could impact Americans traveling abroad, Nancy Messonnier, a top CDC official, said in a call Tuesday. She said the CDC is working with states and localities “on those considerations.”
The agency has updated its alert system, issuing a Level 3 alert advising individuals to avoid all nonessential travel to South Korea. For those traveling to Japan, Italy or Iran, it has issued a Level 2 alert urging high-risk travelers to take special precautions.
Messonnier added that the CDC has “more than one layer of surveillance,” and while one definition focuses on travel, others involve community-based surveillance involving the nation’s flu-surveillance network. That has already started in some areas and will be expanded more broadly, she said.
Since Feb. 2, commercial air passengers arriving from China are being funneled to 11 U.S. airports — John F. Kennedy International, O’Hare International, San Francisco International, Los Angeles International, Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International, Newark Liberty International, Detroit Metropolitan, Dallas-Fort Worth International, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International and Washington Dulles International — where they are being screened for the virus. U.S. citizens who show signs of the virus must undergo a 14-day quarantine; those who don’t appear to be infected are allowed to return home, but are asked to self-quarantine. Noncitizens are not being allowed to enter the United States.
It’s not clear how many people are being screened at the 11 airports since much of the commercial flight traffic between the United States and China has been halted. United, Delta Air Lines and American, have suspended flights between the United States, China and Hong Kong through April.
By Lori Aratani and Laurie McGinley
February 25, 2020 at 1:35 PM EST
Apple reopens some stores in China after extended closures
Apple reopened dozens of stores in China this week after prolonged closures due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Bloomberg News reported that at least 29 of China’s 42 Apple stores were open as of Monday, although some appeared to be operating on irregular hours. The virus outbreak has already majorly disrupted Apple’s earnings. The company announced last week that it did not expect to meet its quarterly revenue goals.
Although some factories have reopened in China, Apple said in a statement that it was still “experiencing a slower return to normal conditions than we had anticipated.”
“These iPhone supply shortages will temporarily affect revenues worldwide,” the company said. In addition to supply shortages, Apple has also said that even in Chinese retail locations that have remained open, customer traffic has been low.
By Siobhán O’Grady
February 25, 2020 at 1:10 PM EST
Coronavirus causes panic among brides waiting for wedding dresses from China
Beyond the deaths, stock market plunges and widespread fears of contagion, the coronavirus is causing panic in all kinds of smaller, mundane ways — particularly when it comes to wedding dresses.
Brides, bridal shops and industry insiders say the outbreak has caused shipping and production delays in bridal dresses, with wedding season just around the corner.
“If you have tracking number, if you know your merchandise is in this country, you’re probably pretty safe, but if you don’t have that information, I would go ahead and get a plan B going,” stylist Lisa Carson told a KMBC TV outlet in Kansas. “In the past, we’d say go ahead and order it, they’ll manufacture it. It’ll be here in time. I can’t do that today. Today I have to say: ‘You know what sweetheart? We need to find you a different dress.’ ”
By William Wan
February 25, 2020 at 12:25 PM EST
Health officials warn that spread of coronavirus in U.S. appears inevitable, a significant change in tone
Health officials in the United States warned that coronavirus spreading in the country appears inevitable, marking a significant change in official statements since the outbreak began in China in December.
The comments were made in separate briefings to lawmakers and reporters on Tuesday, marking an escalation in tone and urgency.
“Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in the United States,” Nancy Messonnier, a top official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters. “It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses.”
By Erica Werner, Lenny Bernstein and Lena H. Sun
February 25, 2020 at 12:20 PM EST
A faulty CDC coronavirus test delays U.S. understanding of disease’s spread
Problems with a government-created coronavirus test have limited the U.S. capacity to rapidly increase testing, just as the outbreak has entered a worrisome new phase in countries around the world. Experts are increasingly concerned that the small number of U.S. cases thus far may be a reflection of limited testing, not of the virus’s spread.
While South Korea has run more than 35,000 coronavirus tests, the United States has tested only 426 people for the virus, not including people who returned on evacuation flights. Only about a dozen state and local laboratories can now run tests outside of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta because the CDC kits sent out nationwide a week and a half ago included a faulty component.
U.S. guidelines recommend testing for a very narrow group of people — those who display respiratory symptoms and have recently traveled to China or had close contact with an infected person. But many public health experts believe that in light of evidence the disease has taken root and spread locally in Singapore, South Korea, Iran and Italy, it’s time to broaden testing in the United States.
Infectious disease experts fear that aside from the 14 cases picked up by public health surveillance, there may be other cases, undetected, mixed in with those of colds and flu. What scares experts the most is that the virus is beginning to spread locally in countries outside China, but no one knows if that’s the case here, because they aren’t checking.
By Carolyn Y. Johnson
February 25, 2020 at 12:05 PM EST
WHO praises China’s aggressive coronavirus response, including authoritarian tools
The world needs to learn from China’s response to the coronavirus, said the leader of a World Health Organization team sent to that country, while also criticizing countries for closing their borders to China.
Epidemiologist Bruce Aylward devoted a sprawling hour-long news conference Tuesday to giving effusive, extravagant praise to China’s efforts — despite widespread global criticism of its leaders’ lack of transparency, initial attempts to censor reports of the outbreak and the authoritarian tools it has at times applied on its population to fight the outbreak.
Aylward, chief of the WHO’s mission to China who spent last weekend in Wuhan, called China’s response “impressive,” “stunning,” “extraordinary,” “striking,” “disciplined” and “successful.”
His team’s tour through China was the result of lengthy negotiations with Chinese authorities, who resisted for weeks allowing some international experts access into the country and especially the outbreak epicenter in Wuhan.
Aylward’s team visited Beijing, Guangdong province and Sichuan province before finally spending a day and a half in Wuhan over the weekend.
Aylward praised how leaders used big data, artificial intelligence and surveillance tools — developed by the government to monitor its own citizens and often criticized by human rights groups — to tackle the outbreak.
He defended China’s repeated change without explanation in how it counts cases to the frustration of epidemiologists trying to study the virus.
Aylward said the aggressive response China took — putting whole cities under lockdown, tracking the cases and contacts of tens of thousands of patients, mobilizing thousands of health workers and temporary hospitals — had huge effects in suppressing the spread of the disease, estimating that those measures prevented hundreds of thousands of people in China from being infected.
“They’ve done this at scale, they know what they’re doing, and they’re really really good at it,” Aylward said. “Countries are building barriers between themselves and China …. but you need access to that expertise.”
By William Wan
February 25, 2020 at 11:50 AM EST
Saudi energy minister says OPEC still deliberating oil cuts
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has not decided whether to revise an upcoming plan to reduce oil outputs amid the coronavirus outbreak’s disruption in global economic flows, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said Tuesday.
OPEC is set to meet next week in Vienna to discuss an agreement to cut oil output by 500,000 barrels a day, which oil producers, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, signed on to in December.
The oil producers agreed to the cut to reduce the risk of oversupply in the market. Russia at the time had pushed for an even deeper reduction.
Now these targets may need to be reassessed after the coronavirus hit the world’s second-largest economy, and global oil demand is expected to drop this quarter for the first time in over a decade, the International Energy Agency reported. This would create even more of an oversupply, which could then further lower revenue for oil producers unless additional cuts on the supply side are made.
Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said Tuesday that OPEC and other oil producers, such as Russia, are “communicating with each other at every opportunity,” and he was confident in their partnerships, Bloomberg reported.
Saudi’s Aramco said it’s not been deeply impacted by the slowing of demand and supply in China and elsewhere that’s been spurred by the coronavirus outbreak and restrictions in place to contain it.
“I think this is a short-term issue,” Saudi Aramco chief executive Amin Nasser said Tuesday, Bloomberg News reported. “In the second half, I’m confident it will be over.”
Russia has not signaled whether it will push for a further reduction in oil supply at next week’s meeting, according to Bloomberg.
By Miriam Berger
February 25, 2020 at 11:10 AM EST
Pompeo calls on China and Iran to ‘tell the truth’
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on China and Iran on Tuesday to “tell the truth” about the spread of the novel coronavirus and applauded the work of journalists who are risking their own health by covering the outbreak.
Speaking to reporters at the State Department, Pompeo said the United States is “deeply concerned” that Iran may have withheld details about the spread of covid-19.
“All nations, including Iran, should tell the truth about the coronavirus and cooperate with international aid organizations,” he said.
Pompeo also had critical words for Beijing, saying its impulse for censorship had led to the quashing of news reports and warnings by physicians in the days after the virus first started to spread.
Although Pompeo is a frequent critic of news coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the State Department, he praised “the brave reporters who are covering the spread of coronavirus from Wuhan itself.”
He said China’s recent expulsion of three Wall Street Journal reporters after the appearance of a critical editorial in their paper exposes the danger of a common Chinese government tactic: “Namely censorship. It can have deadly consequences,” he said. “If China had permitted its own and foreign journalists and medical personnel to investigate freely, Chinese officials and other nations would have been far better prepared to address the challenges.”
The State Department has condemned the reporters’ expulsion, Pompeo said, in part on principle and in part because the coronavirus crisis underscores the need for accurate information provided by on-the-ground reporting.
“We think the information flow inside China is at a critical moment,” he said. “It’s always important that we get good information from a free press everywhere. But it’s especially essential at this time, where data and information matter, because they provide things that go beyond anecdote so that we can respond in a way that meets the actual threat.”
By Carol Morello
February 25, 2020 at 10:55 AM EST
Switzerland confirms first case, with possible link to Italy
Switzerland confirmed its first coronavirus case on Tuesday, joining a growing list of affected countries as the virus continues to spread in Italy, the hardest-hit European nation, and across the continent.
Switzerland's Federal Office of Public Health initially declined to provide further details about the case. However, RTS, a Swiss television channel, said authorities in Ticino, which borders Italy, confirmed that they had the infection, Reuters reported.
Italy has reported about 280 infections, a number that has dramatically spiked in just a matter of days. Many other emerging cases in Europe have been linked to Italy. On Tuesday, Croatia said a man who had recently traveled to the Lombardy region was the country’s first case, while Austria reported that a couple who also had recently returned from Lombardy were the country’s first cases.
By Miriam Berger
February 25, 2020 at 10:15 AM EST
Online prices for emergency essentials soar in virus-hit Italy
It’s a familiar pattern: As coronavirus cases and fears rise from country to country, so, too, do the prices of protective gear and emergency essentials, such as hand sanitizer and face masks.
In Italy, where coronavirus infections and deaths have skyrocketed in recent days, online retailers are trying to cash in on the panic by raising prices for items in sudden demand.
Public health officials have cautioned against such hoarding, warning that a run on items ultimately hurts front-line medical workers and high-risk patients, who are most in need of emergency and protective gear. On Tuesday, Italian prosecutors opened an investigation into the surging prices, Reuters reported.
Nonetheless, a popular Italian hand sanitizer that normally sells for about $8 per 8.5-ounce bottle was going for over $50 on e-commerce site eBay on Monday, while a 34-ounce bottle sold for around $865, Politico reported.
Amazon warned sellers last week that listings advertising cures or treatments for the coronavirus will be removed from its online marketplace. Tech giants, such as Amazon and Facebook, have been in talks with the World Health Organization over how to stop the spread of covid-19 misinformation on their platforms.
Critics, however, say more needs to be done. On Monday, Codacons, a leading Italian consumer organization, filed a complaint with Italian public prosecutors arguing that Amazon is akin to “accomplices” in the price gouging, even if the company’s policies specifically allow sellers to set their own fees, Politico reported.
Online retailers aren’t the only ones seeing a run on essentials. In an unverified photo being shared on social media, one Reddit user published a picture of a supermarket reportedly in Milan where shelves were largely empty — except for mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise. “Italians being Italians,” the user wrote.
By Miriam Berger
February 25, 2020 at 9:41 AM EST
Some French train drivers refuse to enter Italy
PARIS — France’s national rail company, the SNCF, began precautions Tuesday in response to the coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy, according to French media reports. Some French SNCF train drivers on Milan-bound trains will stop at the border between France and Italy, where they will be replaced by Italian drivers, who will then operate the rest of the route, France’s RTL radio reported.
The decision came as anxieties mounted over continental Europe’s open borders, and the role that cheap, easy travel may play in facilitating the spread of the disease. Italian authorities have not established how the coronavirus even arrived in northern Italy, but in the days since the outbreak was first reported, cases have spread to Croatia, Spain and possibly Austria. Air travel has been identified as a key vector in the spread of the coronavirus, and Tuesday, France’s BFM television network reported that travelers arriving from destinations other than China were beginning to receive health checks upon landing at the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.
The French government has said that for the moment, it will not close the border with Italy, as border closures would not necessarily be effective in stopping the spread of the disease. But in France and elsewhere across the continent, the issue became political, with members of the far-right, notably Marine Le Pen, advocating for border controls to be reinstated.
By James McAuley
February 25, 2020 at 9:20 AM EST
Bahrain reports nine new cases of coronavirus
BEIRUT — Bahrain announced nine new cases of coronavirus midday Tuesday local time, after earlier announcing two cases, bringing the total number of patients to 17 in the tiny island nation.
Bahrain confirmed its first two cases Monday, both involving passengers who were traveling to the Persian Gulf island from Iran via Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. On Tuesday, Bahrain announced that it has suspended flights to Dubai and Sharjah for 48 hours — but not before a flight had landed via Dubai from Iran, bringing six new cases, four of whom are Saudi nationals.
Later, nine new cases emerged, all but one arriving from Iran via Sharjah, the third-largest city in the United Arab Emirates. Two of those infected were Saudi nationals.
On Tuesday, the United Arab Emirates announced it has halted all flights to and from Iran, effective immediately and continuing for one week, with the possibility of an extension, the state news agency WAM reported.
The United Arab Emirates’ Dubai airport is one of the world’s busiest travel hubs and an important transit point for flights to and from Iran. The country has reported 13 cases of coronavirus, most of them connected to Chinese travel, but the latest two cases have been Iranian tourists.
Oman, another Persian Gulf country, suspended flights to and from Iran on Monday after two cases were reported. Two new cases linked to travelers from Iran were recorded Tuesday, Oman’s Ministry of Health reported.
On Monday, Iraq’s Health Ministry said the number of cases had risen to five, after a family of four was diagnosed in the northern city of Kirkuk. In the southern city of Najaf, another 20 patients were in preemptive quarantine, the ministry said.
Lebanon announced Monday that it was limiting flights to quarantined cities in China, Iran and other countries, allowing for some exceptions.
By Sarah Dadouch
February 25, 2020 at 9:05 AM EST
E.U. Parliament advises staff who recently traveled to parts of Asia and Italy to stay home
The European Parliament has instructed staff to stay home if they have recently traveled in areas where the coronavirus is spreading rapidly, including China, South Korea, Singapore and parts of Italy, Politico Europe reported.
The request was relayed to staff in an email Monday night that instructed them to check their temperature twice a day and remain in “self-isolation” for 14 days if they may have come into contact with anyone infected with the virus. Employees were told they should return to work only “after having received a green light” from their doctors.
The outbreak in Italy has raised concerns that the virus could spread rapidly throughout Europe, but formal border restrictions have not been implemented within Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone.
By Siobhán O’Grady
February 25, 2020 at 8:37 AM EST
Iranian deputy health minister and opposition lawmaker say they are infected with the coronavirus
ISTANBUL — A prominent Iranian lawmaker and reformist politician said Tuesday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus, the second public figure to confirm an infection as Iran struggles to contain the outbreak.
Mahmoud Sadeghi, 57, said on his verified Twitter account that he tested positive for the virus and that he “doesn’t have much hope to stay alive.”
It was unclear where he contracted the virus. Sadeghi, who is pro-reform and known for criticizing the clerical establishment, represents a wide swath of Tehran province in parliament.
On Twitter, Sadeghi called on Iran’s judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, to release political prisoners from Iranian jails so they can see their families as the outbreak spreads.
Earlier Tuesday, Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said he also tested positive for the virus, just one day after he held a televised news conference on efforts to contain the outbreak.
Harirchi posted a video online Tuesday confirming that he has contracted the virus. The disease, which originated in China last year, emerged in the Iranian city of Qom this month and has since spread to multiple areas of the country.
At least 15 people have died, according to the Health Ministry.
By Erin Cunningham
February 25, 2020 at 8:10 AM EST
Prague Airport to check passengers from Italy for virus symptoms; Bulgaria Air cancels flights to Milan
BERLIN — Prague Airport announced that passengers on flights from Italy would arrive in special gates going forward, as Italian authorities reported almost 300 confirmed coronavirus cases Tuesday.
“Passengers from Italy will be concentrated in one place. This will significantly limit their movements in the airport,” Roman Pacvon, a spokesman for Prague Airport, told Czech news site Prague Morning.
Pacvon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Airport officials also said they would separate passengers displaying symptoms, disinfect buses and carry out temperature checks. Some researchers have cast doubts on the efficacy of such checks, however, as some infected individuals do not display noticeable symptoms but may still spread the virus.
Similar measures were reportedly taken by other European nations, including Bulgaria. A representative for its flagship carrier, Bulgaria Air, confirmed that all flights to Milan have been canceled until late March.
By Rick Noack
February 25, 2020 at 7:35 AM EST
Italy confirms 283 cases of coronavirus; more than 60 new infections within 24 hours
Seven people are now confirmed to have died in the country, which has seen infections surge since late last week and now has the highest number of confirmed cases outside Asia.
Most cases — a total of 212 — were reported in the Lombardy region. Its capital, Milan, is a key business hub and hosted its February Fashion Week over the last few days, triggering concerns that travelers may already have spread the virus across other parts of Europe. At least two of the three new cases that were either strongly suspected or confirmed in Austria and Croatia on Tuesday were linked to the Lombardy region.
Italy on Tuesday also confirmed cases in Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont, Lazio, Tuscany, Sicily and Bolzano. Authorities said 29 patients are in intensive care.
By Rick Noack
February 25, 2020 at 7:15 AM EST
Iran’s deputy health minister tests positive for coronavirus, according to state media
ISTANBUL — Iran’s deputy health minister has tested positive for the coronavirus, Iranian media reported Tuesday, just one day after he held a televised news conference on efforts to contain the outbreak.
Iraj Harirchi posted a video online Tuesday confirming that he has contracted the virus. The disease, which originated in China last year, emerged in the Iranian city of Qom this month and has since spread to multiple areas of the country.
At least 15 people have died after testing positive for the virus, and 95 others are confirmed to be infected, a spokesman for Iran’s Health Ministry said Tuesday.
In the video, which was posted by the semiofficial Fars News Agency, Harirchi said he received his positive test results Monday night.
“I’ve had a fever since yesterday. I got the result of my initial test last night, and it was positive,” he said. “My general condition is not very bad. I’m fine.”
When Harirchi briefed reporters in Tehran on Monday, he said authorities were opposed to citywide quarantines and that such policies were antiquated.
On Tuesday, he said he has placed himself under quarantine while beginning treatment for the virus.
By Erin Cunningham
February 25, 2020 at 7:00 AM EST
Austria says it has identified its first possible infections; Croatia confirms first case
BERLIN — New coronavirus infections were either confirmed or strongly suspected in Croatia and Austria on Tuesday, amid mounting concerns that the virus may spread across Europe.
In Austria, authorities said they had identified their possible first two coronavirus cases in the country. Officials said at least one of the probable coronavirus patients was believed to be an Italian living in Austria.
“Both tested positive for the virus the first time — now we’re working on a final confirmation,” said a spokesman for the Tyrol government.
Croatian authorities also confirmed their first case on Tuesday. The patient is hospitalized in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency. The patient recently returned from Milan, Croatian officials said.
Austria borders Italy to the north; Croatia lies just across the Adriatic Sea from Italy.
Italy has confirmed almost 300 coronavirus cases, with numbers surging since late last week.
By Rick Noack
February 25, 2020 at 6:36 AM EST
Trump says he thinks China’s coronavirus problem ‘is going to go away’
NEW DELHI — Speaking at a business roundtable at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi on Tuesday during a state visit to India, President Trump told the attendees that he thought China was getting the coronavirus outbreak under control and that Chinese President Xi Jinping was “working very hard.”
“China is working very, very hard. I have spoken to President Xi, and they are working very hard. If you know anything about him, I think he will be in pretty good shape,” Trump told the guests. “They have had a rough patch, but now it looks like they are getting it more and more under control. I think that is a problem that is going to go away.”
Trump also downplayed the economic impact of the outbreak in the United States, where the Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 1,000 points in a rout on Monday.
“It was an outside source which nobody would have predicted six months or three months ago,” Trump said. “Nobody would have ever predicted [it], but lets see; I think it is going to be under control.”
Trump said the United States has the outbreak under control. “We do business with a lot of other countries and we take care. We want other countries to be happy, healthy and well. They’ve got to be happy, healthy and well. That is very simple.”
By Tania Dutta in New Delhi and Adam Taylor in Hong Kong
February 25, 2020 at 6:16 AM EST
Tenerife hotel on lockdown after Italian guest tests positive for coronavirus
A hotel on the Spanish island of Tenerife, off the coast of West Africa, was placed on lockdown Tuesday after a guest from northern Italy tested positive for the coronavirus.
The man, reportedly a doctor from Italy’s Lombardy region, where Italian authorities are struggling to contain a major outbreak of the virus, was taken for further examination in a Tenerife hospital, according to Spanish media reports.
Meanwhile, approximately 1,000 guests were stranded in the Costa Adeje Palace Hotel, a four-star hotel in the Canary Islands, which has blocked entry and exit access and encouraged guests to remain in their rooms. The property has also been cordoned off by police, according to Spanish media reports.
On social media, hotel guests described the note they received under the doors of their rooms late Monday and early Tuesday.
According to an image one guest posted on Twitter, the text of that letter told guests to stay in their rooms until further notice: “We regret to inform you that for health reasons, the hotel has been closed down,” the message read. “Until the sanitary authorities warn [otherwise], you must remain in your rooms.”
The visiting doctor represents the third case of coronavirus in Spain. The first two cases — a German tourist on an island near Tenerife and a British man in Mallorca — have both been discharged from the hospital after periods in quarantine.
Spain was the latest European country struggling to respond to the threat of a virus whose potential arrival was faster than health authorities initially expected.
According to Spain’s El Pais newspaper, Tuesday was slated to be the first meeting of the country’s newly created Interministerial Committee on the Coronavirus, overseen by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
By James McAuley
February 25, 2020 at 6:06 AM EST
Coronavirus death toll rises in Iran
ISTANBUL — Fifteen people have died in Iran from the coronavirus and at least 95 are confirmed infected, a Health Ministry spokesman said Tuesday, as authorities extended a ban on public gatherings to include conferences and weddings amid the widening outbreak.
Iran’s Assembly of Experts, an 88-member body that meets twice a year, said Tuesday it was postponing its meeting scheduled for next month due to coronavirus fears.
The Health Ministry spokesman, Kianush Jahanpur, said authorities were enacting a ban on conferences, company training sessions, sports events and weddings and ordering the closure of cinemas and theaters until the Persian New Year next month. He encouraged Iranians to avoid intercity travel to help contain covid-19, as the disease caused by the virus is known, after it originated in China last year.
In Iran, the first cases appeared in the holy city of Qom, south of Tehran. The outbreak has since spread to multiple cities and provinces, mostly in the north and central parts of the country. Iran-linked cases of the virus have been confirmed in countries such as Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.
By Erin Cunningham
February 25, 2020 at 5:58 AM EST
Italy reports first coronavirus case in the south
Italian authorities have reported the first coronavirus case in the country’s south — a tourist visiting Sicily who had traveled from the northern city of Bergamo.
Until Tuesday, the outbreak in Italy had been limited to the country’s northern regions, particularly in towns south of Milan.
But after the newest positive test, it was Sicily — Italy’s southern island — that was quickly taking steps to limit the outbreak. According to media on the island, a woman on vacation developed flu-like symptoms on Monday night and was taken to a hospital.
The mayor of the Sicilian city of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, said the woman had been traveling with a group of nearly 30 people, according to the Giornale di Sicilia. They had arrived in Sicily before the scale of outbreak became apparent in the north.
The other members of the group have been placed under quarantine in a hotel, Orlando said.
By Chico Harlan
February 25, 2020 at 5:47 AM EST
Worries Mount over Tokyo 2020 Olympics
TOKYO — Dick Pound, the longest-serving member of the International Olympic Committee, estimates there’s a three-month window to decide whether the Tokyo Games can go ahead due to the spread of coronavirus, the Associated Press reported.
Pound told the AP that a decision could be put off until late May, two months before the Games are due to start.
“A lot of things have to start happening,” he said. “You’ve got to start ramping up your security, your food, the Olympic Village, the hotels; the media folks will be in there building their studios.”
Pound said it would be tough to shift the Olympics to a different city, while a postponement until the fall would not work for American broadcasters. If the Games could not go ahead in July, “you’re probably looking at a cancellation,” he said.
“This is the new war, and you have to face it. In and around that time, I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo, or not?’ ”
Pound encouraged athletes to keep training, with “all indications” at this stage that the Games will go ahead in Tokyo.
The modern Olympics have been canceled only during wartime, including in 1940 when they were supposed to be held in Tokyo.
Pound said the IOC was depending on consultations with the World Health Organization.
“It’s a big, big, big decision, and you just can’t take it until you have reliable facts on which to base it,” he said, adding that current advice doesn’t call for cancellation or postponement of the Olympics.
“You just don’t postpone something on the size and scale of the Olympics. There’s so many moving parts, so many countries and different seasons, and competitive seasons, and television seasons,” he said. “You can’t just say, we’ll do it in October.”
By Simon Denyer
February 25, 2020 at 5:18 AM EST
UAE suspends all flights to and from Iran
BEIRUT — The United Arab Emirates has halted all flights to and from Iran, the General Civil Aviation Authority announced Tuesday. The suspension will take immediate effect and will continue for one week but could be extended further, state news agency WAM reported.
“The decision is a precautionary measure undertaken by the UAE to ensure strict monitoring and prevention of the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19,” WAM quoted the government body as saying.
The country’s Dubai airport is one of the world’s busiest travel hubs, and an important transit point for flights to and from Iran. The UAE has reported 13 cases of coronavirus, most of them connected to Chinese travel. The two most recent cases have been Iranian tourists.
Oman, another Persian Gulf country, suspended flights to and from Iran on Monday after two cases were reported.
Iran is emerging as another focal point for the illness, which is now spreading across the Middle East. On Monday, Iraq’s Health Ministry said that the number of cases had risen to five, after a family of four were diagnosed in the northern city of Kirkuk. In the southern city of Najaf, an additional 20 patients were in preemptive quarantine, the ministry said.
The Persian Gulf island country of Bahrain also reported its first two cases Monday, describing them as passengers who had traveled from Iran via Dubai. On Tuesday, it suspended flights to Dubai and announced six new cases, all having traveled from Iran via Dubai. The plane landed before the Bahraini decision to halt flights to Dubai.
The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health announced that four of the six infected people in Bahrain are Saudi nationals. It said they will remain in Bahrain while being treated.
By Sarah Dadouch and Louisa Loveluck
February 25, 2020 at 5:16 AM EST
Japan’s soccer league postpones games due to virus outbreak
TOKYO — Japan’s soccer league on Tuesday postponed three rounds of matches scheduled through March 15, to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The J-League said 94 league games would be rearranged, in response to government advice that the next two weeks were critical in combating the spread of the virus, Kyodo News reported.
Japan’s government has not banned all mass gatherings, but it urged organizers on Tuesday to consider whether such events are necessary in the coming weeks.
The J-League season began last weekend with matches in the top two divisions, while the matches in the third tier were due to begin on March 7.
Shigeru Omi, a medical expert and senior government adviser, said on Monday it was too early to tell whether Japan would still be able to stage the Olympics in Tokyo this summer.
Separately, the Kyodo News agency reported that the Yomiuri Giants, the Tokyo baseball team, will play two games in a closed stadium.
By Simon Denyer
February 25, 2020 at 5:15 AM EST
Britain urges travelers returning from northern Italy to self-isolate
LONDON — British health officials on Tuesday changed their advice for travelers returning to Britain from northern Italy, urging them to self-isolate if they had flu-like symptoms.
The new advice comes as Italy struggles to contain the biggest flare-up of coronavirus in Europe, with cases rising from three to more than 200 in a few days.
Speaking to “BBC Breakfast,” British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that anybody returning from northern Italy — areas north of Pisa — should self-isolate “if they have flu-like symptoms.” He added that anybody who has traveled to areas around the country that the Italian government has quarantined should self-isolate “whether or not they have symptoms.”
In Britain, 13 people have been infected with the virus, including four Britons who caught it while onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Several of the other cases are thought to be connected to a traveling businessman.
Hancock said there were no changes to the official advice on traveling to Italy.
Asked why Britain shouldn’t stop people entering the country from Italy, Hancock said that barring flights was not an effective solution.
“Indeed, if you look at Italy, they stopped all flights from China and they’re now the worst-affected country in Europe, which kind of demonstrates that purely stopping the flights doesn’t work.”
The Cheshire Live news site reported that a local school in Cheshire, England, was closing for a week amid concerns over students showing flu-like symptoms following a school ski trip last week to Bormio in the Lombardy region of Italy.
On the Cransley School’s Facebook page, Richard Pollock, the principal, said he made the decision to close the school “to completely minimise possible spread of infection.” Over the next week, he said, workers will “conduct a deep clean” of the school and “monitor the results of tests amongst those pupils who are currently showing flu-like symptoms.”
By Karla Adam
February 25, 2020 at 4:31 AM EST
Chinese official urges ‘low risk’ areas to restore normal order
Parts of China that are viewed as “low risk” during the coronavirus outbreak should resume normal activity, an official told a news briefing Tuesday, as the country’s Communist leaders fret over the epidemic’s economic costs.
Ou Xiaoli, an official with China’s state planning agency, told reporters that based on the severity of the outbreak, areas outside Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, and Beijing should be divided into three categories by county level: low-risk, medium-risk and high-risk areas.
Regions deemed low-risk should lift restrictions on road access and help businesses return to normal levels, Ou said, while high-risk regions should continue to focus on controlling the outbreak.
“People who live in these places may feel their daily travel is restricted,” the official added of the high-risk areas.
Ou did not name which areas would be considered high-risk, medium-risk or low-risk. In recent days, a number of provinces have lowered their health emergency levels, from level one, the highest, to level two, a sign that they are trying to resume normal economic activity as businesses reopen and workers emerge from quarantines.
For decades, the ability to deliver continued economic growth and a rise in living standards — in return for strict limits on political freedoms — has underpinned the Communist Party’s hold on power in China.
By Adam Taylor in Hong Kong and Liu Yang in Beijing
February 25, 2020 at 3:56 AM EST
Bracing for virus surge, Japan takes different approach from China
TOKYO — Bracing for a surge in coronavirus cases, Japan announced a new policy on Tuesday designed to focus medical care on the most serious cases, while urging people with mild symptoms to treat themselves at home.
It is radically different approach from that adopted by China, which has relied on locking down entire cities and keeping tens of millions of people virtual prisoners in their own homes, but it’s one that wins support from many medical experts.
The basic premise is that the spread of the virus can’t be stopped, so efforts need to focus on slowing the pace of transmission and reducing mortality rates.
Japan has confirmed at least 160 cases of coronavirus aside from more than 700 people who caught covid-19 on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship. The government maintains there are small “clusters” of infections but not a large-scale epidemic.
“We shouldn’t have illusions,” said Shigeru Omi, a senior government adviser. “We can’t stop this, but we can try to reduce the speed of expansion and reduce mortality.”
Hospital space will be reserved for patients with serious symptoms, while people with colds and fevers are urged to rest at home rather than seek medical care, especially in regions with many cases. Only if the fever persists for four days — or two days for the elderly, people with chronic diseases or pregnant women — should they contact local health-care centers.
Companies have been advised to promote teleworking and flexible working hours so workers can avoid commuting in packed rush-hour trains. Citizens are urged to limit prolonged face-to-face conversations, avoid crowded parties and drinking sessions, and wash their hands if they touch straps while commuting on trains, for example. The government didn’t issue a blanket ban on large-scale events, but asked organizers to consider whether such events were necessary.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said now is a crucial time to control the outbreak, and he appealed for public cooperation.
By Simon Denyer
February 25, 2020 at 3:47 AM EST
South Korean cases surge to 977 as Moon tours Daegu
SEOUL — South Korea reported 84 additional cases of the coronavirus late Tuesday, bringing to 144 the number of new infections confirmed for the day, as the country’s leader sought to reassure citizens about health officials’ capacity to contain the epidemic.
Some 543 out of South Korea’s 977 confirmed cases of the virus are in the southeastern city of Daegu, according to Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The country’s death toll from the virus also rose to 10.
President Moon Jae-in visited Daegu, which officials have declared a “special care zone” along with surrounding North Gyeongsang province.
“We can sufficiently overcome and definitely triumph over the covid-19,” Moon said, referring to the disease by its official name.
“The government has mobilized a nationwide support system joined by the military, the police and private medical personnel,” Moon told a meeting with Daegu officials.
South Korean officials said Tuesday they would test all 200,000 members of Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, a controversial church in Deagu at the center of the outbreak.
The 2.5 million residents of South Korea’s fourth-largest city have been advised to stay indoors, as the number of cases in the city rose from half a dozen to hundreds over the past week.
After the meeting, Moon visited Daegu Medical Center, where 115 coronavirus patients are hospitalized.
The center’s president, Yoo Wan-sik, told Moon that the hospital is “absolutely understaffed,” saying some medical workers did not have time to go home for rest.
Moon voiced concerns about the physical burden on doctors and promised support.
By Min Joo Kim
February 25, 2020 at 3:02 AM EST
Hong Kong extends school closures until late April
HONG KONG — Schools in Hong Kong, shut down for weeks to prevent coronavirus transmission, will not reopen before April 20, the city’s education minister said Tuesday.
The closures affect kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, while universities are expected to follow suit.
Students in Hong Kong have been out of school since the Lunar New Year holiday in January. The prolonged shutdown has taken a heavy toll on parents — many of whom are under forced work-from-home arrangements.
Standardized tests have also been affected, though university entrance exams will be held in late March as scheduled.
When schools eventually reopen, they will resume operations in phases, said Kevin Yeung, the secretary for education. Students taking standardized tests would also be required to wear surgical masks to prevent the spread of the virus.
By Shibani Mahtani
February 25, 2020 at 2:08 AM EST
Number of infected Filipinos on Diamond Princess jumps to 80 as government begins repatriation
MANILA — The number of Filipinos infected by the coronavirus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship has jumped to 80, an official announced Tuesday, as the government begins the repatriation for remaining citizens on board.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido Dulay announced the update on Twitter. He added that 10 have tested negative and were subsequently discharged. Those still sick will not be allowed to return to the Philippines.
Two chartered flights will carry more than 400 Philippine citizens on board the ship to Clark airport. They will spend two weeks in quarantine at the Athletes’ Village, where repatriates from Wuhan were also housed.
A total of 538 Filipinos were on board the ship, mostly crew members. The evacuees are expected to return to the Philippines on Tuesday evening.
By Regine Cabato
February 25, 2020 at 2:27 AM EST
Bahrain suspends flights to Dubai, one of the world’s busiest international airports
BEIRUT — The island nation of Bahrain suspended flights to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday amid fears that the coronavirus is spreading through the Middle East.
Bahrain reported its first two cases of covid-19 on Monday in passengers who had traveled to Iran via Dubai. Kuwait, Oman and Iraq also said on Monday that they had detected their first cases, one in each country and all of them linked to travel to Iran.
Iran says 14 people have died of the virus since it was first detected Wednesday, the highest death toll outside China. At least 50 people are known to be infected, the Iranian authorities have said, but the death toll suggests the true number is higher.
The United Arab Emirates was the first Middle Eastern country to detect the virus in late January, and has since confirmed 13 cases, linked mostly to travel to Iran but also China.
Dubai is one of the world’s busiest international airports and a hub for passengers from Iran to other parts of the region.
By Liz Sly
February 25, 2020 at 1:42 AM EST
Chinese woman who tested negative eight times has coronavirus, local government says
A Chinese woman who tested negative for the coronavirus eight times has been found to have the virus, according to a local government announcement.
The 56-year-old woman had been working in a hotel in Chongqing where she came into contact with an infected staff member, according to officials in Anyue county in Sichuan province.
The woman was placed under medical observation on Feb. 2, local news site Sichuan Observer reported on Tuesday, and she was subsequently tested for coronavirus eight times between Feb. 7 and Feb. 23.
A hospital test on Feb. 24 confirmed that she had the novel coronavirus, Anyue county officials said Tuesday. The woman is undergoing treatment at a hospital in the city of Ziyang, where she has been under isolation since Friday, the county said in a statement.
By Adam Taylor in Hong Kong and Liu Yang in Beijing
February 25, 2020 at 1:10 AM EST
South Korea says Daegu is on lockdown, but not ‘Wuhan-style’ lockdown
SEOUL — South Korean officials on Tuesday called for maximum efforts to contain the coronavirus, while stopping short of a Wuhan-style regional lockdown for the virus-hit city of Daegu.
South Korea’s ruling party spokesman announced early Tuesday a “maximum lockdown” for Daegu and surrounding North Gyeongsang province, although he later dialed down the language following a public backlash.
Spokesman Hong Ihk-pyo made the remark while briefing reporters about a morning meeting of representatives of the party, government and the presidential office to discuss emergency response to the virus. In a second briefing, Hong said he did not mean a “Wuhan-style lockdown” involving restrictions on all travel in and out of the city.
President Moon Jae-in also said the expression did not mean a regional lockdown of the Daegu area but a maximal obstruction of the viral spread, according to his spokesman Kang Min-seok.
The approach of officials in South Korea, a democracy, differs from that of authoritarian China and appears to reflect concern over the potential political effects of placing a major metropolis under lockdown.
In response to the mention of “lockdown,” Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin said that “the political establishment should not rashly exploit that matter.”
More than half of South Korea’s 893 coronavirus cases are in Daegu, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
South Korea’s government has designated Daegu city and North Gyeongsang as “special care zones” where support will be concentrated.
By Min Joo Kim
February 25, 2020 at 12:55 AM EST
Chinese official suggests 28 days needed to confirm no new cases
As debate continues about the length of the incubation period in cases of the novel coronavirus, a Chinese official suggested Monday evening that the country needs at least 28 days without new cases to show the virus is not spreading.
Zhang Ying, deputy director of Tianjin’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, was asked during a news program on state broadcaster CCTV when citizens could feel safe that the outbreak was contained.
“Speaking in terms of epidemiology, we have to keep observing for at least two longest incubation periods of time since the last infection cleared, and in the case of coronavirus, it is 28 days in total,” Zhang said, referring to the 14-day quarantines in place.
“When no more new infections have been reported after 28 days, we can feel 100 percent at ease,” Zhang continued.
The remarks drew thousands of comments on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service, where many wondered how long they would have to wait before normal life resumed. “Two months will have 60% of enterprises killed!” one user wrote.
Zhang’s comments come amid scrutiny of the advice given by Zhong Nanshan, a renowned pulmonologist and a member of the national experts team in the coronavirus control work, who recommended between 10 and 14 days quarantine for suspected coronavirus cases.
Friday, Hubei province announced that a 70-year-old man in Sennongjiang was confirmed as having coronavirus after a 27-day incubation period.
By Adam Taylor in Hong Kong and Wang Yuan in Beijing
February 25, 2020 at 12:45 AM EST
Hong Kong activist sends message of support to South Koreans
Joshua Wong, a prominent activist within Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and a critic of the Chinese government, has sent a message of support to South Korea as the country reels from a surge in coronavirus cases.
“I am sorry that the number of coronavirus cases is surging in South Korea. Many South Korean people supported the Hong Kong democracy movement. I always feel grateful to the people of South Korea who showed support,” Wong wrote in Korean on Twitter.
Wong and other Hong Kong-based activists have been critical of Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Some pro-Chinese government voices, such as Global Times editor Hu Xijin, have used the outbreak in South Korea as evidence that Beijing is handling the outbreak well.
By Adam Taylor in Hong Kong and Min Joo Kim in Seoul
February 25, 2020 at 12:30 AM EST
Fourth Diamond Princess cruise ship passenger dies
TOKYO — A fourth former passenger from the Diamond Princess has died, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported on Tuesday.
All four fatalities involved people in their 80s, according to the Health Ministry and NHK. More than 200 people over 80 were on board the cruise ship, and the rising death toll will reinforce criticism about keeping vulnerable people confined on board the vessel, where it was difficult to protect them from infection and provide prompt medical care.
Japan says 691 people on board the Diamond Princess tested positive for the virus, although that number does not include more than 20 people who were also found to have the virus on their return to the United States, Australia and Hong Kong, and one Japanese passenger who fell ill after returning home.
Separately Japan has recorded 160 cases of the new coronavirus as of the start of Tuesday, according to a tally by NHK, including 14 Japanese citizens who were evacuated on charter flights from the Chinese city of Wuhan.
By Simon Denyer
February 25, 2020 at 12:01 AM EST
China reports 508 new confirmed cases, 71 deaths
HONG KONG — The Chinese government announced Tuesday that there had been 508 new confirmed cases by the end of the previous day, along with 74 deaths, bringing the total number of accumulated infections to 77,658 with 2,663 deaths.
As in line with a recent trend, the vast majority of the impact was in the locked-down province of Hubei. There were 499 new cases in the province, with 68 new deaths, the official figures showed.
The number of deaths was less than half what was reported the day before, but experts have urged caution against relying too much on Chinese statistics and inferring too much from day-to-day changes.
By Adam Taylor