World Coronavirus Live Updates: Cases Rise in Italy and Iran, and Spread to Other Countries

22:55  26 february  2020
22:55  26 february  2020 Source:   nytimes.com

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Read updates in Chinese: 新冠病毒疫情最新消息汇总

Coronavirus pushes across Europe and Middle East, while U.S. prepares for outbreak.

New cases of the coronavirus popping up across Europe. Dozens of infections in Iran stoking fears about an uncontrolled spread in the Middle East. Global market jitters continuing after a steep slide. American health authorities warning that it was a matter of when, not if, the epidemic would reach the United States. A toxic political climate in Washington complicating the public health challenge.

That worrying drumbeat frayed nerves across the world on Wednesday even as the pace of the outbreak seemed to be slowing in China.

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For the first time, more new cases were reported outside China than inside, according to the World Health Organization. Chinese officials on Tuesday reported 411 new infections; in the rest of the world, the number was 427. The total number of cases globally has now reached 80,980 and nearly 3,000 have died.

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In the European Union, which prides itself on open borders, new cases were recorded in Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece and Spain. Most were tied to Italy, where the authorities have been struggling to contain an outbreak that has infected at least 325 people, most of them in the north near Milan.

Hotels in Austria, France and the Canary Islands of Spain were locked down this week after guests tested positive for the virus or were suspected of having it. The steps to limit contagion differed from place to place, but large group gatherings were often the first things to be canceled where the virus had been detected.

In China, the authorities cautioned that the falling infection rate might be only a temporary reprieve, while South Korean officials scrambled to contain the largest outbreak outside China. The U.S. military confirmed that one soldier stationed in South Korea had tested positive.

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As the American health authorities braced for an outbreak in the United States, the Trump administration came under criticism from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers for contradictory statements on the severity of the crisis, a lack of transparency and seemingly lax preparations.

Brazil confirms coronavirus infection, the first in Latin America.

Brazil’s health ministry said on Wednesday that a 61-year-old man who recently traveled to São Paulo from Italy had contracted the coronavirus.

The first known case in Latin America, it comes as Brazil is in the midst of Carnival, a hugely popular festival that draws large crowds into close quarters for raucous street celebrations.

Officials were scrambling to track down other passengers on the flight the man took to Brazil and to find others who had come into contact with him in recent days.

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The patient, who lives in São Paulo, had recently traveled for work to northern Italy, where an outbreak has infected at least 325 people. He sought medical help after experiencing a fever, cough and sore throat, according to health officials.

Brazil’s health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, told the G1 news site that officials were hopeful that the virus would not spread briskly in Brazil, given the warmer time of year.

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“The virus behaves differently in the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere,” he said. “Brazil is a country of younger people, and we’re in summertime. This is a period that is not conducive for a respiratory virus.”

Iran downplays outbreak spreading fast there and in neighboring countries.

Iran’s leaders continued to downplay the seriousness of the outbreak there on Wednesday, even as the number of cases in Iran or linked to it kept climbing quickly.

The health ministry reported 139 cases and 19 deaths, up from 95 and 15 on Tuesday, and the government ordered a weeklong closure of schools and cultural sites in 10 provinces. Experts say Iran’s high apparent death rate suggests that it has far more infections than it has discovered or acknowledged.

But President Hassan Rouhani said that the virus was coming under control, and he predicted that things would return to normal by Saturday, Iranian state media reported. He added that Iran’s enemies were using the epidemic to further isolate the country.

Iran has not closed pilgrimage sites that draw millions of Shiite Mulsims to the city of Qom, the center of the country’s outbreak. On Wednesday, the cleric in charge of one of the most important sites there, the Fatima Masumeh shrine, said people should keep visiting.

Bahrain on Wednesday raised its case total to 26, and said all three new patients had just arrived from Iran — as had some of the previous ones. Bahrain is one of several countries reporting infections in people who had recently traveled to Iran.

Pakistan’s health minister, Dr. Zafar Mirza, on Wednesday confirmed the first two cases of the coronavirus in that country, and said that one of them was a 22-year-old student who had recently returned from Iran. Pakistan closed its border with Iran on Sunday.

As new cases soar in South Korea, a U.S. soldier there tests positive.

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As the number of new coronavirus infections in South Korea soared on Wednesday, the U.S. military ordered all people who had come into contact with an American soldier who tested positive for the virus to isolate themselves in their homes.

The 23-year-old soldier, one of nearly 30,000 U.S. troops based in the country and the first of them to be infected, is stationed at Camp Carrol in Waegwan, 12 miles from Daegu, the city at the center of South Korea’s outbreak.

South Korea reported 284 new cases on Wednesday, the largest single-day jump so far, as the authorities complete the testing hundreds of members of a secretive church in Daegu that has been hit hard by the virus.

South Korea now has 1,261 cases, the largest outbreak outside China.

The government says it is still unsure how the virus got to South Korea, but suspicions have been raised about the Shincheonji church, which has members in Wuhan, China, which has the world’s largest concentration of infections.

In response to the growing crisis, the U.S. military in South Korea elevated its risk level to “high” on Monday, advising all troops to “limit non-mission-essential” meetings and “off-installation travel.” At gates of American bases, assessment stations have been set up, with soldiers lining up for temperature checks and screening questionnaires.

Col. Edward Ballanco, the Army garrison commander for the affected area, said the military was arranging grocery deliveries to those quarantined.

On Tuesday, the United States and South Korea said they would consider scaling back joint military exercises after at least 13 South Korean soldiers were infected.

The U.S. military in Japan sent out a notice on Wednesday telling all personnel there to avoid nonessential travel to South Korea.

Some do’s and don’ts to avoid the virus.

If the coronavirus appears in communities in the United States, as federal officials anticipate, what can you do to protect yourself and your family?

Much of the advice from experts involves common sense, not very different from what you would do to dodge the flu or any other respiratory virus.

Because Americans often disregard colds and flus, continuing about their ordinary business, there are people with symptoms in public places. Without apology, you should put distance between you and them. Six feet would be good, but even a little distancing is helpful.

And do your colleagues a favor if you aren’t feeling well: Stay home from work.

Another obvious way to reduce the odds of infection: wash your hands often. “It’s not super sexy, but it works,” said Dr. Trish Perl, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

During the SARS epidemic — also caused by a coronavirus, but one that was much deadlier — hand-washing reduced the risk of transmission by 30 to 50 percent, she said.

If it is not feasible to wash your hands with water, you can use a hand sanitizer, but check the label to be sure it contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

The trademark of coronavirus outbreaks abroad are those ubiquitous face masks. But if you are healthy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and infectious disease specialists do not recommend face masks. Most surgical masks are too loose to prevent inhalation of the virus.

If you are infected, however, a mask can help prevent the spread of a virus.

Health care workers and people caring for sick people should wear masks. The most effective are so-called N95 masks, which block 95 percent of very small particles.

In suburban New York, 83 people agree to be isolated after potential exposure.

Health officials in Nassau County, N.Y., said on Wednesday that they were monitoring 83 people in voluntary isolation for potential coronavirus exposure, but that there were no confirmed cases in the county or the state.

Many of the people had recently been in China, while others had been in contact with such people, the county health commissioner, Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein, said in a news conference.

About 175 people in Nassau County, which borders New York City, have been asked to self-quarantine for some period of time since the authorities started taking that precaution several weeks ago, he said.

People in other parts of the country have also agreed to isolate themselves after traveling from places with coronavirus outbreaks.

“As of today, there are 83 people who are on our list of being removed from contacting other people,” Dr. Eisenstein said. Officials are in communication with them every day, he said, and all have complied with the quarantine request.

Five of the people have tested negative for the virus, and a sixth person’s test results are pending.

The people being monitored are asked to remove themselves from other people, including family members, and are checked every day for a fever or other symptoms.

Andy Simone, the county’s director for emergency preparedness, said that hospitals were prepared in the event that someone tests positive. But she added, “There is no fear right now, we do not have a case in Nassau County.”

President Trump plans to hold a news conference with health officials.

President Trump said he would hold a news conference with officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the White House on Wednesday, a day after conflicting assessments of the epidemic from him and his administration.

The news conference, to be held at 6 p.m. Eastern, will also include other officials, he wrote in a Twitter post. The president also attacked the news media for “doing everything possible” to make the situation look dire, “including panicking markets.”

Mr. Trump has repeatedly tried to minimize fears about the coronavirus, saying on Tuesday that it was “very much under control” in the United States, and his top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said, “we have contained this.”

But on the same day, C.D.C. officials said U.S. institutions needed to prepare for an outbreak, which they described as inevitable. Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, said, “we cannot hermetically seal off the United States to a virus.”

Mr. Trump lashed out on Wednesday at what he called “Do Nothing Democrat comrades,” even as his administration has come under fire from both Republicans and Democrats for not doing enough to prepare for the coronavirus in the United States.

His administration has asked Congress to allocate $1.25 billion in new emergency funds to bolster its coronavirus response.

Germany’s health minister says source of some new infections cannot be traced.

A coronavirus epidemic has broken out in Germany, Health Minister Jens Spahn said Wednesday, after new cases were confirmed that cannot be traced to the virus’s original source in China.

The disease is moving to a new phase in Germany, Mr. Spahn said at a news conference.

“The infection chains are partially no longer trackable,” he said.

About 20 cases of the coronavirus have been identified in the country, he said, but until now health officials had been able to trace those who became infected back to the virus’s origins in central China or to hot spots in Italy.

Mr. Spahn said people should not panic, because “not every cough is a case of coronavirus.”

The authorities in Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, were trying on Wednesday to retrace the steps of a couple who contracted the coronavirus from a source they could not immediately identify. This raised the troubling prospect that it might have been transmitted within the country itself.

The couple had spent the previous two weeks — the estimated incubation period for the virus — “taking part in normal, public life,” said Karl-Josef Laumann, the state health minister.

That included attending a large carnival party and taking a brief trip to the Netherlands, he said. Dutch authorities and the hotel where the couple stayed have been informed.

The authorities in the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg confirmed another new case, a 25-year-old man thought to have contracted the virus during a trip to Milan. On his return, he contacted local health officials and was placed in isolation.

As global markets continue to slide, Wall Street shows some signs of recovery.

Stocks on Wall Street appeared to be stabilizing on Wednesday, after back-to-back losses this week that had wiped more than 6 percent off the S&P 500.

By mid-afternoon Wednesday, the S&P 500 was almost unchanged from Tuesday’s close. The benchmark had fallen by 3 percent on Tuesday and experienced its worst one-day slide in two years on Monday.

But major markets in other parts of the world continued to drop, with investors reacting to reports of the coronavirus spreading across the globe. European markets fell more than 1 percent on Wednesday, and Asian markets ended the trading day lower.

Investors have been dumping stocks all week, seeking safer investments like government bonds, as the outbreak spreads beyond Asia.

In trading on Wednesday, the DAX in Germany fell 2.1 percent, and the FTSE 100 in Britain was 1.1 percent lower. In Asia, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 0.7 percent and the Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.8 percent.

Two European hotels remain locked down as new cases spread across the Continent.

Two European hotels were on lockdown on Wednesday as coronavirus infections spread on the Continent, and a third was quarantined for several hours.

The authorities in Innsbruck, an Austrian ski town in the Alps, sealed off the 108-room Grand Hotel after an Italian employee there tested positive for the virus. The cordon was the second at a European hotel in two days, after Spain on Tuesday cordoned off the H10 Costa Adeje Palace on the resort island of Tenerife after a guest, also from Italy, tested positive.

Each of the infected Italians had recently visited the Lombardy region of the country.

Though the virus originated in China, an outbreak in Italy has given it a foothold in Europe from which it has spread to at least five countries.

Spain, Austria, Croatia, Switzerland and France all reported cases linked to Lombardy on Tuesday.

In central France, the Ibis Center hotel in Beaune was closed after a client from Hong Kong died during the night. The health authorities ordered that all 30 members of the guest’s group remain in isolation while tests were conducted.

But the tests results on Wednesday afternoon did not show coronavirus, and the lockdown was lifted.

Nurses in Wuhan make a bold appeal for international help.

Nurses in Wuhan, China, psychologically stressed and physically exhausted, appealed to medical workers around the world to travel to the heart of the outbreak and help them treat the thousands of infected people there.

The unusually public appeal for help, made in an open letter published Monday in the medical journal The Lancet, underlines how overwhelmed medical resources in the city continue to be, despite the thousands of volunteers the government has deployed.

The government has promoted its efforts in the party’s propaganda outlets, hailing medical workers as patriots while playing down the shortages in hospitals beds, staff, protective gear and supplies that have been made worse by a monthlong lockdown.

“We are asking nurses and medical staff from countries around the world to come to China now, to help us in this battle,” read the letter, which was signed by nurses working in isolation units at a Wuhan hospital. “In addition to the physical exhaustion, we are also suffering psychologically. While we are professional nurses, we are also human.”

Wearing thick layers of protective gear means having to “speak very loudly” to communicate, the letter said, while some nurses developed pressure ulcers on their foreheads and ears from masks and goggles, and blisters around their mouths.

Such workers are at particular risk of infection. More than 3,000 medical workers across China have been infected with the virus, according to the Chinese government.

Offers of assistance from doctors and nurses around the world as well from the World Health Organization were ignored in the early weeks of the outbreak.

“Like everyone else, we feel helplessness, anxiety and fear,” the letter said.

Some discharged patients test positive again, Chinese health officials say

Some medical experts point to an alarming finding that calls into question the accuracy of the tests being used to diagnose and release patients: 14 percent of patients discharged from hospitals in China’s populous Guangdong Province have tested positive for the coronavirus during follow-up examinations, according to provincial officials.

It is unclear if these patients are contagious, said Song Tie, a Guangdong health official, during a news conference. But he said that in the city of Guangzhou, for instance, 13 patients had tested positive again after being discharged, but none of their 104 close contacts showed signs of infection.

Officials in several other regions, including Hainan Province in the south and the city of Chengdu in southwestern China, have said they found patients who tested positive after being discharged.

Under China’s latest national treatment plan, patients can be discharged from hospitals only if they have twice tested negative for the virus and have a clear chest scan. Several medical experts have said that patients who were already been infected could not be infected again, because they would have developed immunity.

According to Mr. Song, some experts have speculated that patients’ lungs may still be recovering and undergoing “intermittent detoxification,” releasing the virus even after they are discharged.

But others were skeptical of that explanation, pointing instead to the diagnostic tests, which have already proven unreliable in some cases. Lu Hongzhou, an expert in Shanghai, told the Beijing News that it was more likely that the tests used to discharge patients had failed to detect the virus.

Dr. Jin Dongyan, a virus expert at the University of Hong Kong, was more explicit: He said in an interview that the tests used by many hospitals had likely created false negatives.

Japan insists that Summer Olympics plans are unchanged.

The Japanese government on Wednesday sought to play down concerns that the global spread of the coronavirus would affect the Tokyo Olympics, saying it had no plans to cancel or make other big changes to the Games.

At a regular news briefing, the chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said that preparations for the Games, which are scheduled to open in late July, were proceeding “as planned.”

Mr. Suga offered his assurances a day after The Associated Press published an interview with Dick Pound, a member of the International Olympic Committee, who said the Games might have to be canceled if they could not be held safely.

Mr. Pound said a decision would need to be made no later than May. “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?’” he said.

In response to a question about the remarks, Mr. Suga said they were “not the official view of the I.O.C.”

The virus has already affected preparations for the Olympics, particularly in China, where athletes have had to change their training regimens and forgo qualifying events because of restrictions on their travel.

Hoping to curb a gradual increase in reported coronavirus cases in Japan, the authorities on Tuesday called for the cancellation of public gatherings such as sporting events and concerts in the coming weeks.

Japan’s professional soccer and rugby leagues have announced that they will cancel or delay events, while some professional baseball games have been closed to spectators.

Reporting was contributed by Russell Goldman, Choe Sang-Hun, Keith Bradsher, Austin Ramzy, Elaine Yu, Ben Dooley, Alexandra Stevenson, Kevin Granville, Marc Santora, Melissa Eddy, Christopher F. Schuetze and Matina Stevis-Gridneff.

Correction: February 26, 2020 This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Switzerland's relationship to the European Union. Although Switzerland is within Europe's Schengen zone of passport-free travel, it is not an E.U. member.

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