Moments after President Trump announced that Vice President Pence will take over the White House’s coronavirus task force, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that a northern California person has contracted the coronavirus without traveling outside the United States or coming in contact with another patient known to have the infection — the first sign that the disease may be spreading within a local community.
The president said the risk to Americans is “very low” and that people are being screened coming into the country from infected areas.
Meanwhile, the Dow Jones industrial average endured its worst two-day slump in four years Tuesday. On Wednesday, it was up 300 points shortly after open, but closed down about 124 points.
On European and Asian financial markets, economic alarms continued to flash, however, with cases spreading and little sign that the epidemic was relenting after the CDC warned of the “inevitable” spread in the United States of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
France reported the first death of a French citizen from the epidemic as cases grew rapidly across Europe, with Spain confirming eight new cases in the past 24 hours and new infections reported in Germany, Greece, France, Croatia, Austria and Switzerland. A new case in Brazil marks the first known case in Latin America. Although China announced a decline in new confirmed cases on Wednesday, the number of infected people soared in South Korea to more than 1,200, with more expected in the coming days as the country attempts to test 200,000 people.
● A new case of coronavirus was confirmed in the United States on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 60. The CDC later said the northern California person had contracted the virus without traveling outside the United States or coming in contact with another patient known to have the infection.
● France reported the first coronavirus death of a French citizen amid a dramatic uptick in cases within Europe. Most new cases are connected to an outbreak in northern Italy, still the largest on the continent.
● Brazil confirmed its first case, which also marks the first known case in Latin America.
● Statistics released by the Chinese government showed a decline in the number of new cases in mainland China; an additional 406 cases were reported Wednesday morning, along with 52 deaths. All but five of the new cases and all of the new deaths were in Hubei province.
● South Korea reported 284 additional cases of the coronavirus Wednesday, raising the national tally to 1,261. That number is expected to rise in coming days as the country begins the mass testing of more than 200,000 members of a messianic religious movement at the center of an outbreak in the city of Daegu.
Asian stock markets extended losses Thursday as the spread of the coronavirus outbreak kept investors on edge.
The growing fears of a pandemic had already wiped more than $3.6 trillion from global stock markets by Wednesday’s close, Reuters reported.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.5 percent and is down more than 4 percent for the week.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 1 percent and has lost 7 percent this week. Japan’s Nikkei fell 1.7 percent to its lowest since October. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 1 percent.
U.S. oil futures were down nearing $48 a barrel in Asia.
February 26, 2020 at 10:00 PM EST
Pelosi, AOC slam Trump’s coronavirus news conference
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) issued separated statements criticizing Donald Trump’s response to coronavirus Wednesday, which the sepaker called “opaque and chaotic.”
“The American people need a well-coordinated, whole-of-government, fully-funded response to keep them safe from the coronavirus threat,” Pelosi wrote. “The Trump Administration has left critical positions in charge of managing pandemics at the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security vacant.”
In a tweet, Ocasio-Cortez responded to Trump’s decision to place Vice President Pence in charge of the White House’s coronavirus task force, writing, “Mike Pence literally does not believe in science.”
“It is utterly irresponsible to put him in charge of US coronavirus response as the world sits on the cusp of a pandemic,” she tweeted, citing Pence’s response to HIV as governor of Indiana . “This decision could cost people their lives.”
By Michael Brice-Saddler
February 26, 2020 at 9:21 PM EST
Azar was unaware of decision to put Pence in charge of virus response
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who has been leading the coronavirus task force, was blindsided by the White House decision to put Vice President Pence in charge of the response to the virus outbreak, according to five people familiar with the situation, who said Azar learned of the decision only moments before the Wednesday evening news conference.
Pence is scheduled to run a coronavirus task force meeting at HHS on Thursday, two sources familiar with the plans said. One senior administration official said Pence was going to HHS to lead the meeting, instead of the White House, “as a show of support to Azar.”
Earlier in the day, Azar pushed back on reports that the administration was considering appointing a czar to run the response. President Trump said he did not consider Pence a czar, but noted that everyone involved in the response would report to the vice president.
By Yasmeen Abutaleb and Joshua Dawsey
February 26, 2020 at 9:04 PM EST
Chinese coronavirus tally continues to grow
The Chinese government on Thursday reported 433 new confirmed coronavirus infections, 29 new deaths and 508 new suspected cases by the end of the day Wednesday. Twenty-six of the deaths were in the Hubei province.
This brought China’s cumulative totals to 78,497 cases and 2,744 deaths. Experts have warned against gleaning too much from Chinese statistics and day-to-day changes.
By Michael Brice-Saddler
February 26, 2020 at 8:46 PM EST
State Department issues travel advisory for South Korea
As South Korea’s total number of coronavirus cases continued to grow Thursday, the U.S. Department of State issued a Level 3 travel advisory for the country — urging citizens to “avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security.”
If travel to South Korea is essential, the State Department recommends adhering to CDC guidelines for the prevention of coronavirus.
By Michael Brice-Saddler
February 26, 2020 at 8:24 PM EST
U.S. and South Korean militaries postpone key joint exercise
SEOUL — The U.S. and South Korean militaries said Thursday they are postponing a key joint military exercise as South Korea reported another jump in coronavirus cases.
“In light of the ROK government’s declaration of the highest alert level ‘severe’ on COVID-19, the ROK-US Alliance made the decision to postpone the combined command post training for the ROK-US Combined Forces Command until further notice,” U.S.-South Korean Combined Forces Command said in a statement.
With 334 new virus cases, South Korea’s national tally of the virus jumped to 1,595, which includes a U.S. soldier stationed in the country.
The 23-year-old man is the first member of the U.S. military to contract the virus.
Thursday’s jump was expected as South Korea conducted over 10,000 virus tests the previous day.
President Trump said the United States may need to restrict travel to virus-hit countries outside China.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Trump responded to a question about travel restrictions on Italy and South Korea, saying, “At the right time we may do that. Right now it’s not the right time.”
He said the two countries have been “hit pretty hard” by the coronavirus.
By Min Joo Kim
February 26, 2020 at 8:18 PM EST
A person in N. California has tested positive for coronavirus, the first U.S. case with no known link to foreign travel
A northern California person has contracted the coronavirus without traveling outside the United States or coming in contact with another patient known to have the infection, the first sign that the disease may be spreading within a local community, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday night.
How the person acquired the respiratory disease is unknown.
“It’s possible this could be an instance of community spread of covid-19, which would be the first time this has happened in the United States,” the CDC said in a statement. The health agency left open the possibility, however “that the patient may have been exposed to a returned traveler who was infected.”
The state of California, however, called the case its first instance of community transmission. The case was first reported by The Washington Post.
Community spread would represent a significant turn for the worse in the battle against the virus. To date, the United States has 60 known cases of the infection, with 59 among people who traveled to Asia or were spouses of people who went there. The vast majority, 42, picked up the virus while quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan.
The CDC said the case “was detected through the U.S. public health system — picked up by astute clinicians.” The agency said only that the person lived in California.
If the infection is confirmed to be a case of “community spread,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, epidemiologist and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, “it would confirm what we have long suspected — that there is a good chance there already are people infected in this country and that the virus is circulating undetected. It points to the need for expanded surveillance so we know how many more are out there and how to respond.”
The individual is a resident of Solano County, according to the California Department of Public Health. The patient is being treated at UC Davis Medical Center, according to a person familiar with the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details are not public.
By Lenny Bernstein, Lena H. Sun and Laurie McGinley
February 26, 2020 at 7:02 PM EST
Trump says Pence will lead response, risk to Americans ‘very low’
Trump announced at a news conference that Vice President Pence will take over the White House’s coronavirus task force.
The president said the risk to Americans is “very low” and that people are being screened coming into the country from infected areas.
“We have quarantined those infected and those at risk,” he said.
Trump said he’ll leave it up to Congress to decide how much money to allocate in emergency funding, that he’s willing “to spend whatever is appropriate” and “be satisfied with whatever” amount.
He also said the United States is “rapidly developing a vaccine,” but did not provide any more details. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, contradicted the president, saying a vaccine won’t be ready for more than a year.
Trump sought to play down the impact on Americans focusing instead on the first 15 U.S. cases, referring to them as “the original 15.”
By Colby Itkowitz
February 26, 2020 at 6:09 PM EST
Saudi Arabia temporarily suspends pilgrimage travel over coronavirus
Saudi Arabia suspended religious visits to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina on Thursday because of concerns about coronavirus, its Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced.
The decision, which will affect those seeking to perform pilgrimage travel to the country, such as the Umrah pilgrimage, was aimed at forestalling the spread of the disease, according to the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news channel. The suspension will also affect those seeking to visit the Prohpet’s Mosque in Medina.
It wasn’t immediately clear how long the suspension would last.
By Michael Brice-Saddler
February 26, 2020 at 5:45 PM EST
Leader of Italy’s Lombardy region says he will be in quarantine for next two weeks
ROME — For nearly a week, he has been one of the most visible political figures in Italy, the president of the region at the center of the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
But Wednesday night, Lombardy regional President Attilio Fontana said he would be voluntarily placing himself in quarantine for the next 14 days.
Fontana said he is taking the precaution after a “close collaborator” of his was found to have contracted the virus. Fontana underwent testing — causing the cancellation of his scheduled news conference — and though his tests were negative, he said he would follow the same protocol that health officials were asking of other Italians.
“So for two weeks I’ll try to live in a kind of self-isolation so as to chiefly protect those around me,” Fontana said in a Facebook video, in which he strapped on a sea-green face mask as he spoke.
“So when you see me like this in the next few days,” Fontana said, “don’t be scared, it’s always me.”
By Chico Harlan
February 26, 2020 at 5:26 PM EST
Microsoft lowers earnings expectations, cites coronavirus outbreak
Add Microsoft to the list of companies lowering earnings expectations over coronavirus worries.
The Redmond, Wash., software giant said Wednesday that it would not meet the fiscal third-quarter guidance it offered in January for the unit that includes its Windows operating system sales. At the time, Microsoft said it expected $10.75 billion to $11.15 billion in quarterly revenue for its More Personal Computing segment.
While demand from personal computer makers for Windows remains strong, the company said the supply chain for the business is “returning to normal operations at a slower pace than anticipated” because of the coronavirus outbreak. As a result, the company believes it will not meet its earlier guidance for the segment.
Microsoft did not provide an updated forecast. But Stifel Nicolaus & Co. analyst Brad Reback, who had expected Microsoft to generate between $3 billion and $4 billion in sales of Windows to PC makers in the quarter, said it is not “absurd to think half of that could be impacted.” And “several hundred million dollars” of sales from Microsoft’s Surface PC business also could be at risk, he said.
But those sales, Reback noted, are not lost, just deferred until the effect of the coronavirus subsides.
Last week, Apple warned that it expects to miss revenue goals in the current quarter because of the coronavirus outbreak.
By Jay Greene
February 26, 2020 at 5:11 PM EST
Romania confirms first coronavirus case
Romania’s health minister on Wednesday confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the country, Reuters reported. The man was reportedly from the county of Gorj, but additional information about him was not immediately available.
“The man had been in direct contact with an Italian citizen who traveled to Romania earlier this month,” Health Minister Victor Costache told reporters, according to Reuters. “He is in a good condition and will be transferred to a Bucharest infectious hospital.”
By Michael Brice-Saddler
February 26, 2020 at 4:30 PM EST
Former HHS secretary says Trump is ‘last person’ who should be talking about science
Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), who served as the health and human services secretary in Bill Clinton’s administration, chastised Trump over his planned news briefing this evening, arguing that only medical professionals and scientists should be speaking to the public about the coronavirus.
Shalala said during an appearance on MSNBC that this was especially so when it comes to Trump.
“This is an anti-science administration,” she said. “The last person the American people trust is the president of the United States talking about science.”
By Colby Itkowitz
February 26, 2020 at 3:40 PM EST
Christians mark Ash Wednesday even as virus leads to some unconventional observances
Millions of Christians around the world marked Ash Wednesday, the start of the 40-day Lent period ahead of Easter — even as the coronavirus led to some unconventional observances.
Some attending Pope Francis’s mass in St. Peter’s Square donned face masks, while other churches in Italy declined to hold mass at all as the coronavirus outbreak there continues to grow. In Asia, some congregations broadcast services online. In the Philippines, Catholic nuns sprinkled ash on congregants’ heads rather than rubbing it in with their fingers, after Catholic leaders there recommended the alternative practice to minimize physical contact. In Singapore, where nearly 100 people have been diagnosed with the virus, churches broadcast services online to prevent people from crowding together.
Hong Kong banned Catholic masses as a preventive measure earlier this month. And in South Korea, where two churches have been identified as key conduits for the spread of the virus, churches remained closed Wednesday. It was the first time since Catholic churches were established there more than 200 years ago that they were closed, the Associated Press reported.
By Miriam Berger
February 26, 2020 at 3:20 PM EST
Iraq implements new domestic restrictions and travel bans
BEIRUT — Iraq’s Ministry of Health announced new restrictions to combat the spread of coronavirus late Wednesday, suspending schools and universities and closing cafes, theaters, clubs and any public gathering areas in the country for 10 days, from Thursday until March 7.
It also banned citizens from traveling to nine countries, including Iran, China, Bahrain and Kuwait, and banned the entry of travelers from Kuwait and Bahrain.
The announcement came a day after four new cases were reported in Iraq. The four patients were the first citizens to contract the virus, bringing the total of infected to five in the country.
Iraq has closed crossings along its borders with Iran, which has emerged as an epicenter for the spread of the virus in the Middle East. Cases linked to Iranian tourists or visits to Iran have emerged in Lebanon, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait.
By Sarah Dadouch
February 26, 2020 at 3:10 PM EST
Pentagon says too early to know if military will need more money to deal with coronavirus
Senior Defense Department officials told lawmakers Wednesday that they had no initial answer to whether they anticipated asking for more money to deal with the virus threat within the military.
“We have not had that discussion yet,” Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said at a budget hearing before the House Armed Services Committee. “This is moving very quickly,” he acknowledged, but “I want to discuss it with the Chairman, the combatant commanders,” including the commander of the U.S. Northern Command.
Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that, in the absence of those discussions, “we can’t give you a definitive answer right now” about funding.
Esper said he has been in direct contact with Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, which has the second largest number of confirmed cases outside China. One U.S. soldier, diagnosed with the virus this week was transferred by ambulance to an isolation unit at Camp Humphreys, the main U.S. base on the divided Korean Peninsula, the independent military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported from Seoul. The paper said that “several service members and others” had also been quarantined on the base “as a protective measure.”
Abrams has taken some actions, including restricting access to U.S. bases, Esper said. At Camp Humphreys Wednesday, lines as long as five hours formed at entry gates, where soldiers wearing gloves and face masks took temperatures and questioned morning commuters, Stars and Stripes said.
By Karen DeYoung
February 26, 2020 at 2:50 PM EST
Israel updates travel warnings and quarantine restrictions
JERUSALEM — Israel’s Ministry of Health updated its travel warning Wednesday, cautioning the Israeli public against traveling abroad, and in particular against participating in large gatherings such as conferences or religious events as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread.
The new advisory also added new restrictions for visitors from Italy, where an outbreak is growing.
Starting Wednesday, anyone arriving from Italy will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days. The mandate is delayed to allow travelers time to prepare, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.
By Ruth Eglash and Miriam Berger
February 26, 2020 at 2:30 PM EST
Hand rashes from overwashing, ulcers from perpetual masks: Nurses describe life on coronavirus front lines
With U.S. doctors and nurses just starting to gear up for the spread of coronavirus, Chinese medical workers have posted a remarkable account of what life is like there — a warning of sorts about what other countries may experience in coming weeks and months.
In a letter published in the Lancet, a medical journal, two nurses describe how medical workers in Wuhan have developed ulcers on their ears and foreheads from wearing protective masks all the time. They said equipment shortages are so severe, they are cleaning and reusing plastic goggles to the point they are hard to see through anymore.
Yingchun Zeng, from the Guangzhou Medical hospital, and Yan Zhen, from the Sun Yat-sen Memorial hospital, are among the 14,000 nurses from across China sent to Wuhan as reinforcements.
Their account paints a stark, vivid picture of the front lines. Putting on protective gear takes so much time and energy, they said, many now abstain from eating and drinking two hours before going into an isolation ward so they won’t have to go to the bathroom. As a result, some nurses’ mouths are covered in blisters. Others have fainted from hypoglycemia.
On top of the physical exhaustion and challenges, medical workers are being stretched to their limits psychologically, say the two nurses, who arrived in Wuhan on Jan. 24. “While we are professional nurses, we are also human. Like everyone else, we feel helplessness, anxiety, and fear,” they said. “Even experienced nurses may also cry, possibly because we do not know how long we need to stay here and we are the highest-risk group for COVID-19 infection.”
They ended their letter in the Lancet — one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals — with a plea: “We need much more help. We are asking nurses and medical staff from countries around the world to come to China now, to help us in this battle.”
By William Wan
February 26, 2020 at 2:00 PM EST
Canada confirms 12th coronavirus case in woman who traveled to Iran
TORONTO — A woman who recently traveled to Iran has tested positive for coronavirus in Canada, public health officials said Wednesday, bringing the total number of people with the virus in the country to 12.
The Toronto-based woman, who is in her 60s, returned from Iran on Feb. 15, Eileen de Villa, the city’s chief medical officer, told reporters. The woman had a cough, a sore throat, a fever and body aches and went to a Toronto hospital on Feb. 24, where she was tested for the virus.
Health officials declined to provide details on the woman’s flight. They are investigating whom she may have had contact with during the nine days between her arrival in Toronto and her visit to the hospital. She is now in self-isolation at home.
Most of the people with coronavirus in Canada had recently traveled to China or had close contact with people who had done so and were later found to have the virus. This is the third case in Canada involving a patient with a recent history of travel to Iran or contact with someone who recently traveled there.
David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said that the risk to Ontarians posed by the novel coronavirus is “low.” Officials are working to determine whether people can be reinfected with the virus, he said, as well as whether those who are infected develop immunity to it.
Earlier this week, the last group of Canadians who were repatriated from Wuhan, China, were released from their 14-day quarantine at an Ontario military base. None has tested positive for the virus, Williams said.
By Amanda Coletta
February 26, 2020 at 1:50 PM EST
New coronavirus case detected in U.S., Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar tells Congress
U.S. officials have discovered a new coronavirus case in the United States just since Wednesday morning, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told a congressional committee Wednesday.
“As of this morning, we still had only 14 cases of the novel coronavirus detected in the United States involving travel to or close contacts with travelers,” Azar said. “Coming into this hearing, I was informed that we have a 15th confirmed case, the epidemiology of which we are still discerning.”
That brings the total number of cases in the United States to around 60, because the U.S. has brought back 42 people from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan who have the virus, and there are another three cases as well.
“While the immediate risks to the American public remain low, there is now community transmission in a number of places, including outside of Asia, which is deeply concerning,” Azar said. “We are working closely with state and local and private-sector partners to prepare for mitigating the virus’s potential spread in the United States as we expect to see more cases here.”
Georgia announces first coronavirus case, links to Iran
Georgia confirmed its first coronavirus case Wednesday, joining a growing list of countries from Europe and the Middle East reporting new infections as the epidemic grows.
Georgian Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze said the patient is a Georgian citizen who had been traveling back from Iran via Azerbaijan, which borders both countries, Reuters reported.
“He was immediately taken to a hospital from the border checkpoint,” the news agency reported Tikaradze as saying. In recent days, Iran and Italy joined Japan and South Korea as key clusters of the virus outside China, where the outbreak began.
World Health Organization: China not sharing data on health-care worker coronavirus infections
The World Health Organization has pressed China for information about coronavirus infections among health-care workers, but Beijing has not provided it — leaving a data gap that could hurt the global response.
In response to questions from The Washington Post, WHO said it has repeatedly asked Chinese officials for “disaggregated” data — meaning specific figures broken out from the overall numbers — that could shed light on hospital transmission and help assess the level of risk facing front-line workers.
“We received disaggregated information at intervals, though not details about health-care workers,” said Tarik Jasaravic, a spokesman for the Geneva-based organization.
The comment, in a Saturday email to The Post, was one of the first instances that the U.N. health agency has directly addressed shortcomings in China’s reporting or handling of the coronavirus crisis.
It could renew fear that Beijing is either unable or unwilling to share all of the information that scientists and public health experts need to understand the virus.
Details about front-line worker infections are “critical for developing preparedness plans in countries around the world,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
“Giving that information to the World Health Organization is also important from a credibility standpoint,” she said.
WHO’s credibility is also on the line. In recent weeks, as evidence mounted that China silenced whistleblowers and undercounted cases, WHO has continued to heap praise on Beijing.
“China should be transparent, and WHO should be transparent with the broader community,” said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University who also provides technical assistance to the WHO.
“This is health communication 101,” he continued. “Tell us everything you know, tell us what you don’t know and tell us what you are doing to find out what you don’t know.”
By Emily Rauhala
February 26, 2020 at 12:40 PM EST
Coronavirus raises fears of U.S. drug supply disruptions
The crisis highlights a growing vulnerability: Not only are many medications used in the United States manufactured overseas, but critical ingredients — and the chemicals used to make them — also are overwhelmingly made in China and other countries. The supply chain’s roots now run so deep that it is difficult to fully anticipate where critical shortages could emerge.
Rosemary Gibson, author of the book “ChinaRx” and a senior adviser at the Hastings Center, a bioethics think tank, said China has a “global choke hold” on the chemical components that make up key ingredients.
The FDA said no companies are reporting drug shortages linked to the coronavirus. But in a sign of its efforts to get ahead of any problems, an FDA spokeswoman said the agency has contacted 180 China-based prescription-drug manufacturers, asking them to evaluate their supply chains and reminding them that they are required to notify the FDA of any coming disruptions. Many U.S. drug companies buy Chinese-made active pharmaceutical ingredients, called APIs, in bulk, insulating themselves against a supply disruption for weeks, months or even a year.
The 20 products the agency is watching especially closely use raw materials that all come from China, the FDA said.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan has confirmed two cases of coronavirus, the country’s top health official said Wednesday, marking the first recorded cases of the virus in the country.
“Both cases are being taken care of according to clinical standard protocols & both of them are stable,” Zafar Mirza, the state minister of health, tweeted Wednesday. “No need to panic, things are under control.”
Mirza said he would hold a news conference Thursday.
The health official previously had expressed concern about the growing outbreak in neighboring Iran. Pakistan has temporarily closed its border with Iran to try to prevent the virus from spreading.
Several Pakistani students studying in China also have been diagnosed with the virus. The Pakistani government has refused to repatriate hundreds of its citizens stranded in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak.
By Shaiq Hussain and Siobhán O’Grady
February 26, 2020 at 12:00 PM EST
Red Sox quarantine Taiwanese prospect in Florida
Boston Red Sox prospect Chih-Jung Liu was scheduled to start spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., last week. But the Taiwanese pitcher had to put his plans on hold when coronavirus fears prompted the team to quarantine him in his hotel room.
A Red Sox spokesman told the Boston Globe that the team is acting out of an “overabundance of caution” by keeping Liu in temporary isolation. The Globe reported that Liu wrote on Facebook that he is passing his time reading and “watching information about the team” online. He’s being monitored by Red Sox health officials.
The promising right-hander signed with the team late last year, earning a $750,000 bonus.
Another Taiwanese Red Sox player, infielder Tzu-Wei Lin, was temporarily quarantined earlier this month, the Globe reported. “I had been here for a week and they said I needed to go back to my apartment,” the Globe reported Lin as saying. “I was fine. I stayed away for one day and that was it.”
More than 30 cases of the virus have been confirmed in Taiwan.
By Siobhán O’Grady
February 26, 2020 at 11:30 AM EST
Singapore charges coronavirus patient with lying about movements
A Chinese national infected with the coronavirus could face up to six months behind bars in Singapore over allegations that he lied to authorities about his movements within the city.
Singaporean authorities said they charged the 38-year-old man from Wuhan, China, on Wednesday under the city-state’s rarely used Infectious Disease Act, Reuters reported. The man came down with the coronavirus in late January, and his wife was quarantined at the time as a precaution.
Officials allege that the man failed to comply with Singapore’s rigorous contact-tracing protocols. He has been charged “in view of the potentially serious repercussions of the false information … and the risk they could have posed to public health,” Singapore’s Health Ministry said, according to Reuters.
He is facing a fine of about $7,000 or six months in prison as a first-time offender.
In a related move Wednesday, Singaporean authorities revoked the residency of a 45-year-old man who they said did not comply with a mandated 14-day quarantine after returning from China, Reuters reported.
Human Rights Watch has warned that Singapore has a “stifling” political environment, in which “citizens face severe restrictions on their basic rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly through overly broad criminal laws and regulations.”
That infrastructure for government control has enabled the city-state to react swiftly to the spread of the coronavirus, eliciting both praise and criticism for its tactics.
China, where the outbreak started, also has made use of its top-down government infrastructure to impose wide-ranging forced quarantines, among other policies that the World Health Organization has repeatedly praised. Public health experts have questioned the effectiveness of many of these tactics in containing the virus.
Heavy-handed governmental responses have spread along with the coronavirus. In Iran, where cases have skyrocketed over the past week, authorities resorted to a familiar response Wednesday: arresting 24 people accused of spreading “misinformation” about this virus on the Internet, the semiofficial Iranian Students’ News Agency reported.
By Miriam Berger
February 26, 2020 at 11:05 AM EST
Congressional leaders launch emergency spending talks for coronavirus response
Congressional leaders planned to begin designing a large emergency spending package Wednesday for dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, revealing the wide gulf between lawmakers who have demanded more action and a White House that has sought a more measured response.
Even government officials have been split internally about how to respond, with some health officials urging more public preparedness while a number of political appointees have sought to downplay the risks. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, appearing at a congressional hearing Wednesday, sought to clarify that the near-term risk to Americans was low, but that the number of cases would most likely increase.
“The risk right now is very low to Americans,” Azar said. “From a public health perspective, we technically are in a state of containment in the United States. … We have always been clear … that could change rapidly,” and added that U.S. officials “fully expect we will see more cases here in the United States.”
By Erica Werner and Yasmeen Abutaleb
February 26, 2020 at 10:40 AM EST
New case in Brazil marks first in Latin America
RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian officials said Wednesday that a Brazilian man has tested positive for the coronavirus, marking the first registered case in Latin America and opening up a new front in a global struggle against a virus that has already left thousands of people dead.
The patient was a 61-year-old Sao Paulo man who had just flown in from Italy, where he had traveled alone for work through the Lombardy region, one of the most heavily affected areas in Europe. He traveled home without symptoms, which only manifested Sunday, causing him to go to the hospital Monday.
“Ultimately, this is a situation … we are trying to map to understand the movement of people and of the virus,” said Luiz Henrique Mandetta, the Brazilian minister of health. “We are increasing our surveillance and preparations to attend to people. Sao Paulo is our most populous city.”
Until now, Latin America had remained untouched by the virus. But already the virus’s economic impact was expected to be significant for a region that counts China among its most vital trading partners.
Officials said the patient had a sore throat and cough, but his symptoms overall were not severe. He has since returned home to recover.
José Henrique Germann Ferreira, the Sao Paulo secretary of health, said a “new phase” has begun as officials plot how to contain the spread of the disease. He said the number of suspected cases is expected to increase, as officials work to see with whom the patient had been in contact.
“We are beginning a new phase in measures to mitigate the effects of disease in the state of Sao Paulo and in all of Brazil,” he said.
By Terrence McCoy
February 26, 2020 at 10:02 AM EST
Iran struggles to contain coronavirus outbreak, putting Mideast countries at risk
ISTANBUL — Iran is emerging as the center of an outbreak of the coronavirus across the Middle East, where cases in at least five countries have been linked to patients who had traveled to Iran in recent weeks, authorities said.
In Iran, 139 people have contracted the virus, including the deputy health minister and a prominent member of parliament. Nineteen people have died, according to the Health Ministry — the largest death toll from the virus outside China, where it first appeared. More than 2,400 have died in China.
The government has struggled to contain the spread of infections after reporting the first confirmed cases in the holy Shiite city of Qom last week. Since then, the virus has appeared in multiple Iranian cities, and infections in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon and Oman have all been traced back to Iran.
Several countries have halted flights to the Islamic republic. On Wednesday, Bahrain said that its number of coronavirus infections has risen to 26, after three more cases were detected among people who had recently returned from Iran, state media reported.
In Iraq, which borders Iran, authorities closed border crossings, and medical teams at the country’s airports monitored arriving passengers after five people were confirmed infected. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians visit Iraq’s holy city of Najaf each year, and shrines and schools there were shuttered Wednesday, and the streets were largely empty, residents said.
But even as regional governments moved to control the outbreak, Iranian authorities came under fire for what critics said is an inadequate response to the threat. Iranian officials have rejected calls to quarantine major cities and have allowed communal prayer services to continue in places such as Qom, where the virus first emerged in Iran. Nurses and other medical personnel have complained in interviews and on social media that authorities were preventing health workers from wearing masks and were forcing staff to purchase their own gloves.
World Health Organization says more coronavirus cases appear outside China than inside
The World Health Organization said Wednesday that there are more new cases of coronavirus outside China than inside China, a watershed moment in the global path of the disease.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, briefed diplomats in Geneva on Wednesday, assuring them that “yesterday, the number of new cases reported outside China exceeded the number of new cases in China for the first time,” according to Agence France-Presse.
According to the United Nations Health Agency, the number of new cases recorded in China was 411, but the number recorded outside the country — in Iran, Europe and elsewhere — was 427.
The coronavirus outbreak has become a decidedly global phenomenon, with governments around the world struggling to plan effective responses while assuring increasingly anxious citizens.
At a news conference in Rome on Wednesday, Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, specified that there are 80,000 cases worldwide, although the vast majority are still in China. In the last 24 hours, four new WHO member states, including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Oman and Iraq, have all reported new cases, he said.
France reported the death of the first French citizen from the virus Wednesday morning, and authorities were struggling to understand how the 60-year-old patient had contracted the virus in the first place, as he had not traveled recently either to China or Italy, the center of the European outbreak.
The Japanese Health Ministry likewise reported the death of an 80-year-old man Wednesday. He had contracted the virus and died of pneumonia, officials said.
By James McAuley
February 26, 2020 at 9:05 AM EST
Wall Street makes a comeback after brutal coronavirus sell-off
Panic gripping Wall Street showed some signs of easing Wednesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average up 300 points shortly after open, although the coronavirus’s rapid spread in Italy, Iran and South Korea seems to have investors elsewhere worrying that the worst is still to come.
Investors are increasingly waking up to the potential fallout of an outbreak that already has claimed thousands of lives; it’s upended global supply chains, dramatically slowed travel, and taken a bite out of a corporate earnings. Oxford Economics is predicting the virus could slow global growth to its lowest levels since the financial crisis.
Wall Street’s demeanor darkened significantly Tuesday after officials from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that the virus would inevitably take its toll on the United States and asked businesses and local communities to brace for impact. The Dow Jones industrial average endured its worst two-day slump in four years, with the blue-chip index chalking back-to-back 3 percent declines. But Wednesday’s rebound suggests investors are wading back in after the bloodbath.
“This kind of sell-off creates some of the best buying opportunities for bulls but uncertainty regarding the virus remains high, and volatility is likely here to stay until the global situation stabilizes,” Gorilla Trades strategist Ken Berman wrote in commentary Tuesday.
Overseas investors did not share Wall Street’s optimism. Europe’s benchmark Stoxx 600 index was down 0.6 percent in midday trading, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index closed down 0.7 percent and Japan’s Nikkei 225 closed down nearly 0.8 percent.
Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, fell 1.5 percent to $53.47 a barrel. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rebounded slightly from Tuesday’s all-time low. Yields drop as the price of bonds rises.
More than 800,000 South Koreans call for President Moon to be impeached over virus
TOKYO — More than 800,000 South Koreans have signed a petition calling for President Moon Jae-in to be impeached over his handling of the coronavirus epidemic, arguing that he was more worried about currying favor with the Chinese government than curbing the spread of the disease.
Moon has been widely criticized by his conservative opponents for failing to suspend travel from China, with restrictions applying only to people from the worst-affected province of Hubei and its capital, Wuhan.
“The most important thing for the president of the Republic of Korea is protecting its own people. Had he thought of his fellow Koreans, he should have banned entry of visitors from all parts of China,” the petition says.
The petition also criticizes Moon for sending 3 million face masks to China, while failing to address a spike in the price of masks in his own country.
“Seeing Moon Jae-in’s response to the new coronavirus, I feel that he is more of a president for China than Korea,” the petition says. “We cannot just watch this catastrophe anymore.”
South Koreans are fond of petitions and demonstrations, but with legislative elections in April, this could mark the first time that the international coronavirus epidemic becomes an active election issue.
South Korea has reported 1,146 coronavirus cases and 12 deaths, the second-highest national tally after China.
The presidential Blue House has to respond to any petition that garners more than 200,000 signatures in a month.
By Simon Denyer
February 26, 2020 at 8:15 AM EST
Trump accuses ‘MSDNC’ and CNN of ‘doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible,’ as he lashes out at Democrats
President Trump on Wednesday attacked CNN and “MSDNC (Comcast)” — a reference to MSNBC — for “doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible.” (He misspelled coronavirus in his tweet.)
“Likewise their incompetent Do Nothing Democrat comrades are all talk, no action,” Trump added. “USA in great shape!”
In a separate tweet, he said he would hold a news conference at the White House at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, alongside representatives of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Tuesday, Trump defended his administration’s response to the coronavirus epidemic against a flurry of criticism from Democratic presidential candidates, who said in Tuesday night’s primary debate that he was not 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 on Tuesday.
“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.
On Tuesday, Trump also played down the economic impact of the outbreak in the United States, even as analysts voiced concerns.
By Rick Noack and Derek Hawkins
February 26, 2020 at 7:21 AM EST
New cases confirmed in Greece and Germany; death toll in Italy rises to 12
BERLIN — Concerns over the spread of the coronavirus mounted in Europe, as case numbers continued to surge in Italy and new cases were confirmed in a number of countries, including Germany and Greece.
Italy reported a total of 374 cases by noon local time Wednesday, with more than 90 new confirmed cases within 24 hours. The death toll rose from seven to 12 within the same time period. Most cases continued to be in the province of Lombardy.
On Wednesday, the Greek government also confirmed the first recorded case of coronavirus in the country, a 38-year-old woman who had recently visited Italy.
The patient is being treated in a Thessaloniki hospital and shows no life-threatening symptoms, a Health Ministry spokesman told Agence France-Presse.
In Germany, two federal states reported one new case each Tuesday night, with no apparent links between the two. In the federal state of Baden Württemberg, a 25-year-old man who had returned from a trip to northern Italy tested positive for the virus.
Meanwhile, in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, a man who tested positive for the virus was in a critical condition, according to the regional Health Ministry. His wife is also showing symptoms but is still awaiting test results, the ministry said. Schools and kindergartens near the couple’s home remained closed Wednesday.
By Rick Noack in Berlin and James McAuley in Paris
February 26, 2020 at 6:55 AM EST
Britain to begin random coronavirus tests
LONDON — Britain will begin random testing of patients with flulike symptoms as part of its latest measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, health officials announced Wednesday.
The ratcheting up of testing comes as the number of cases on the European continent has risen sharply in recent days. On Wednesday morning, France reported a death from the virus.
In England, random testing for the virus will take place at 11 hospitals and 100 general medical offices. Paul Cosford, Public Health England’s medical director, told the BBC on Wednesday that people who have similar symptoms to those caused by the coronavirus — a cough, shortness of breath, a fever — will be tested at random, even if they have not been to a “country of concern.”
“That’s to check whether we have any transmission that we are not aware of,” he said.
“This testing will tell us whether there’s evidence of infection more widespread than we think there is. We don’t think there is at the moment,” Cosford said. He added: “The other thing it will do is, if we do get to the position of more widespread infection across the country, then it will give us early warning that that’s happening.”
So far in Britain, 13 people have been infected with the virus.
On Tuesday, British government officials urged travelers who have flulike symptoms returning from northern Italy to self-isolate. At least six schools in England have closed amid concerns that pupils could be infected following ski trips to Italy.
By Karla Adam
February 26, 2020 at 6:27 AM EST
Japan’s Hokkaido urges some schools to close, announces first coronavirus death
TOKYO — The government of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido urged some schools Wednesday to temporarily close their doors, as it battles to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
It was the first prefecture-wide order to close schools in Japan since the epidemic began.
Shortly afterward, the prefectural government announced the first death from covid-19 on the island, saying that an elderly person who died on Tuesday was subsequently confirmed as having the virus.
Three more people on the island were also found to have the virus, bringing the total to 39 people in Hokkaido, including students, a teacher, a school bus driver and a child day care worker, Kyodo News reported.
The prefecture’s education board urged all 1,600 public elementary and junior high schools to close until March 4, but it exempted high schools since students are deemed old enough to decide for themselves if precautions are needed.
By Simon Denyer
February 26, 2020 at 6:00 AM EST
Japan dismisses IOC member’s talk of canceling Olympics as unofficial, personal view
TOKYO — Japan dismissed comments from a senior member of the International Olympic Committee suggesting that the Tokyo Olympics might have to be canceled if the coronavirus epidemic still poses a threat in late May.
Dick Pound told the Associated Press that a decision would have to be made by late May and that a cancellation was more likely than a postponement or a decision to move the Games if the virus is not under “sufficient control.”
But Pound also stressed that athletes should continue to prepare for the Games, explaining that “all indications” were that they would still go ahead.
Japan’s Olympics minister, Seiko Hashimoto, told parliament that organizers of Tokyo’s 2020 Summer Games had sought an explanation from the IOC about the comments and were told that Pound’s remarks did not represent an official view.
“All we’ll be doing is to prepare to host the Games with ease of mind and to satisfy the IOC,” said Hashimoto, a former Olympic speed skating medalist, according to Kyodo News.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike called Pound’s comments “personal views.”
“I have emails from IOC members in charge of the Tokyo Games telling me to work hard in preparing for the event,” she told reporters, according to Kyodo. “The metropolitan government will pursue measures against the virus.”
By Simon Denyer
February 26, 2020 at 5:18 AM EST
Iran confirms 19th death, official tells state television
Nineteen people have died in Iran from the novel coronavirus outbreak, Iranian Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur told state television on Wednesday.
Iran has the highest number of deaths from the coronavirus outbreak outside China. Jahanpur said the number of confirmed cases in the country now stands at 139.
Jahanpur said Iranians should cancel nonessential travel and urged people to avoid Gilan and Qom, areas of the country with lots of confirmed coronavirus cases.
The large number of novel coronavirus infections in Iran has stretched the country’s health system, already under pressure from international isolation caused by punishing U.S. sanctions.
Speaking on Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the country would bring the outbreak under control within weeks.
Rouhani emphasized that more common illnesses such as influenza kill people every year, adding that deaths from the coronavirus “are no more than influenza.”
“The point I want to emphasize is that [the] coronavirus should not become a weapon at the hand of our enemies,” Rouhani told a cabinet session, according to a transcript on his website.
By Adam Taylor
February 26, 2020 at 4:50 AM EST
France confirms three new coronavirus cases, one death
PARIS — The French Health Ministry confirmed three new cases of coronavirus in France on Wednesday, one of which led to the death of the first French citizen in the outbreak.
That patient, a 60-year-old man, died at a Paris hospital overnight. The other two new cases involved a 55-year-old man hospitalized in the northern French city of Amiens and a 36-year-old man hospitalized in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, said Jérôme Salomon, France’s director general of health.
The Strasbourg patient had recently returned from Lombardy in northern Italy, the center of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak, Salomon said. The Amiens patient was in critical condition and was placed in the hospital’s intensive care unit, he said.
These three new cases were the latest in a rapid spike of new coronavirus infections across Europe.
French Health Minister Olivier Véran is expected to announce further details Wednesday evening.
By James McAuley
February 26, 2020 at 4:38 AM EST
Coronavirus cases rapidly spread across Europe
PARIS — Spain has confirmed eight new cases of coronavirus in the 24 hours since a hotel in Tenerife was placed on lockdown after an Italian guest tested positive for the virus. Two of the new cases were confirmed in Madrid and one in Barcelona.
The numbers represented a dramatic uptick, with most new cases connected to an outbreak in northern Italy, still the largest in Europe.
Other European countries also reported new infections related to the Italian outbreak: France, Croatia, Austria and Switzerland all reported new cases late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
As in Tenerife, Austrian authorities placed a hotel in the Alpine city of Innsbruck under lockdown when a receptionist — an Italian who had recently visited Lombardy, one of the affected regions — tested positive for the virus.
The virus’s rapid European spread — and the mystery behind its arrival in Italy — have triggered anxieties across the continent. Government ministers have urged passengers not to pursue nonessential travel to affected regions, and other politicians have called for border closures.
“There is no prohibition,” said Spain’s health minister, Salvador Illa, according to El Pais. “But unless it is essential, do not go to a risk zone. It’s common sense.”
By James McAuley
February 26, 2020 at 3:49 AM EST
Bahrain confirms 26 cases of coronavirus
BEIRUT — Bahrain said Wednesday the number of coronavirus infections in the tiny island nation has risen to 26 after three more cases were detected among people who had recently returned from Iran, according to the state news agency.
Bahrain now has the highest number of infections in the Middle East outside Iran, which is emerging as a new focal point of the virus. Cases linked to Iran have been detected in the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Lebanon, Oman and Kuwait, which reported two new infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 11.
Bahrain on Tuesday ordered all schools to close for two weeks, and airlines across the region have begun suspending flights to and from Iran, as well as to hubs that connect with Iran.
By Liz Sly
February 26, 2020 at 3:34 AM EST
South Korea adds 115 more cases, bringing total to 1,261
SEOUL — South Korea confirmed 115 more cases of the novel coronavirus late Wednesday local time, as the U.S. military reported its first infection in a service member stationed in the Asian country.
The latest jump brought the number of confirmed the cases of the day to 284, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). More than half of South Korea’s 1,261 coronavirus cases are in southern city of Daegu.
The U.S. military command in South Korea, known as U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), said a 23-year-old soldier stationed at Camp Carroll near Daegu tested positive for the virus. The patient is in self-quarantine at his off-base residence, according to the military.
“KCDC and USFK health professionals are actively conducting contact tracing to determine whether any others may have been exposed,” the military said in a statement.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said Tuesday that planned joint military exercises with South Korea could be scaled back because of concerns about the virus.
South Korea also reported its 12th death from the virus, a 73-year-old man. Additionally, it announced that a Mongolian man in his 30s who had the novel coronavirus died in Gyeonggi province near Seoul.
Except for the Mongolian man’s case, all of South Korea’s 12 fatalities occurred in Daegu and surrounding North Gyeongsang province.
The South Korean government has designated Daegu and North Gyeongsang as “special care zones” where support will be concentrated.
By Min Joo Kim
February 26, 2020 at 3:23 AM EST
Philippines imposes travel restrictions on South Korea
MANILA — As the number of cases of the novel coronavirus continues to grow in South Korea, Asian countries are responding with travel bans.
The Philippines on Wednesday announced an immediate ban on entry for travelers from North Gyeongsang province, where the coronavirus-hit city of Daegu is located, and said officials would consider widening the ban to other parts of South Korea.
Filipinos who are permanent residents, students and overseas workers are authorized to travel, provided they sign a declaration that they are aware of the risks.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters that officials expect tourism to take a hit due to the ban, but “the safety and security of Filipinos here and outside the Philippines remain our primary concern.” South Korea is one of the Philippines’ top sources of tourists, with more than 1.6 million visitors from the country in 2018.
The move comes as other countries impose restrictions on visitors from South Korea, which has the second-highest national tally of coronavirus cases after China.
Japan announced Wednesday that it would bar visitors who had traveled to the Daegu or Cheongdo, another afflicted city, in the past two weeks. Vietnam and Singapore have also imposed similar restrictions. In addition, Mongolia said it was suspending flights from Japan.
By Regine Cabato
February 26, 2020 at 2:49 AM EST
Beijing asks banks to disinfect cash, keep notes stored for at least a week
BEIJING — Beijing is asking all banks in the region to disinfect paper cash and keep the notes in a dry place for at least seven days before putting them in circulation.
The request was made by Beijing’s Banking and Insurance Regulatory Bureau on Wednesday as it issued guidelines for controlling the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The bureau also asked financial institutions to intensify disinfection at counters and public facilities in all customer-facing banking and insurance establishments.
After cash is withdrawn from circulation, financial institutions are required to disinfect the bills using ultraviolet light and keep them in a dry environment for at least a week.
Money returned from hospitals will be stored separately after disinfection, the bureau said.
Banks in other regions of China have installed similar measures in a bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. On Monday, China Construction Bank in the southeastern province of Fujian announced it had disinfected bank notes worth 6.9 billion yuan — roughly $980 million — between Jan. 28 and Feb. 23.
By Wang Yuan
February 26, 2020 at 2:20 AM EST
Japan’s Abe wants to cancel major sporting, cultural events over crucial two-week period
TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recommended on Wednesday that major sporting and cultural events in the country taking place over the next two weeks should be postponed or canceled to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Abe’s government believes the next two weeks is a critical time for Japan as it seeks to limit the spread of the virus, reduce mortality rates and save the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Already Japan’s J-League soccer has postponed all matches until March 15, while the Yomiuri Giants announced they would play two preseason baseball games this weekend behind closed doors. Japan’s Rugby Football Union announced on Wednesday it would postpone two rounds of games due to have taken place over the next two weekends.
Concerts from Japanese boy bands News and SixTones as well as American rockers the Pixies have also been canceled in recent days.
Japan has announced 171 cases of coronavirus, including 14 of its citizens evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, but not including more than 700 people who contracted the virus on board the cruise ship the Diamond Princess.
By Simon Denyer
February 26, 2020 at 1:48 AM EST
Chinese Internet users now worry about their neighbors in South Korea and Japan
BEIJING — After a surge in coronavirus cases in South Korea and Japan, the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian on Wednesday announced a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals.
The move, which came a day after nearby Qingdao and Weihai imposed similar measures, shows how many in China are now less worried about the domestic spread of the novel coronavirus and more worried about it coming from abroad. Chinese social media users had appealed on local governments to protect China’s northeastern regions, which are home to a substantial number of Korean and Japanese expatriates and businesses.
“Please put those who return from overseas under centralized quarantine and keep our current promising situation,” wrote one user on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social network.
Another user also subscribed to the government resolution: “We cannot lose hold of our port of entry now …”
Topics about South Korea’s coronavirus outbreak were among the most searched on Weibo on Wednesday, with many users expressing shock and concern for their neighbors.
“It wouldn’t be like this if only they copied our earlier method,” wrote one user who noted that South Korea’s numbers were growing too fast. South Korea, a democracy, has declined to mimic China’s approach of placing entire cities or regions under forced lockdown.
Chinese Internet users also discussed whether the Tokyo Olympics, due to be held this summer, would go ahead. “This is unfair to athletes,” one user complained.
Despite the large number of cases of novel coronavirus across China, outside of Hubei province many provinces have not announced new cases in several days. Confirmed cases in South Korea have surged past 1,000 this week, while Japan has had 171 confirmed cases, not including the hundreds who eventually tested positive on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
By Wang Yuan
February 26, 2020 at 1:26 AM EST
Over 400 Filipinos who had been on board Diamond Princess repatriated by government
MANILA — Over 400 Filipinos who were on board the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship arrived in the Philippines by Wednesday morning in government repatriation operations.
A total of 445 people were brought back on two flights, escorted by a four-member repatriation team and a nine-member health response team. Everyone will undergo two weeks of quarantine at the Athletes’ Village — a former Southeast Asian Games housing facility — in New Clark City, north of Manila.
Eighty out of 538 Filipinos on the Diamond Princess tested positive for the coronavirus. There are at least 70 who are still being treated in hospitals in Japan.
This is the second batch of repatriates since the Philippines brought home returnees from Wuhan, China.
By Regine Cabato
February 26, 2020 at 1:16 AM EST
13 Chinese provinces have lowered emergency response level
BEIJING — As of Wednesday, 13 Chinese provinces have lowered their emergency response level as they assess that the threat posed by the novel coronavirus has receded, according to the state-run People’s Daily.
China has four public health emergency alert levels, with Level 1 the most serious.
All 31 provincial-level regions in China activated a first-level emergency response to try to contain the spread of the virus by Jan. 29.
Shanxi, Guangdong, Xinjiang, Jiangsu, Sichuan and Anhui have adjusted their measures from level one to level two, while Gansu, Liaoning, Guizhou, Yunnan, Qinghai, Guangxi and Inner Mongolia have dropped theirs to level three.
The moves come as Beijing has tried to compel people in areas unaffected by the coronavirus outbreak to return to normal economic activity, hoping to avoid a prolonged downturn as the crisis drags on.
Though China continues to report hundreds of new coronavirus cases every day, almost all of these cases are in the epicenter of the outbreak, Hubei province, where strict quarantine requirements have been in place since Jan. 23.
By Liu Yang
February 26, 2020 at 12:56 AM EST
Asian markets extend losses amid coronavirus fears
HONG KONG — Asian markets extended losses Wednesday, though the declines were modest compared with those on U.S. markets on Tuesday, when the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 879 points.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 was down about 1 percent in midafternoon trade, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was 0.8 percent lower. Crude oil and U.S. stock futures were slightly higher.
The Chinese government announced stimulus measures on Tuesday, encouraging financial institutions to defer loan payments and increase lending for small and medium sized businesses.
Hong Kong also announced its own stimulus package on Wednesday, including a payment of over $1,200 to all adult permanent residents.
By Adam Taylor
February 26, 2020 at 12:30 AM EST
Number of South Korea coronavirus cases expected to jump as mass testing of more than 200,000 begins
SEOUL — The number of South Korean coronavirus cases is widely expected to jump in coming days, as the country begins the mass testing of more than 200,000 members of a messianic religious movement at the center of an outbreak in the city of Daegu.
South Korea reported 169 additional cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing up the national tally to 1,146.
Of latest cases, 134 are in southern city of Daegu, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
More than half of South Korea’s covid-19 cases have been traced to a regional branch of the secretive Shincheonji Church of Jesus, formally known as the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony.
Shincheonji members believe leader Lee Man-hee is the second coming of Jesus. The church is widely considered a cult and some members have been accused of hiding from health workers.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited the virus-hit city with aides on Tuesday. After one of the 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 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 in Seoul and Adam Taylor in Hong Kong
February 26, 2020 at 12:20 AM EST
Hong Kong offers $1,280 handouts to residents to stimulate struggling economy
HONG KONG — In a bid to stem the financial damage caused by the coronavirus outbreak, Hong Kong’s government has announced a number of measures to aid individuals and firms.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po revealed the measures in a speech on Wednesday, announcing that each adult permanent resident in the city would receive a handout of 10,000 Hong Kong dollars, about $1,280.
Other measures included a full guarantee on loans of up to 2 million Hong Kong dollars — more than $250,000 — for small and medium-sized businesses, and government support for commercial utility payments.
Chan warned that the financial outlook for Hong Kong, already rough after the U.S.-China trade war and a police clampdown on pro-democracy protests last year, would be tough in 2020. Hong Kong’s economy contracted by 1.2 percent last year, the annual decline since 2009, figures showed Wednesday.
“Hong Kong has been intensely affected by the profound changes in the international political and economic landscape,” Chan said. “Meanwhile, we had an extraordinary year with the occurrence of local social incidents.”
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, is facing historically low popularity ratings over perceptions that she prioritizes the needs of Beijing and the Chinese Communist Party over those of residents. Authorities are hoping that the budget relief package will help quell the deep dissatisfaction and stave off further protests against the government.
“I believe that given the extraordinary challenges that our community is facing, this is a justifiable and effective measure,” Lam said. “For some people, the cash payout will help to make ends meet in their hour of need.”
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Hong Kong reached 85 on Tuesday, with two known deaths from the outbreak.
By Adam Taylor and Shibani Mahtani
February 26, 2020 at 12:00 AM EST
China announces 406 new cases, 52 new deaths
HONG KONG — The Chinese government announced 406 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Wednesday morning, along with 52 deaths. As in line with a recent trend, all but five of the new cases were in Hubei province, the epicenter of the current outbreak; all of the deaths were in Hubei.
The numbers marked another dip in new cases, though health experts have cautioned against reading too much into the declining numbers, noting both the unpredictability of new outbreaks like this and the Chinese state’s opacity.
The new numbers mean that mainland China has seen a total of 78,064 infections and 2,715 deaths.
By Adam Taylor
Coronavirus: What you need to read
Updated March 27, 2020
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