The coronavirus is spreading more quickly in Europe, the Middle East and other parts of the world than in China where the virus first emerged in the central city of Wuhan at the end of last year.
The number of new infections inside China was for the first time overtaken by fresh cases elsewhere on Wednesday, with Italy, Iran and South Korea emerging as new hotspots for COVID-19.
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Here are the latest updates:
Thursday, February 27
First case in the Netherlands
A patient in the Netherlands has been diagnosed with the new coronavirus, the country’s first case.
The Dutch National Institute for Public Health said in a statement the patient in the southern city of Tilburg had recently travelled in northern Italy and is now being treated in isolation.
France now confirms 38 cases
The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in France has more than doubled in 24 hours, with the tally now standing at 38.
During a press conference, Health Minister Olivier Veran said this “sharp increase” was due to the identification of so-called “contact persons” linked to previously known cases. The minister stressed that the country is ready for a potential epidemic and has prepared 138 medical facilities.
Health ministry director Jerome Salomon later said that out of the 38 cases, two people had died, 12 were cured and 24 were hospitalised, with two of them being in a “serious condition”.
Northern Ireland registers first case
Northern Ireland authorities confirmed their first case of coronavirus, with the British region’s chief medical officer Michael McBride telling journalists that the patient had travelled from Italy via Dublin.
The case is in addition to the 15 cases confirmed in the United Kingdom by England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty earlier on Thursday.
Vatican closes Italy’s catacombs
The Vatican has closed all of Italy’s ancient catacombs normally open to the public because of the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
Vatican official Monsignor Pasquale Iacobone said the decision was taken to protect guides who work in the restricted underground spaces, as well as visitors.
California monitoring 8,400 people for coronavirus, awaiting test kits
California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Thursday that health officials are monitoring 8,400 people for coronavirus symptoms after they arrived in the state from domestic commercial flights.
The state currently has only about 200 test kits, an “inadequate” number, but has been in “constant contact with federal agencies” that will be sending a significant number of new test kits in coming days, Newsom said.
Facebook scraps conference
Tech giant Facebook has cancelled its annual F8 developers conference over fears about the possible spread of the new coronavirus.
The event in the Silicon Valley city of San Jose typically draws thousands of software makers from around the world who collaborate with the company on the programming of its platform.
“In light of the growing concerns around COVID-19, we’ve made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person component of F8 this year, in order to prioritize the health and safety of our developer partners, employees and everyone who helps put F8 on,” Facebook said.
The gathering will be replaced with sessions streamed online.
US mulls using sweeping powers to ramp up protective masks production
The US administration is considering invoking special powers through a law called the Defense Production Act which would grant the president the power to expand industrial production of key materials or products for national security and other reasons.
The use of the law, passed by Congress in 1950 at the outset of the Korean War, would mark an escalation of the administration’s response to the outbreak.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told legislators this week that the country needs a stockpile of about 300m N95 face masks to combat the spread of the virus. The US currently has only a fraction of that number available for immediate use, Azar testified.
Kuwait suspends studies at military institutions
The Kuwaiti army will suspend studies at military colleges and schools for two weeks from March 1 due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, according to state news agency KUNA.
A Kuwaiti health ministry official said the country now has 43 confirmed cases of coronavirus, all involving people who had been to Iran.
UAE suspends passenger ferry services with Iran
The United Arab Emirates has suspended passenger ferry services with Iran until further notice over coronavirus fears, state media said.
The UAE has also obliged all commercial ships coming to the country to provide a statement on the health status of their crews 72 hours before arrival to help prevent the spread of the virus, according to WAM news agency.
Three more deaths in Italy
Three more people died in Italy due to the virus, bringing the total number of victims to 17.
The latest fatalities were in their 80s and in the northern region of Lombardy, according to the Civil Protection Agency’s director Angelo Borrelli.
The number of confirmed cases has now risen to 650, from 528 announced at a news conference earlier in the day. The vast majority are in Lombardy and Veneto, also in the north.
Coronovarius fears pound US stocks into ‘correction’ territory
Wall Street’s main indices slipped into correction territory minutes after the open of trading as the rapid spread of the coronavirus outside China deepened worries about economic growth and corporate earnings.
Nearly two trillion dollars has been wiped off the value of US equities since Friday, with the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 10 percent from highs achieved earlier this month.
Read the full story here.
Over 100 guests to leave Canary Islands hotel on lockdown
None of the remaining 700-plus guests at a hotel in Spain’s Canary Islands on lockdown over the coronavirus have shown any symptoms of the virus, according to a spokesman for the regional government who also said 130 of the guests have been cleared to leave the building.
“At the same time, there is the possibility that the remaining ones … could be leaving the hotel as soon as a similar situation is verified,” the spokesman said in televised comments.
The guests in Tenerife’s H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel have spent three days in isolation after the coronavirus was detected there in four Italian tourists.
Saudi slashing oil supplies to China
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, is reducing crude supplies to China in March by at least 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) due to slower refinery demand following the coronavirus outbreak, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters News Agency.
The scale of the reduction underlines the drop in consumption caused by the outbreak in the world’s top oil importer. China normally takes 1.8 million bpd to two million bpd of Saudi crude, the sources said.
China state-owned Sinopec Corp, PetroChina , China National Offshore Oil Company and independent refiners, such as Hengli Petrochemical and those in Shandong, have cut their crude processing rate in February.
IMF likely to downgrade global growth due to virus
The fast-spreading coronavirus will clearly have an effect on global economic growth and the International Monetary Fund is likely to downgrade its growth forecast as result, according to a spokesman for the Washington-based institution.
“Clearly, the virus is going to have an impact on growth,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told a regular briefing without giving specific details.
He said he expected a decision soon on the impact of the coronavirus,
Russia to suspend some Iran flights
Russia will suspend some flights to and from Iran from Friday, except those operated by its national carrier Aeroflot and Iranian airline Mahan Air, according to the Russian Ministry of Transport.
Moscow said earlier this week it would suspend some flights to and from South Korea and would also stop issuing visas to Iranian citizens for regular and transit travel from February 28.
The move is part of wider measures that Russia is taking to prevent the spread of the coronavirus including raids by authorities on potential carriers of the virus and the use of facial recognition technology to enforce quarantine measures. Russia has also barred many categories of Chinese nationals from entering the country.
Moscow asks China to respect measures taken to contain spread of coronavirus
Moscow’s mayor asked China to respect the measures the city is taking to prevent the spread of the coronavirus after China’s embassy complained about disproportionate and discriminatory action against Chinese nationals.
The embassy this week deplored what it described as the “ubiquitous monitoring” of Chinese nationals on Moscow’s public transport network, in a formal complaint sent to local authorities and leaked to Russian media.
But Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin defended the measures and urged the Chinese embassy to encourage its citizens in the Russian capital to comply with the quarantine measures.
“I ask that you relate with understanding to these necessary measures, which are aimed at preventing coronavirus infections from spreading,” Sobyanin wrote in a response to the embassy, the Interfax news agency reported.
US health secretary says 40 labs can test for coronavirus
Alex Azar, the US’s health and human services secretary, said at least 40 public health labs can currently test specimens for coronavirus and that could more than double as soon as Friday.
Speaking before the House Ways and Means Committee, Azar said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had tested 3,625 specimens for the fast-moving virus as of Thursday morning.
He said a newly manufactured CDC test can be sent to 93 public health labs as soon as Monday, and a privately manufactured test based on the new CDC test could be sent to those same labs as early as tomorrow, pending FDA clearance.
US Senate leader hopes to see coronavirus funding bill within 2 weeks
US Senate Majority leader McConnell said that he expects the Senate to take up coronavirus funding legislation within the next two weeks.
McConnell, speaking on the Senate floor, said he has faith that bipartisan discussions on the Senate Appropriations Committee would agree on “the right sum … at this time to ensure our nation’s needs are fully funded.”
“I hope they can work expeditiously so the full Senate would be able to take up the legislation within the next two weeks,” the Republican said.
German minister sees limited effect on world economy
German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier expects the coronavirus to have only a limited effect on the global economy but warned that much depended on how the situation develops.
“I said a few days ago that I currently expect only a limited impact on the world economy. That does not have to be corrected but a lot depends on how things develop,” Altmaier told reporters.
He added that companies could implement short-time work if the situation in Germany deteriorated.
Lebanon reports third case
Lebanon confirmed the country’s third case after a man arriving from Iran on February 24 tested positive, according to a report by the health ministry.
The patient was taken from his home by the Lebanese Red Cross and into quarantine at a Beirut hospital after early symptoms appeared, the ministry statement said. His condition appeared to be stable, it said.
The previous two cases in Lebanon had been tied to an earlier flight from Iran that arrived last week carrying 150 passengers.
Coronavirus epidemic at a ‘decisive point’: WHO
Speaking to journalists at a daily briefing in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesussays said the coronavirus epidemic was at a “decisive point”.
Despite having a pandemic potential, the spread of the coronavirus can be contained “if you act aggressively now … you can prevent people getting sick, you can save lives.”
Tedros also warned that no country should assume it will not get cases. “That could be a fatal mistake,” he said.
Iran’s vice president infected by coronavirus
Masoumeh Ebtekar, vice president of Iran for Women and Family Affairs, has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The vice president is also known as the English-language spokeswoman for the 1979 hostage-takers who seized the US embassy in Tehran and sparked the 444-day diplomatic crisis.
On Tuesday, Iranian officials confirmed that Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi had been infected and was under quarantine.
Iran cancels Fridays sermons
Iran has cancelled Friday prayers in the capital, Tehran, and elsewhere in the country. The move came in response to a drastic jump in the number of confirmed cases from 100 to 245, with 26 deaths.
Iran also banned Chinese citizens from entering the country.
IOC ‘fully committed’ to holding Tokyo Olympics on schedule
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is “fully committed” to holding the Tokyo Olympics on schedule despite the coronavirus outbreak, President Thomas Bach told Japanese media in a conference call.
The event is scheduled to begin on July 24.
Two more people die from coronavirus in Italy
Two more people have died in Italy from coronavirus, bringing the death toll to 14, the Civil Protection agency said in a statement.
The agency chief, Angelo Borrelli, had earlier told reporters that officials were still seeking confirmation that coronavirus was responsible for the latest two deaths.
The number of confirmed cases has risen to 528 from some 420 announced on Wednesday, the vast majority in northern Italy.
Israel confirms third coronavirus case
Israel’s health ministry said a man who returned from travel in Italy has tested positive for coronavirus.
The man returned from Italy four days ago and tested positive after developing symptoms, the ministry said.
It is the country’s third coronavirus case.
Greece reports two new coronavirus cases
Greece has reported two new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to three.
The health ministry said one of the cases concerned a relative of a 38-year-old woman in the northern town of Thessaloniki, the first confirmed case reported in Greece.
The woman had recently returned from Milan in northern Italy.
Virus quarantines must be ‘proportionate’, respect rights: UN
Countries should only use quarantine against the deadly new coronavirus when truly needed, and must respect the rights of those in isolation, the UN rights chief said.
Addressing the UN Human Rights Council, Michelle Bachelet hailed the medical teams around the world working to rein in the COVID-19 outbreak. But she said that respect for human rights needed to guide the response.
She also said the ongoing epidemic, which began in China, had “set off a disturbing wave of prejudice against people of Chinese and East Asian ethnicity”.
Japan to close schools nationwide
Japan will close schools nationwide to help control the spread of the new virus, the government announced.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he asked all elementary, middle and high schools to remain shut until spring holidays begin in late March.
The measure affects 12.8 million students at 34,847 schools nationwide, the education ministry said.
Swiss confirm three new coronavirus cases
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Switzerland has risen to four, the country’s health authority said.
In the western canton of Geneva one person was tested positive for the virus while it was also confirmed in a couple in the southeastern Alpine canton of Grisons, it added.
“All three patients are isolated in the hospital. Their condition is good,” the Federal Office of Public Health said.
Iranian official confirmed infected with coronavirus
Mojtaba Zonnour, head of Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Relations Commission says he is infected with COVID-19.
Zonnour, who is also a deputy from the country’s virus-hit Qom city, said in a video message that he is currently in quarantine.
Britain reports two new cases of coronavirus
The United Kingdom said two additional patients tested positive for the new coronavirus, which was passed on in Italy and Spain’s Tenerife. The latest cases raised the total number of infections to 15, including eight recovered patients.
Crew leaves Japan virus-hit ship for new quarantine
Crew members from a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship off Japan began leaving the vessel for a new quarantine on-shore after passengers left the boat, the government said.
“Today, 240 crew members are leaving the ship and this disembarking operation will continue for a couple of days,” a health ministry official told AFP news agency.
Those leaving the boat will be placed in medical observation for 14 days at government-designated dormitories before being allowed to leave Japan, they said.
Infected South Korean flight attendant worked Los Angeles route
A Korean Air flight attendant who worked on flights between Seoul and Los Angeles subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus, South Korea’s disease control agency and sources said.
The flight attendant worked on Korean Air’s flight KE017 from Seoul’s Incheon airport to Los Angeles on February 19, and on the return flight KE012 on February 20, Yonhap news agency and other media reported. A South Korean official familiar with the case verified those flight details.
“She took a flight after showing symptoms, and we are investigating people who had contact with the employee on the flight,” the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said in a statement.
Osaka city to close kindergartens, elementary, junior high schools
Japan’s Osaka city has decided to close all public kindergartens, elementary and junior high schools from February 29 to March 13 in a bid to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, Kyodo reported.
An Osaka city official said the municipal government was holding a meeting to discuss measures concerning the virus but that he was not aware of the reported decision.
Iran infection cases reach 245, deaths 26
Iran’s health ministry spokesman says the new coronavirus has killed 26 people amid 245 confirmed cases in the country.
Estonia confirms first coronavirus case
Estonia has confirmed its first coronavirus case in a man who returned from Iran, Russian news agencies TASS and Interfax reported on Thursday, citing Estonian health authorities.
“We are talking about a permanent resident of Estonia who is not a citizen of Estonia,” Interfax reported, citing Estonian Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik.
“According to my information, he is a citizen of Iran,” Interfax cited Kiik as telling Estonian TV.
Saudi Arabia halts travel to Mecca, Medina
Saudi Arabia halted travel to the holiest sites in Islam over coronavirus fears just months ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, as the Middle East recorded more than 220 confirmed cases.
Read more here.
Denmark confirms first coronavirus case
Denmark has confirmed its first coronavirus infection in a man who returned from a ski holiday in northern Italy, the Danish health authority said. The man was put in isolation in his own home.
Iraq announces sixth case of coronavirus
Iraq’s health ministry said a young Iraqi man in Baghdad tested positive after returning from Iran.
Virus strikes another blow at religious tourism in Iraq
Iraq’s vital religious tourism sector was already suffering after months of protests, political turmoil and sanctions hitting pilgrims from neighbouring Iran – then the novel coronavirus arrived.
In the southern Shia holy city of Karbala, hotels have closed and face masks are more common on the street than the full-length black veils worn by female pilgrims.
Visitors are scarce at the golden-domed tomb of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, despite twice-daily visits by health officials to sanitise the site.
North Korea extends school breaks over virus fears
North Korea has postponed the new school term to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, reports said, the latest measure as the ill-equipped country ramps up efforts to prevent a devastating outbreak.
Pyongyang has not reported a single case of the COVID-19.
“School breaks for students have been extended as a preventive measure against the infection,” the Korean Central Broadcasting Station reported, according to Yonhap news agency.
China asks low-risk areas to resume visa, passport services
Regions in China at low risk of the coronavirus should resume visa and passport services for both Chinese and foreign travellers to help the nation get back to work, immigration authorities said.
Medium-risk areas should do the same, depending on the state of the epidemic within their borders, the China Immigration Administration also said.
The immigration authority said on its official Weibo account that it would roll out measures to facilitate such moves, without providing further details.
World on brink of coronavirus pandemic, Australia’s Morrison says
There is every sign the world is about to be gripped by a pandemic of coronavirus, Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned, as Australia kicked off emergency measures to curb the spread of the disease.
“The advice we have received today is…there is every indication that the world will soon enter a pandemic phase of the coronavirus,” Morrison told a televised news conference in Canberra, the capital.
“As a result we have agreed today and initiated the…coronavirus emergency response plan,” he added.
Australia will extend a travel ban on foreigners arriving from China by at least another week, Morrison said, although there was as yet no need to stop mass gatherings.
China city offers $1,400 reward to virus patients who report to authorities
Qianjiang, a city of around one million people in China’s Hubei province, will pay residents as much as 10,000 yuan ($1,425.96) if they proactively report symptoms of the illness and it is confirmed after testing.
The city is located around 150km (90 miles) from the provincial capital of Wuhan, and has so far reported a total of 197 cases.
Hubei has reported more than 65,000 cases and more than 2,600 deaths.
India evacuates nationals, foreign citizens from Wuhan
An evacuation flight carrying 76 Indian citizens as well as a number of foreign nationals from Wuhan arrived back in India on Thursday.
It earlier delivered medical supplies to the city where the outbreak originated at the end of last year.
The IAF Flight to #Wuhan carrying medical supplies, brought back 76 Indian nationals (including 3 Indian Embassy officials who were on ground in Wuhan to coordinate the evacuation) and 36 foreign nationals. #CoronavirusOutbreak #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/mnyKNNhjgO
— Geeta Mohan گیتا موہن गीता मोहन (@Geeta_Mohan) February 27, 2020
China investigates release of coronavirus-infected inmate in Hubei
China has sent an investigation team to Wuhan after reports that a prison released an infected inmate who then managed to travel to Beijing.
A team led by the Ministry of Justice, Supreme Court and Ministry of Public Security will look into the incident, the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China said in a news release on Thursday.
Media reports said an infected inmate was released from a Wuhan women’s prison after completing her sentence. Family members then drove her to Beijing.
The report triggered an uproar on social media, as people asked how she could have escaped the sealed-off city.
Taiwan raises epidemic response level to highest
Taiwan on Thursday raised its epidemic response level to the highest, official media reported, amid growing concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.
Taiwan’s Central News Agency said Premier Su Tseng-chang announced the decision in a cabinet meeting on Thursday, citing sporadic cases of community transmission on the island.
Taiwan has logged 32 cases of the coronavirus and one death, and has largely suspended travel and tourism links with China to curb its spread.
Japanese woman confirmed with coronavirus for second time
A woman working as a tour-bus guide in Japan has tested positive for the coronavirus for a second time, Osaka’s prefectural government said on Wednesday. She is the first person in the country to do so amid growing concerns about the spread of the infection.
The second positive test comes as the number of confirmed cases in Japan rose to 186 by Thursday from around 170 the day before.
New US coronavirus case may be first from unknown origin
A new coronavirus case in California could be the first in the US with no known connection to travel abroad or another known case, and a possible sign the virus is spreading in a community within the country, health officials said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the case on Wednesday.
California officials said the person is a resident of Solano County, northeast of San Francisco, and is getting medical care in Sacramento County. They did not immediately release any other details.
South Korea reports 13th death from coronavirus
The Mayor of Daegu, the city at the centre of South Korea’s coronavirus outbreak, said a 13th person had died from the infection on Thursday. The figure was not confirmed by the KCDC.
South Korea reports hundreds of new cases, raising total to 1,766
South Korea reported hundreds of additional cases of the new coronavirus, raising the total tally to 1,766, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.
China reports 433 new coronavirus cases, 29 deaths
Mainland China reported 433 new cases of coronavirus infections on February 26, the National Health Commission said on Thursday, up from 406 on the previous day.
The total number of confirmed cases on mainland China has now reached 78,497, the health authority said.
The number of new deaths stood at 29, the lowest daily rate since January 28, and down from 52 the previous day. A total of 2,744 people have now died as a result of the outbreak.
Hubei, the central Chinese province at the epicentre of the outbreak, reported 409 new cases and 26 deaths on Wednesday. Beijing and the provinces of Heilongjiang and Henan were the locations of the other three fatalities.
US, South Korea postpone joint exercises over virus
The US and South Korea postponed planned joint military exercises as a result of the coronavirus.
The decision to delay the training was made after Seoul declared its highest “severe” alert level over the virus, Combined Forces Command said, adding the postponement was “until further notice”.
The United States has 28,500 troops in South Korea.
Trump says US ‘very ready’ for virus; Pence to lead response
President Donald Trump declared on Wednesday that the US was “very, very ready” for the coronavirus and put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of overseeing the nation’s response.
Trump also sought to minimise fears of the infection spreading widely across the US, saying, “I don’t think it’s inevitable”.
He said the US might have to restrict travel to Italy, South Korea and other countries as a result of the outbreak, but now was not the right time.
Health authorities at the White House news conference said Americans should be ready for what could become a wider outbreak requiring such steps as school closures.
“Our aggressive containment strategy here in the United States has been working and is responsible for the low levels of cases we have so far. However, we do expect more cases,” said Dr Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Shanghai trying to find people who crossed patient from Iran
Shanghai is taking action to try and identify people who came into contact with a coronavirus patient who arrived in the city from Iran, the local government said.
The patient, who has not been identified, was diagnosed in Zhongwei, a city in the northwestern region of Ningxia, some 2,000km (1,240 miles) away, on Wednesday.
Authorities in Zhongwei said the patient arrived in Shanghai on February 20 after flying from Iran via Moscow. The patient then travelled to Zhongwei via the city of Lanzhou by train.
Trump says ready for coronavirus response on ‘much larger scale’
President Donald Trump said the US was prepared to escalate its response to the novel coronavirus on a “much larger scale” should the pathogen continue to spread.
“We do have plans for a much larger scale should we need that,” he said.
“We have hospitals in states that make rooms available and they’re building quarantine areas where you can keep people safely.”
Asked if the US had increased its stockpile of protective equipment such as face masks and gowns, he said: “We’ve ordered a lot of it, just in case we need it.”
IMF, World Bank consider ‘virtual’ Spring Meetings
Growing concerns inside the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank about the spread of the new coronavirus have prompted the institutions to consider scaling back their Spring Meetings in April or hold them by teleconference, people familiar with the discussions told Reuters.
The institutions’ April 17-19 Spring Meetings are scheduled to bring some 10,000 government officials, journalists, business people and civil society representatives from across the globe to a tightly packed, two-block area of central Washington DC.