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Viral Alerts

  • Authorities confirmed on Monday, January 27, 2020, that the death toll from China's coronavirus has hit 82 while the number of confirmed cases has reached more than 2 700. Beijing officials also reported the capital's first fatality who was a 50-year-old man who visited Wuhan.

    From 26 fatalities and 830 confirmed cases on Friday, January 24, the figures showed a sharp increase in just a matter of days, prompting China to further make efforts in containing the virus, including limiting travel among its citizens.

    All tour groups and sale of tour group packages for overseas travel have been suspended beginning Monday.

    According to Beijing's health commission, the city's first victim came from Wuhan on January 8 and had developed a fever after returning to Beijing just a week later. He was sent to the hospital on January 21 but succumbed to respiratory failure on January 27.

    Meanwhile, South Korea just confirmed its fourth case, while scattered cases have also been verified in Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Nepal, as well as France, Canada, Australia, and the United States.

    In Africa, health authorities in Ivory Coast are investigating a possible case of coronavirus in a female student who came from China-- the first person to be tested for the epidemic on the continent.

    In the U.S., cases were reported in Washington, Chicago, southern California, and Arizona. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it was investigating 110 people across 26 states for possible cases-- 32 had tested negative while 73 were pending.

    U.S. President Donald Trump said in a tweet that his health officials were "in very close communication" with Chinese counterparts and that the government had offered China "any help that is necessary."

    Hong Kong also reported two more cases, raising its total to eight.

    According to health department official Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, all cases were connected to Hubei province, and there is no indication yet that the virus-- officially dubbed 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)-- is spreading to the city's general population.

    However, as a safety measure, Hong Kong has started banning residents from Hubei province.

    "We haven't disclosed information in a timely manner, and also did not use effective information to improve our work," he said.

    On Saturday, January 25, a Chinese doctor in Wuhan who treated patients with the coronavirus died. According to China Global Television Network, Dr. Liang Wudong, 62, was "at the frontline" of the outbreak.

    On January 27, head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus held a special meeting with Beijing officials to discuss how to contain the infection.

    Although the organization has yet to declare a public health emergency of international concern, they said it was an emergency in China.

    The country's government has so far sent 1 200 more medical professionals to Wuhan, while the health ministry ordered a nationwide effort to promptly determine and isolate suspected coronavirus cases.

    • China’s Hubei province reported an additional 116 deaths and 4,823 new cases as of the end of Feb. 13.
    • Of the new cases, the government said that 3,095 were “clinically diagnosed.”
    • In total, Hubei authorities said that 51,986 people have been infected in the province.

     

    Coronavirus Death Toll

    1,491 people have died so far from the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak as of February 14, 2020, 01:22 GMT.

    There are currently 65,247 confirmed cases in 28 countries.

    An overnight spike of nearly 15,000 in China’s reported coronavirus cases upended world markets on Thursday, stoking new fears that the outbreak was moving into a potentially more deadly phase.

    The death toll climbed to nearly 1,400 deaths while those infected topped 60,000— the majority located within or near China.

    Meanwhile, the U.S. reported its 15th case, this time in Texas, and the Centers for Disease Control expect there could be more cases as 600 evacuees from Wuhan continue to remain in quarantine. The CDC is going to increase its screenings in major cities by using the flu detection system to scan for coronavirus.

    The U.S. response remains in the hands of individual departments, as the National Security Council lacks a global health security expert. Senators, lead by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, sent a letter to Advisor Robert O'Brien requesting an expert be named to the post amid the outbreak.

    Reports on Thursday called into question whether China’s official statistics could be trusted, in the face of concerns that the government may be under-reporting the scope of the epidemic.

    World Health Organization officials cautioned that the spike was a result of a February 6 change in guidelines from the National Health Commission of China, and may represent a temporary bump in official reporting. This change included adding clinically diagnosed individuals only in Hubei province, but not in the rest of China.

    The rounded-up case numbers “are not newly identified in the last 24 hours only. They include retrospectively identified cases from earlier in the epidemic; it is not uncommon for surveillance data to be updated as new definitions are adopted,” a WHO spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.

    “The government has re-doubled efforts recently to address the scale of the outbreak in Hubei and the considerable need for treatment services by the population,” the spokesperson added.

    Nevertheless, China’s epidemic ricocheted across the world, and fueled concerns about global growth with the country all but quarantined from the rest of the world.

    Although most of the cases are isolated in the mainland, there are concerns about the disease’s appearance in other regions given the uncertainty about how its transmitted.

    “I think now that it’s in more countries — even Singapore, which is really good at tracing cases, has found some cases that aren’t linked to previous known cases — it’s clear that there are probably many cases in countries where we haven’t yet found them,” Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the Harvard Gazette earlier this week.

    “This is really a global problem that’s not going to go away in a week or two,” he added.

    Latest Updates on the Coronavirus

  • Nearly half of China's population -- more than 780 million people -- are currently living under various forms of travel restrictions as authorities race to contain the spread of a deadly virus.

    The novel coronavirus outbreak has killed 1,770 people and infected another 70,000 in mainland China. According to a CNN analysis, travel limitations of varying degrees are still being enforced in provinces and cities across the country, including Hubei, Liaoning, Beijing and Shanghai.
     
    Restrictions include everything from self-quarantines to limits on who can come and go from neighborhoods.
     
    Some of the strictest measures can be found in four cities in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, which saw an additional 100 deaths reported Sunday.
     
    The cities of Wuhan, Huanggang, Shiyan and Xiaogan have completely sealed off all residential complexes and communities, while the use of non-essential vehicles on local roadways is also banned. Residents in each city receive daily necessities from neighborhood and community committees as they are not permitted to leave their homes.
     
    On Sunday, Hubei announced new measures, including province-wide traffic restrictions on all non-emergency vehicles and the closure of all non-essential public venues. Already there are reports of residential compounds being completely sealed off, with no one able to go in or out except in rare circumstances.
     
    Health screening is to be stepped up, with officials going door-to-door to look for new cases. Anyone displaying potential symptoms "should be immediately reported to the local community or village," the government said in a circular announcing the new restrictions.
     
    Anyone suspected or confirmed to be infected with the virus, their close contacts, or anyone with a fever, should be "timely treated or placed in quarantine instead of self-isolation at home," it said.
    On the economic side, Hubei said that "companies should not resume production unless allowed by local epidemic prevention authorities."

    When did Xi know?

    Officials in Hubei have faced increasing scrutiny about whether they intentionally downplayed reports of the virus when it emerged late last year, or ignored evidence that it was being spread from person-to-person, delaying any efforts to contain it before it was too late.
     
    Multiple officials have been removed from their positions, while others have offered to resign. It had been thought that any blame for the delay in response was contained to Hubei itself, and that central authorities were as in the dark as the international community until late January, when Chinese President Xi Jinping stepped in himself, ordering "all out efforts" to rein in the virus' spread.
     
    Over the weekend, however, a transcript of a speech Xi gave earlier this month was published. In it, Xi said he first "issued requirements for the prevention and control of the new coronavirus" on January 7.
     
    While the speech underlines that Xi has been personally directing the response to the outbreak -- something that has been repeatedly emphasized in state media -- the revelation that he knew about the virus when Hubei officials were publicly downplaying its danger, exposes him to the risk of being blamed, along with them, for failing to properly handle the outbreak in its early weeks.
     
    It also raises additional questions for the World Health Organization (WHO), which has previously praised China for its "transparency" and for sounding the alarm early and enabling a global response to the virus.
     
    China is not only sending mixed messages over when and what Xi knew. With the country facing increasing economic pressure -- which could have global ramifications -- many cities are attempting to return to something like normality.
    Speaking last week, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged continued efforts "to advance science-based epidemic control, and resume production in an orderly way to better support outbreak response and preserve normal economic and social order."
     
    A specially customized train left Guizhou in western China for Hangzhou carrying around 300 migrant workers, state media reported. Carriages have "strict temperature monitoring, better ventilation and scattered seating," and it is hoped it could be a model for returning workers to travel while not being exposed to potential infection.
     
    At the same time, however, cities and provinces most affected by the outbreak are facing stringent new controls, on top of existing lockdowns which have left people trapped inside their homes and unable to work.
     

    Increase in cases

    There have been more than 71,000 cases of coronavirus worldwide, with the vast majority of those in mainland China.
     
    The largest outbreaks outside of China have been in Singapore and Japan, where the Diamond Princess cruise ship has been docked for almost two weeks now, while health officials tested the thousands of passengers and crew on board.
     
    So far, more than 456 cases have been confirmed aboard the ship, with 99 cases confirmed by Japanese health authorities on Monday.
     
    More are expected before the official end of the quarantine period, after which Japanese officials said it would take two or three days for passengers to disembark, during which they will be tested once again.
     
    Hundreds of Americans on board the ship were able to leave Sunday, on a specially-chartered flight organized by the US government.
     
    They are swapping one quarantine for another, however, with US authorities saying Saturday that on their return stateside, the passengers will have to undergo another two-weeks of observation and testing at one of two military bases.

    Global spread

    Taiwanese authorities on Sunday reported the island's first death from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.
     
    The man in his mid-60s tested had a history of hepatitis B and diabetes and no history of traveling abroad. His death came as another case was confirmed in Taiwan, bringing the total number of cases on the island to 20.

    While the vast majority of deaths have occurred in mainland China, there have been fatal cases of the virus in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan and France. Cases of the virus have been confirmed in more than two dozen countries worldwide, affecting nearly every continent.
     
    "Right now we're in an aggressive containment mode," Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), told CNN last week. "We don't know a lot about this virus. This virus is probably with us beyond this season, beyond this year, and I think eventually the virus will find a foothold and we will get community-based transmission."
     
    While more research is needed to fully understand the virus, Redfield said that the CDC has focused on surveillance to track cases and containment strategies to slow possible progression of the virus in the US.
     
    Slowing progression gives more time for researchers to work on developing and testing a vaccine and antiviral drugs for this novel coronavirus. Currently, there is no known cure for the virus.
     
    Latest Updates on the Coronavirus Epidemic
     
     
  • 2,010 people have died so far from the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak as of February 19, 2020, 02:10 GMT.

    There are currently 75,213 confirmed cases in 30 countries and territories.

    Study: Virus far more lethal than flu

    The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention put the overall death rate for the virus at 2.3%. The season's flu death rate in the U.S. thus far is about 0.1%, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

    Still, the coronavirus death rate is far below that of severe acute respiratory syndrome – SARS – a coronavirus that swept across China almost two decades ago. The SARS death rate was almost 10%, although fewer than 10,000 SARS cases were ever confirmed.

    The Middle East respiratory syndrome is even more lethal: Since 2012, about 2,500 MERS cases in 27 countries have killed more than 850 people, or about one in three of those infected.

    Michael Ryan, emergency programs director for the World Health Organization, said Tuesday that the new virus death rate could turn out to be lower than it appears. In the first weeks of the outbreak only severe cases were recognized, he noted.

    "Now we are going out and looking for less-sick people," Ryan said. "Our hope is that as we find more and more milder cases, that the overall mortality rate will be less."

    The Chinese study also found that more than 80% of the cases have been mild, the sick and elderly are most at risk, and men are more likely to die than women. The report suggests the outbreak peaked in late January.

    Shortages of crucial medical supplies possible

    In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration said it has pulled inspectors from China because of virus concerns and warns that the nation might face shortages of “critical medical products”if the outbreak persists. The federal agency halted inspections of drug and device factories after the State Department warned against travel to China. The FDA has faced congressional scrutiny for its oversight of overseas factories after high-profile recalls of blood-pressure-lowering medications and reports revealing fewer overseas inspections in recent years.

    LATEST UPDATES ON THE CORONAVIRUS EPIDEMIC

  • Stock market suffers worst drop since 2011.

    Global markets tumbled for a sixth consecutive day on Thursday, dragging the S&P 500 down more than 10 percent in just over a week, reflecting rising fears over the coronavirus spreading quickly around the world.

    The benchmark index fell 4.4 percent on Thursday, the worst single-day slide for the market since August 2011. It is on pace for its worst weekly performance since the 2008 financial crisis. Stocks in Europe and Asia were also hard hit on Thursday, Feb. 27.

    The sell-off came after infection figures in Europe and the Middle East continued to soar, public health officials in the United States and Germany said new patients in each country had no known connection to others with the illness, complicating efforts to track the virus.

    The speed of the slump has been stunning, with the S&P 500 falling more than 10 percent from its Feb. 19 high, a drop that Wall Street labels a market correction to suggest the decline is more significant than a few days of downbeat trading.

    The last time stocks in the United States fell that much was late 2018, when investors worried that the trade war and rising interest rates might tip the U.S. economy into a recession. The Dow Jones industrial average also fell into a correction on Thursday, as did shares in London.

    Stocks in Europe and Asia were also hard hit on Thursday, and the blow to investor confidence spread far beyond stocks. Crude oil fell more than 4 percent, and money flooded into Treasury markets, pushing prices sharply higher, and yields —which move in the opposite direction — to once unthinkable depths.

    Financial markets continued their weeklong declines.

    The virus sweeps the globe, with cases in at least 47 countries.

    The fight to contain the coronavirus entered an alarming new phase on Thursday as caseloads soared in Europe and the Middle East, and health officials in the United States and Germany dealt with patients with no known connection to others with the infection.

    The German and American cases raised the possibility that the virus could have begun to spread locally, or that infected people had spread it to others sequentially, making it virtually impossible to trace and isolate the origins.

    Either way, the cases, thousands of miles apart, underscored how quickly the virus was making its way around the globe after emerging in China.

    Japan’s government closed all schools through March in an effort to combat the outbreak. Iran canceled Friday Prayers in major cities, a cornerstone ritual of the Islamic Republic. Saudi Arabia barred pilgrims from visiting Mecca and Medina.

    President Trump announced that Vice President Mike Pence would lead the American effort to combat the virus, but the administration continued to send mixed messages. Public health officials warned of potentially “major disruptions,” while Mr. Trump blamed Democrats and cable news channels for overstating the threat.

    In the Middle East, concerns built about the growing severity of the outbreak in Iran, the source of infections in many other countries. The government said on Thursday that 245 people had been infected and 26 had died, but experts say there are probably many more cases.

    Several countries registered new infections that illustrated the diverse ways the pathogen could cross borders.

    Two new cases in Britain, for instance, were linked to Italy and to Tenerife in the Canary Islands of Spain. While the spread of the virus from northern Italy has been taking place for some time, the spread from Tenerife — where a hotel remains under lockdown after two guests tested positive — would be a first.

    The number of coronavirus cases in Italy soared on Thursday, and the count of European countries reporting infections rose to 15.

    Leaders are struggling to find a balance between slowing the epidemic and avoiding panic or economic disruption — debating, for example, the wisdom of holding major events that draw from across the continent.

    The Netherlands, Denmark, Estonia, Norway and Romania all reported infections for the first time, joining Italy, Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, North Macedonia, Spain, Sweden and Britain.

    Italian officials reported 650 cases as of Thursday night — up from 400 a day earlier — with 17 deaths. The number of infections had doubled in just two days, as Italy grapples with the largest outbreak outside of Asia, centered in the northern region of Lombardy.

    Whole towns have been isolated, and Lombardy’s governor, Attilio Fontana, started a period of self-isolation after a co-worker tested positive.

    Most other affected European nations have just a handful of cases, but national leaders say that these early days will prove crucial.

    “We have before us a crisis, an epidemic that is coming, we know that certain countries are already much more affected than us,” President Emmanuel Macron of France said during a visit to the Paris hospital where a coronavirus patient died this week. “We are going to have to confront it as best we can, even as life goes on.”

    Hours later, officials in France reported that the number of cases there had jumped to 38, from 18 a day earlier.

    In Spain, where there are 17 cases, the latest patient, announced Thursday, was a soccer fan from Valencia — one of thousands who had traveled to Milan, the capital of Lombardy, earlier this month to watch a Champions League match.

    Hermenelinda Vanaclocha, a regional health official in Valencia, said “three or four” others fans who made the same trip showed symptoms of coronavirus infection, and were being kept isolated at home.

    Ballooning outbreak in Iran reaches the president’s cabinet.

    The coronavirus toll in Iran continued to climb fast on Thursday, as a member of President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet fell ill — one of at least seven government official to test positive, including one prominent cleric who has died.

    The official, Iran’s highest ranking female official, attended a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, in which she may have exposed others, including Mr. Rouhani.

    The Health Ministry reported 245 cases, up from 139 on Wednesday, with 26 deaths. Health experts say that given the number of fatalities, the number of infections is probably far higher than the official figure.

    Dozens of cases involving people who recently visited Iran have popped up in recent days in Bahrain, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Oman, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Georgia and Kuwait.

    The sick cabinet member, Masoumeh Ebtekar, is Mr. Rouhani’s deputy for women’s affairs. A young revolutionary during the Tehran hostage crisis four decades ago, Ms. Ebtekar was a spokeswoman for the captors of the 52 Americans held at the U.S. Embassy.

    She announced that her infection on Thursday and said she was quarantined at home.

    Despite the Iranian authorities’ earlier claims that the outbreak, centered in the city of Qom, had been exaggerated by enemy propaganda, they canceled Friday Prayers in Tehran and 22 other cities, and ordered schools and universities closed until March 21. All cultural and sports events will remain shut down for another week, the Ministry of Culture said.

    Hadi Khosroshahi, 81, a prominent cleric and former ambassador to the Vatican, was sickened by the coronavirus and died in a hospital, Iran’s official media have reported. The outbreak has also killed Elham Sheikhi, 22, a member of the women’s national soccer team.

    he virus can be deadly, but so far, it most often isn’t.

    The new coronavirus has sown fear and anxiety, with more than 81,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths.

    But so far, it appears that the vast majority of those infected have only mild symptoms and make full recoveries. And those who get the virus develop powerful antibodies that should protect them from reinfection.

    In China, people who have been infected are being asked to donate blood plasma, in the hope that their antibodies can be used to treat sick patients.

    The largest study of the virus to date, published by China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, concluded that 81 percent of the 44,000 cases confirmed in China by mid-February were mild — defined by the study’s author’s as involving little or no pneumonia.

    Just under 14 percent were deemed severe, involving shortness of breath, low blood oxygen saturation or other lung problems. Just under 5 percent were critical, involving respiratory failure, septic shock or multiple organ dysfunction.

    By Thursday, of the 78,487 confirmed cases in China, 32,495, or 41 percent, had been discharged from the hospital, according to China’s National Health Commission. About 8,300 patients were in serious condition. More than 2,700 people had died, giving an overall mortality rate of 2.3 percent, far higher than the seasonal flu’s rate of about 0.1 percent.

    The number of mild cases creates its own complications.

    Those with few or no symptoms may not know they have contracted the virus, or may misidentify it as a cold. They may then continue their daily lives, coming into close contact with others and spreading the virus without anyone knowing.

    German authorities scramble to find all those who came into contact with infected man.

    Health officials in Germany reacted aggressively on Thursday after a man with no known connection to anyone infected with the coronavirus tested positive for the illness.

    In addition to closing schools in the community where he lived, they reached out to hundreds of people who took part in a carnival celebration over the weekend where the man was also present, urging them to stay home for 14 days.

    Karl-Josef Laumann, the health minister for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the man lives, said that the authorities were still trying to figure out how the man had contracted the virus.

    He remains critically ill and cannot provide information about his recent travels, including the period of time when he was infected and contagious but not showing symptoms.

    Still, German officials said they would resist taking measures like those seen in China and, to a lesser extent, in Italy, where entire towns and cities have been locked down.

    They cautioned against panic, pointing to success in preventing the spread of the virus last month through simply encouraging people to stay home.

    After a man from China infected several employees of an auto producer in Bavaria in January, about 400 people who could have been at risk of spreading the virus were identified and placed in isolation in their homes.

    That effectively stopped the spread of the virus, and there are no known cases of infection at this time, said Dr. Lothar H. Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Institute, the German government’s disease control and prevention agency.

    Chinese government scientist says China’s outbreak will be contained by late April.

    The coronavirus epidemic will be brought under control in China by the end of April, Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a scientist who is leading a government-appointed expert panel on the outbreak, said in a news conference on Thursday.

    Dr. Zhong said his team had correctly predicted that the outbreak would peak in mid- to late February in China and that it would “basically come under control by the end of April.”

    International experts painted a less optimistic picture. A report published on Friday by scientists at Imperial College London estimated that “about two-thirds of Covid-19 cases exported from mainland China have remained undetected worldwide, potentially resulting in multiple chains of as yet undetected human-to-human transmission outside mainland China.” Covid-19 is the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

    Global clusters of the virus also showed the difficulty in judging the true number of infections, amid concerns about underreporting and China’s shifting definitions of confirmed cases.

    The virus is thought to have come from a seafood market in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province. More than 2,600 deaths from the epidemic have been reported in Hubei, far more than in any other place in China or abroad.

    If forced to close, U.S. schools might be asked to teach remotely. Can they?

    Federal officials warned this week that a coronavirus outbreak could force schools to close for a long period, and Japan ordered its schools closed for a month.

    The U.S. announcement caught educators and parents off guard, leaving them asking how to manage such a crisis.

    Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, suggested that a temporary system of “internet-based teleschooling” could replace traditional schools.

    But most schools have no experience in providing online instruction on a large scale, and American families have uneven access to computers and broadband internet.

    Parents would be forced to juggle their own work responsibilities with what could amount to “a vast, unplanned experiment in mass home-schooling,” said Kevin Carey, vice president for education policy at New America, a think tank.

    Dr. Messonnier said she had contacted her own local school superintendent to ask if the district was prepared, and she advised parents to do the same.

    Even as they struggled to absorb the federal warning, schools were busy making their own plans, or updating those drafted during previous scares over viruses like H1N1 influenza and Ebola.

    Many districts have already sent home letters about the coronavirus, asking parents to keep sick children away from school and to remember basic prevention measures like hand washing, cough covering and flu vaccination. Officials have tried to ratchet down panic among parents, reminding families that face masks are not broadly recommended and that the overall risk to most people appears to be low.

    Federal rules delayed testing of a California patient.

    A person in California who was not exposed to anyone known to be infected with the coronavirus, and who had not traveled to countries where it is circulating, had to wait days to be tested because of restrictive federal criteria, despite doctors’ suggestions.

    The patient, who has tested positive, may be the first person to be infected through community spread in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday.

    Public health officials said the infected individual was a resident of Solano County, in Northern California, but they have not disclosed any other information to protect the patient’s privacy.

    Doctors at the University of California, Davis Medical Center considered the novel pathogen a possible diagnosis when the patient was first admitted last week.

    But the C.D.C. has restricted testing to patients who either traveled to China recently or who know they had contact with someone infected with the coronavirus.

    The C.D.C. could not be immediately reached for comment.

    The new case, in which the source of infection is unknown, is cause for concern, experts said.

    “That would suggest there are other undetected cases out there, and we have already started some low-grade transmission,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University.

    South Korea and U.S. call off joint military exercises.

    The fast-growing coronavirus outbreak touched South Korea’s military alliance with the United States on Thursday, as the two countries announced that they would postpone their joint spring military exercise “until further notice.”

    The decision came as South Korea reported 505 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the total number to 1,766, the largest outbreak outside of China. Most of the patients were from Daegu, a city in southeastern South Korea, and in nearby towns.

    On Wednesday, the U.S. military reported the first case of a soldier being infected. The soldier was stationed at a base near Daegu.

    South Korea has placed itself on the highest possible alert to deal with the outbreak, suspending nonessential military training and placing more than 9,500 troops under quarantine.

    Saudis halt religious visits to Mecca and Medina.

    Saudi Arabia on Wednesday temporarily barred Muslim pilgrims from entering the country to visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, a stark illustration of the fear the spread of coronavirus has stirred.

    The Saudi royal family derives much of its stature in the Islamic world from its role as guardians of the holy sites, and it very rarely closes them off. The Saudi response contrasts with that of Iran, which has kept its pilgrimage sites open despite a significant coronavirus outbreak. Cases linked to Iran have now appeared in a number of countries.

    Each year, millions of Muslims make the Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, or Umrah. It takes place in a specific part of the lunar year, which this year falls in midsummer.

    Many Muslims also visit the mosque in Medina established by the Prophet Muhammad.

    LATEST NEWS ON THE CORONAVIRUS

     

     

  • The death toll from the deadly new virus continues to rise as the first cases are reported in the United Arab Emirates, Tibet and Finland.

    A never-before-seen virus first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan has claimed 170 lives and infected almost 7,700 Chinese citizens with a pneumonia-like illness, according to the country's National Health Commission. The virus, known as 2019-nCoV, was first reported to the World Health Organization on Dec. 31 and has been under investigation since. Chinese scientists have linked the disease to a family of viruses known as coronaviruses, which include the deadly SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome.

    On Jan. 23, a special WHO committee decided it was still too early to declare a public health emergency on a global level. However, after human-to-human transmission was confirmed outside China, WHO has decided to hold another emergency meeting Thursday.

    Authorities around the world are taking steps to guard against the spread of 2019-nCoV. Travel limitations to and from mainland China have been imposed by Hong Kong, the US announced increasing screening measures at 20 different ports of entry and further spread has been detected in Germany and Japan. On Wednesday, new cases appeared in the United Arab Emirates, Finland, Tibet, Australia and Singapore.

    The situation is rapidly evolving. We've collated everything we know about the mystery virus, what's next for researchers and some of the steps you can take to reduce your risk.

    What is a coronavirus?

    Coronaviruses belong to a family known as Coronaviridae, and under an electron microscope they look like spiked rings. They're named for these spikes, which form a halo or crown around their viral envelope. 

    Coronaviruses contain a strand of RNA within the envelope and, as a virus, can't reproduce without getting inside living cells and hijacking their machinery. The spikes on the viral envelope help coronaviruses bind to cells, which gives them a way in, like blasting the door open with C4. Once inside, they turn the cell into a virus factory, using its molecular conveyor belt to produce more viruses, which are then shipped out of the cell. The virus progeny infect other cells and the cycle starts anew.

    Typically, these types of viruses are found in animals ranging from livestock and household pets to wildlife such as bats. When they make the jump to humans, they can cause fever, respiratory illness and inflammation in the lungs. In immunocompromised individuals, such as the elderly or those with HIV-AIDS, such viruses can cause severe respiratory illness, resulting in pneumonia and even death.

    Extremely pathogenic coronaviruses were behind SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) outbreaks in the last two decades. These viruses were easily transmitted from human to human. SARS, which showed up in the early 2000s, infected more than 8,000 people and resulted in nearly 800 deaths. MERS, which appeared in the early 2010s, infected almost 2,500 people and led to more than 850 deaths.

    Where did the virus come from?

    The virus appears to have originated in Wuhan, a Chinese city about 650 miles south of Beijing that has a population of more than 11 million people. The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market sells fish, as well as a panoply of meat from other animals, including bats and snakes. After infections were linked to the marketplace, Chinese authorities shut it down on Jan. 1. 

    Markets have been implicated in the origin and spread of viral diseases in past epidemics, including SARS and MERS. A large majority of the people so far confirmed to have come down with the new coronavirus had been to the Huanan Seafood marketplace in recent weeks. The market seems like an integral piece of the puzzle, but researchers continue to test and research the original cause. 

    Prestigious medical journal The Lancet published an extensive summary of the clinical features of patients infected with the disease stretching back to Dec. 1, 2019. The very first patient identified had not been exposed to the market, suggesting the virus may have originated elsewhere and been transported to the market, where it was able to thrive.

    An early report, published in the Journal of Medical Virology on Jan. 22, suggested snakes were the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for 2019-nCoV, but the work was soundly refuted by two further studies just a day later, on Jan. 23.

    https://t.co/gRHWIdwMFX

    "We haven't seen evidence ample enough to suggest a snake reservoir for Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV)," said Peter Daszak, president of nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, which researches the links between human and animal health.

    "This work is really interesting, but when we compare the genetic sequence of this new virus with all other known coronaviruses, all of its closest relatives have origins in mammals, specifically bats. Therefore, without further details on testing of animals in the markets, it looks like we are no closer to knowing this virus' natural reservoir."

    Another group of Chinese scientists uploaded a paper to preprint website biorXiV, having studied the viral genetic code and compared it to the previous SARS coronavirus and other bat coronaviruses. They discovered the genetic similarities run deep: The virus shares 80% of its genes with the previous SARS virus and 96% of its genes with bat coronaviruses. Importantly, the study also demonstrated the virus can get into and hijack cells the same way SARS did.

    All good science builds off previous discoveries -- and there is still a lot to learn about the basic biology of 2019-nCoV before we have a good grasp of exactly which animal vector is responsible for transmission -- but early indications are the virus is similar to those seen in bats. A report by the New York Times on Jan. 28 suggested the Chinese horseshoe bat could be the main culprit.

    How many confirmed cases have been reported?

    Authorities have confirmed over 7,700 cases as of Wednesday. The bulk are in China, but cases have been confirmed in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia and Nepal. In Europe, Germany, Finland and France are the only three countries with confirmed cases. The United Arab Emirates announced its first confirmed cases on Wednesday while Australia saw two new cases, taking the country's total to seven.

    In the US, five cases have been confirmed: Two in California and one each in Washington, Illinois and Arizona. Canada has two confirmed cases: one in Ontario and one in British Columbia.

    There are over 12,000 suspected cases and 124 people have been discharged from hospital so far.

    Here's the breakdown as it stands:

    • China: 7,728 confirmed cases (Hong Kong: 10; Macau: 7)
    • Thailand: 14 confirmed cases 
    • Singapore: 10 confirmed cases  
    • Taiwan:8 confirmed cases
    • Japan: 7 confirmed cases
    • Malaysia: 7 confirmed cases  
    • Australia: 7 confirmed cases
    • US: 5 confirmed cases
    • South Korea: 4 confirmed cases  
    • Germany: 4 confirmed cases
    • France: 4 confirmed cases
    • United Arab Emirates:4 cases
    • Vietnam: 2 confirmed cases  
    • Canada: 2 confirmed cases
    • Cambodia:1 confirmed case
    • Nepal:1 confirmed case
    • Sri Lanka:1 confirmed case
    • Tibet: 1 confirmed case
    • Finland:1 confirmed case

    How many deaths have been reported?

    The death toll passed a grim milestone on Monday, with the confirmation 100 people have been killed by the novel virus.

    The toll now stands at 170.

    No deaths have been recorded outside China.

    How do we know it's a new coronavirus?

    In short, science!

    The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention dispatched a team of scientists to Wuhan to gather information about the new disease and perform testing in patients, hoping to isolate the virus. Their work, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Jan. 24, examined samples from three patients. Using an electron microscope, which can resolve images of cells and their internal mechanics, and studying the genetic code, the team were able to visualize and genetically identify the novel coronavirus.

    Understanding the genetic code helps researchers in two ways: It allows them to create tests that can identify the virus from patient samples, and it gives them potential insight into creating treatments or vaccines.

    Additionally, the Peter Doherty Institute in Melbourne, Australia, was able to identify and grow the virus in a lab from a patient sample. They announced their discovery on Jan. 28. This is seen as one of the major breakthroughs in developing a vaccine and provides laboratories with the capability to both assess and provide expert information to health authorities and detect the virus in patients suspected of harboring the disease.

    How does the coronavirus spread?

    This is one of the major questions researchers are still working hard to answer. The first infections were potentially the result of animal-to-human transmission, but confirmation that human-to-human transmission has followed was obtained in late January.

    On Jan. 20, the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reported that health workers in China had been infected with the virus. During the SARS epidemic, this was a notable turning point, as health workers moving between countries were able to help spread the disease. 

    "The major concern is hospital outbreaks, which were seen with SARS and MERS coronaviruses," MacIntyre said. "Meticulous triage and infection control is needed to prevent these outbreaks and protect health workers."

    There is some suggestion the virus can spread before symptoms appear, according to a report by the BBC citing Chinese officials. The incubation period -- when the virus is building up in the body -- can last between one to 14 days without a patient realizing they are infected. However, it must be stressed, experts still aren't sure how infectious this period is. 

    How is China combating the spread? 

    In Wuhan, authorities are rushing to build a thousand-bed hospital to treat coronavirus patients as the province struggles with hospital bed shortages. It's aiming to open the facility on Feb. 3, giving construction workers 10 days to get it ready.

    China shut down Wuhan to reduce the spread of the virus, canceling transportation leaving the city starting at 10 a.m. Thursday. The travel restrictions were extended to four other cities (Huanggang, Ezhou, Chibi and Zhijiang) later that day, and constraints were announced in eight more cities on Friday -- impacting more than 35 million people. 

    The restrictions were enforced during a busy travel period for China, when citizens typically travel for the Lunar New Year. Major public events Chinese capital Beijing were canceled, and both Beijing's Forbidden City and Shanghai's Disneyland closed down from Jan. 25. All of the restrictions and closures will last indefinitely.

    The scale of the global efforts to contain the disease is immense. Hong Kong closed many public facilities on Jan. 28 and has prevented traveling between mainland China. The US announced sweeping border control measures at 20 ports of entry and has been considering cancelling flights to and from the outbreak epicenter in Wuhan. Esports tournaments have been postponed, Olympic women's soccer tournaments have been moved entirely, and McDonald's has shuttered thousands of locations across China where the virus is spreading. 

    British Airways on Wednesday suspended all flights to and from mainland China "for the next few days," a spokesperson confirmed via email.

    How infectious is coronavirus?

    A widely shared Twitter thread by Eric Feigl-Ding, a Harvard University epidemiologist, suggests the new coronavirus is "thermonuclear pandemic level bad" based on a metric known as the "r nought" (R0) value. This metric helps determine the basic reproduction number of an infectious disease. In the simplest terms, the value relates to how many people can be infected by one person carrying the disease. It has been widely criticized. 

    Infectious diseases such as measles have an R0 of 12 to 18, which is remarkably high. The SARS epidemic of 2002-2003 had an R0 of around 3. A handful of studies modeling the 2019-nCoV outbreak have given a similar value with a range between 1.4 and 3.8. However, there is large variation between studies and models attempting to predict the R0 of novel coronavirus due to the constantly changing number of cases. 

    In the early stages of understanding the disease and its spread, it should be stressed these studies are informative, but they aren't definitive. They give an indication of the potential for the disease to move from person-to-person, but we still don't have enough information about how the new virus spreads. 

    "Some experts are saying it is the most infectious virus ever seen -- that is not correct," MacIntyre said. "If it was highly infectious (more infectious than influenza as suggested by some) we should have seen hundreds, if not thousands of cases outside of China by now, given Wuhan is a major travel hub."

    China has suggested the virus can spread beforesymptoms present. Writing in The Conversation on Tuesday, MacIntyre noted there was no evidence for these claims so far but does suggest children and young people could be infectious without displaying any symptoms. This also makes airport screening less impactful, because harboring the disease but showing no signs could allow it insidiously spread further.

    WHO doesn't declare a public health emergency

    Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, convened an emergency committee on Jan. 22 and Jan. 23 to determine whether this new virus constitutes a public health emergency. The committee decided that it was still too early to declare a public health emergency of international concern. 

    "If WHO declares a public health emergency of international concern, it enables WHO greater powers for disease control using the International Health Regulations," MacIntyre said.

    In the fall, an emergency committee met regarding the Ebola virus epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The meeting outlined key strategies and commitments to strengthen and protect against the spread of the disease.

    What are the symptoms?

    The new coronavirus causes symptoms similar to those of previously identified disease-causing coronaviruses. In currently identified patients, there seems to be a spectrum of illness: A large number experience mild pneumonia-like symptoms, while others have a much more severe response.

    On Jan. 24, prestigious medical journal The Lancet published an extensive analysis of the clinical features of the disease.

    According to the report, patients present with:

    • Fever, elevated body temperature.
    • Dry cough.
    • Fatigue or muscle pain.
    • Breathing difficulties.   

    Less common symptoms of coronavirus include:

    • Coughing up mucus or blood.
    • Headaches.
    • Diarrhea.

    As the disease progresses, patients also come down with pneumonia, which inflames the lungs and causes them to fill with fluid. This can be detected by an X-ray and was present in all 41 cases studied.

    Is there a treatment for coronavirus?

    Coronaviruses are notoriously hardy organisms. They're effective at hiding from the human immune system, and we haven't developed any reliable treatments or vaccines that can eradicate them. In most cases, health officials attempt to deal with the symptoms.

    "There is no recognized therapeutic against coronaviruses," Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, said during the Emergency Committee press conference Wednesday. "The primary objective in an outbreak related to a coronavirus is to give adequate support of care to patients, particularly in terms of respiratory support and multi-organ support."  

    That doesn't mean vaccines are an impossibility, however. Chinese scientists were able to sequence the virus' genetic code incredibly quickly, giving scientists a chance to study it and look for ways to combat the disease. According to CNN, researchers at the US National Institutes of Health are already working on a vaccine, though it could be a year or more away from release.

    Notably, SARS, which infected around 8,000 people and killed around 800, seemed to run its course and then mostly disappear. It wasn't a vaccine that turned the tide on the disease but rather effective communication between nations and a range of tools that helped track the disease and its spread.

    "We learnt that epidemics can be controlled without drugs or vaccines, using enhanced surveillance, case isolation, contact tracking, PPE and infection control measures," MacIntyre said.

    A handful of organizations and research institutes have started work on vaccines, according to Global Times. 

    How to reduce your risk of coronavirus

    With confirmed cases now seen in the US, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and potentially Australia, it's possible that 2019-nCoV could be spreading much further afield. The WHO recommends a range of measures to protect yourself from contracting the disease, based on good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene -- in much the same way you'd reduce the risk of contracting the flu.

    Meanwhile, the US State Department has issued a travel advisory, urging people to "exercise increased caution in China." A warning from the CDC advises people to "avoid nonessential travel."

    A Twitter thread, developed by the WHO, is below.

  • China's coronavirus has killed 26 people and infected 830 as of Friday, January 24, 2020, the National Health Commission (NHC) confirmed. The worsening case prompted more cities in Hubei province to restrict travel, following the lockdown of Wuhan-- the center of the infection.

    From 17, the death toll spiked to 26 in just a day, with two of the fatalities reported outside of Wuhan for the first time-- one in northern Hebei province which borders Beijing, and another in Heilongjiang which borders Russia and is more than 2 000 km (1 243 miles) from Wuhan, the local government said.

    NHC also confirmed that the number of cases had jumped to 830, with 177 deemed severe. Cases were also confirmed in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, and the United States.

    As of Friday morning, 10 patients in California, one in Texas, and one in Tennessee were being isolated as they await test results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Meanwhile, the Philippines is still investigating the case of a five-year-old boy from Wuhan who tested positive for a virus. 

    In Australia, 13 people in New South Wales and Queensland had themselves tested after traveling from Wuhan, in which 11 resulted in negative while two are still awaiting results.

     
     
     

  • BEIJING—Two more Chinese cities were put on lockdown by the government on Thursday, as authorities in the Chinese gambling center of Macau said they were weighing closures of its casinos, expanding an unprecedented experiment to try to contain a fast-spreading virus that has killed 17 people and infected more than 600.

    On Thursday, authorities in Huanggang—a city of 7.5 million people—said they wouldn’t let long-distance trains and buses run from the urban center and would shut its public transportation system in the lockdown zone, effective midnight Friday local time. Ezhou, another neighboring city with just over a million residents, said it would enact similar restrictions, bringing the total number of cities with travel restrictions to three.

    Huanggang is about 35 miles east of Wuhan, a city of 11 million and a major hub for travel, where the new pneumonia-causing coronavirus originated. Wuhan just hours earlier halted outbound trains and flights and shut down its public-transportation system.

    The Huanggang local government, in a statement on its website, also said movie theaters, internet cafes and other entertainment and cultural facilities in the city center would temporarily halt operations and a central market would be shut down for an indefinite period. Starting Thursday, the local government said it would inspect every person and car entering and exiting the urban center.

    Separately, the chief executive of Macau, the Chinese special administrative region that is the world’s biggest gambling market, said Thursday he was considering closing all of the territory’s 40-some casinos, following the confirmation of a second coronavirus infection case there, government-run broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong reported.

    The Hong Kong government confirmed its first two cases of the new coronavirus Thursday evening and said some people who had been in close contact with them were quarantined at one of the centers the government has set up at campsites. One close contact was suspected of being infected, the government said.

    Singapore’s Ministry of Health also confirmed its first case of the coronavirus Thursday evening. A 66-year-old Chinese tourist from Wuhan became the city-state’s first case of the virus. the tourist developed a sore throat on the flight to Singapore, then a fever and cough, the ministry said in a statement. One of his travel companions, a 37-year-old male, is suspected to carry the virus, the ministry added.

    By imposing blanket restrictions on people’s movement, Chinese authorities are doubling down on a high-stakes strategy that experts say is an untested approach to dealing with infectious diseases.

    “To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to science. It has not been tried before as a public-health measure, so we cannot at this stage say it will or will not work,” Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization’s country representative for China, said in an interview Thursday with the Associated Press, referring to the Wuhan lockdown.

    Mr. Galea added that while such a radical measure “obviously has social and economic impacts that are considerable,” it also “demonstrates a very strong public health commitment and a willingness to take dramatic action.”

    Tom Inglesby, an expert on epidemics who is director of the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said “large-scale quarantine efforts in the past have not been successful in changing the outcome of disease outbreaks.”

    Chinese authorities have suggested the coronavirus is spreading between people primarily through coughing, kissing or contact with saliva. It emerged from a seafood and livestock market in Wuhan and has spread across China and into the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Thailand.

    On Thursday, Chinese health authorities said the coronavirus had reached the northeastern and northwestern corners of China, including the provinces of Heilongjiang, which borders Russia, and Xinjiang, the majority Muslim region that borders Kazakhstan. Jilin province, in the country’s northeast, and Jiangsu province, just north of Shanghai, also reported their first cases. The total confirmed cases in China rose to more than 600, according to state media.

    The decision to ban people from leaving or entering Wuhan rippled across China and beyond its borders, sparking confusion and elevating fears about a growing contagion ahead of the Lunar New Year, the busiest travel period of the year in China and many other parts of Asia.

     
     

    In Tokyo and Seoul, face masks and hand sanitizer disappeared from some store shelves, while across China, seven movie openings were scrapped as film studios and theaters worried about moviegoers fearful of setting foot outside. In Wuhan, a boxing qualifier for this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo slated to take place starting Feb. 3 was canceled by the local organizing committee.

    Primary and secondary schools in Hubei have postponed reopening after Lunar New Year to an undetermined date, according to the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily. In Beijing, major events over the holiday were canceled.

    Japan and the U.S. each raised their alert levels for travel to Wuhan. Tokyo advised its citizens not to travel to the city unless necessary, while Washington recommended exercising caution but stopped short of advising travelers to avoid the city.

    In Wuhan, local authorities urged calm, calling on citizens not to panic or hoard supplies. “With the close care of General Secretary Xi Jinping, ” a government notice read, “Wuhan has sufficient reserves and smooth supplies of commodities, food and medical protection products.”

    Operators from the transportation-service hotline in Wuhan said more than 8,000 buses in the city and all nine subway lines had stopped running as of 10 a.m. Thursday. Many entrances to the highway from the Wuhan area were closed, while vehicles could still get off the highway and enter the city, according to the local highway information service early Thursday.

    Meanwhile, a few flights continued to depart Wuhan’s Tianhe International Airport even after the 10:00 a.m. lockdown began, according to the flight-tracking site FlightAware. Most of the flights were transiting through Wuhan from other cities, though some direct flights—including to Beijing and Paris—were among those allowed to take off after the lockdown deadline.

    Within Wuhan’s city limits, people expressed frustrations online over a lack of transportation services and dwindling resources at hospitals. The Wuhan Health Commission acknowledged long lines outside fever clinics and a shortage of hospital beds. It said the city was designating more hospitals as centers for fever patients.

    The central government is shipping 10,000 sets of protective clothing and 50,000 sets of gloves to Wuhan from its reserve medical supplies, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information, which posted the information through its account on the Twitter -like Weibo service.

  •  

    On Friday, the head of the World Health Organization offered a stark warning about the chances of containing the global spread of the novel coronavirus amid ominous outbreaks of the disease outside of China.

    “The window of opportunity is still there, but our window of opportunity is narrowing,” explained WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. By Sunday, it seemed clear that window may have already closed.

    Authorities are now struggling to contain — and understand — escalating outbreaks in three countries, South Korea, Iran, and Italy, while additional countries, like Lebanon and Israel, have recently reported their first cases as well.

    Below is a look at the scope and scale of these new outbreaks, and what the spike in global cases could mean for the rest of the world.

    Red alert in South Korea

    In South Korea, 602 cases of the Covid-19 novel coronavirus have been confirmed, resulting in six deaths — the largest known outbreak outside of China. On Sunday, President Moon Jae-in instituted the highest possible alert level over the virus, giving the government new power to contain the outbreak, including locking down cities if necessary.

    Iran’s outbreak may be even worse

    Since last Tuesday, Iran’s government has reported 43 confirmed cases and 8 deaths caused by the illness — the highest death toll outside of China. But there is much reason to believe the real size of the outbreak is much larger and that Iran’s regime has not only mismanaged its response, but hid the escalating crisis from both Iranians and the world.

    On Sunday, Turkey and Pakistan closed their borders with Iran, and Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Iraq have restricted, or outright banned, travel from Iran. It’s not clear how wide Covid-19 had been transmitted in Iran, or for how long, before these measures were taken. In addition, the size of Pakistan’s border with Iran will make it difficult to monitor.

    A surge of cases in Italy

    In Italy, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases has tripled over the weekend to 152, with three reported deaths — constituting the largest outbreak in Europe.

    At least 50,000 Italians are now living under lockdown in the northern Lombardy region, where 90 percent of the cases have occurred, primarily near the town of Cordogno, where the region’s outbreak seems to have begun. Police are patrolling the streets of 11 towns in Lombardy, and issuing fines to anyone caught leaving or entering the locked-down areas.

    Meanwhile, at least 25 cases have been confirmed in the Veneto region, including two in Venice, where 20,000 people attended the city’s annual Carnival event on Sunday morning. Officials have since canceled the two remaining days of the celebration. On Sunday night, a train carrying passengers from Venice was denied entry into Austria over concerns a few passengers were showing symptoms of the virus.

    Schools and universities in at least six regions will all reportedly be closed starting Monday. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has urged Italians to “have faith in the political and scientific institutions, which are doing everything possible,” while health officials have asked people to avoid crowds and isolate themselves if they’ve been exposed to anyone with the coronavirus.

    The big picture, by the numbers

    Though the vast majority of nearly 80,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases have been in mainland China, thanks to these troubling new outbreaks, the number of cases outside of China is spiking fast. Subtracting the 634 people who were infected aboard the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship, more than 1,100 people in 28 countries have been infected outside of China as of Sunday — and those are just the laboratory-confirmed cases that countries have been able or willing to report. As this graph of the global cases reveals, efforts to contain the coronavirus have not succeeded:

    The latest Death Toll: 2628 as of Feb 24, 2020, 17:50 GMT

    Dow slides more than 950 points as coronavirus stirs fears of global economic hit

    U.S. stocks tumbled Monday, joining a global equity selloff, as the spread of COVID-19 beyond China raised worries that the hit to overseas economic growth could be more persistent than investors expect, hampering the prospects for a global recovery in 2020.

    LATEST UPDATES ON CORONAVIRUS

  • As the total number of COVID-19 cases reaches 77,000 globally, here is the latest news on Feb 21.

    Total number of infections stands at 77,253 in 32 countries and territories .

    • Death toll 2250

    Two more deaths, and new cases in Iran

    South Korean city declared 'special management zone' following spread from church

    • China reports spike in coronavirus cases in prisons

    • China says earliest coronavirus vaccine to be submitted for trials late April

     

    Amazon says it will pull products that claim to cure coronavirus

    Amazon has told sellers it will remove listings from its e-commerce platform that make false claims about their ability to cure or kill the coronavirus, according to an email obtained by CNBC.

    The coronavirus outbreak has drawn global reaction and attention, which has led to attempts to take advantage of fear in a variety of ways including email phishing attempts. A variety of products have also sprung up claiming to offer some sort of remedy.

    At this point, there is no proven effective treatment to stop the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization.

    Amazon recently met with the WHO to discuss efforts to stop misinformation about the coronavirus.

     

    Ukrainian police detained 24 over quarantine clashes

    Novi Sanzhary, a village in central Ukraine’s Poltava region, is calmer Friday after clashes the day before over evacuees brought from coronavirus-stricken Wuhan, China, according to media reports and a statement from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

    Poltava region police said 24 people were detained yesterday, 23 of whom have been released, after local residents resisted a government plan to quarantine 45 Ukrainians and 27 foreign citizens at a facility, despite assurances from authorities that none were carriers of the virus.

    In Thursday's clashes, nine police officers were injured and five are still in the hospital, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, while 200 law enforcement officers are patrolling the facility around the clock.

    In order to “reassure” local residents, Minister of Health Zoryana Skaletska announced on her Facebook page that she will spend the next 14 days in quarantine with the people evacuated from Wuhan to the town of Novi Sanzhary.

    Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk put in an appearance in the town, and said that he talked to people in quarantine and made sure they have everything needed. “The facility is under the care and supervision of infectious disease physicians. The situation is under the complete control of the government,” he said.

    In a session in Parliament Friday, he said: “The events that took place yesterday, in my opinion, are the result of an information war, which continues in our country both from the inside and from the outside. I expect that the provocations will continue.”

     

    Total number of infections stands over 77,000 globally

    More than 77,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus worldwide, and at least 2,250 people have died as of Friday. The vast majority of the deaths are in mainland China.

    In Hubei province — the epicenter of the virus outbreak — the number of new confirmed cases in the province was revised from 411 to 631, and the total number of confirmed cases was revised from 62,442 to 62,662 as of Friday.

     

    Two more deaths in Iran, as 13 news cases are confirmed

    Kianoush Jahanpour, a spokesperson for the Iranian Health Ministry, confirmed 13 new cases of coronavirus in Iran in a tweet on Friday. Two more people died Friday, bringing the total numbers of virus-related deaths in Iran to four.

    Seven new cases were confirmed in the city of Qom, four in the country's capital, Tehran, and two in Gilan province. The total number of cases in Iran now stands at 18.

     

    South Korea declares 'special management zone' following spread from church

    The mayor of the South Korean city of Daegu said it was facing an “unprecedented crisis” after a series of coronavirus infections were linked to a single church service, as worries mounted in the country.

    The number of cases of coronavirus in South Korea has doubled in 24 hours, reaching 204.

    As the government works to prevent the spread of the virus, events have been canceled or delayed, and some facilities are being closed down until further notice.

    The total number of COVID-19 cases stemming from “patient 31” in the city of 2.5 million people — which is two hours south of the capital, Seoul — comes to 58, and of the total 42 made contact at the church.

    Another 15 were infected at the local hospital, and one has died, according to a briefing from Korea’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

    The Shincheonji Church of Jesus — whose leader claims he is an angel of Jesus — has become the biggest cluster of viral infections in South Korea, where a surge in new cases has raised fears that the outbreak is getting out of control.

    Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin on Thursday urged the city’s 2.5 million people to stay home and wear masks even indoors if possible.

    Little is known about the woman known as “patient 31" except that she is in her early 60s, had no recent record of overseas travel and was diagnosed with pneumonia last weekend.

     

    More than 500 cases reported in Chinese prisons

    Hundreds of new coronavirus cases in China on Friday traced back to four prisons on the mainland, including two in Hubei, the center of the outbreak.

    In Hubei, the Wuhan Women’s prison has 230 cases, and the Shayang Hanjin prison reported 41 on Friday.

    Rencheng Jail in eastern China’s Shandong province has also confirmed 207 cases of the virus.

    The Shandong government said that a prison guard at the jail started showing symptoms in early February. All 2,077 people held or working at the prison were given the nucleic acid test and, as of Thursday, 200 prisoners and seven prison officers had tested positive for the virus.

    In Zhejiang province, 34 prisoners have been infected at Shilifeng jail. The provincial government said these were imported cases from Wuhan, and two prison officials had been removed from their roles.

     

    China says earliest coronavirus vaccine to be submitted for trials late April

    The earliest vaccine for the coronavirus that has killed more than 2,000 in China alone will be submitted for clinical trials around late April, Vice Science and Technology Minister Xu Nanping said on Friday.

     

    LATEST UPDATES ON THE CORONAVIRUS EPIDEMIC

  • The repatriation of 565 Japanese citizens from Wuhan, China, in late January offered scientists an unexpected opportunity to learn a bit more about the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) raging in that city. To avoid domestic spread of the virus, Japanese officials screened every passenger for disease symptoms and tested them for the virus after they landed. Eight tested positive, but four of those had no symptoms at all, says epidemiologist Hiroshi Nishiura of Hokkaido University, Sapporo—which is a bright red flag for epidemiologists who are trying to figure out what the fast-moving epidemic has in store for humanity. If many infections go unnoticed, as the Japanese finding suggests, that vastly complicates efforts to contain the outbreak.

    Two months after 2019-nCoV emerged—and with well over 20,000 cases and 427 deaths as of 4 February—mathematical modelers have been racing to predict where the virus will move next, how big a toll it might ultimately take, and whether isolating patients and limiting travel will slow it. But to make confident predictions, they need to know much more about how easily the virus spreads, how sick it makes people, and whether infected people with no symptoms can still infect others.

    Some of that information is coming out of China. But amid the all-out battle to control the virus, and with diagnostic capabilities in short supply, Chinese researchers cannot answer all the questions. Countries with just a handful of cases, such as Japan, can also reveal important data, says Preben Aavitsland of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. “It’s up to all countries now that receive cases to collect as much information as possible.”

    With the limited information so far, scientists are sketching out possible paths that the virus might take, weighing the likelihoods of each, and trying to determine the fallout. “We’re at this stage where defined scenarios and the evidence for and against them are really important because it allows people to plan better,” says Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. These scenarios break into two broad categories: The world gets the virus under control—or it doesn’t.

    Scenario 1: containment

    The most optimistic scenario is one in which 2019-nCoV remains mostly confined to China, where 99% of the confirmed cases have occurred so far. (By 4 February, two dozen other countries had together reported 195 cases.) “There has obviously been a huge amount of spread within China, but [elsewhere], there’s no evidence of any kind of substantial human-to-human transmission,” says Robin Thompson, a mathematical epidemiologist at the University of Oxford. “The risk probably isn’t as high as some models have been projecting.”

    If no other countries see sustained transmission and the quarantines and other measures taken in China start to reduce the number of infections there, the risk of spread might gradually go down, and the virus might eventually be quashed. This happened with the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, which ended after fewer than 9000 cases.

    That’s what the World Health Organization (WHO), which last week declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, hopes for this time. In a press conference, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for a global version of the approach his team took in the current Ebola outbreak: Fight the disease at the source and try to keep it from gaining a foothold elsewhere. “Focus on the epicenter,” Tedros said. “If you have several epicenters, it is chaos.”

    Epidemiologist Marion Koopmans of Erasmus Medical Center says it may not be that hard to contain the virus in a new locale as long as the first cases are detected and isolated early—provided the virus is not highly transmissible. “We don’t see it taking off in the 200 or so cases seeded outside of China,” Koopmans says. If that pattern holds, “there still is the possibility it will bend off.”

    She and others suspect the climate may help. Influenza typically only spreads during the winter months and hits northern and southern China at different times. If that is true for 2019-nCoV, its spread might start to slow down in the Northern Hemisphere within a few months. “That is a big question mark we’re trying to assess at the moment,” says Joseph Wu, a modeler at the University of Hong Kong.

    But is containment realistic? Success will depend in part on whether infected people who don’t have symptoms can spread the virus. Asymptomatic people are hard to find and isolate, so if they can spread disease, 2019-nCoV “will be very difficult to stop in China,” says Alessandro Vespignani, a modeler of infectious diseases at Northeastern University. But if asymptomatic transmission is rare, he says, “isolation and social distancing can have a big impact.”

    I would be really shocked if in 2 or 3 weeks there wasn’t ongoing transmission with hundreds of cases in several countries on several continents.

    Marc Lipsitch, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

    So far it has been difficult to get a handle on this question. Some data from China seem to support asymptomatic transmission, but none are clear-cut. A widely reported 30 January letter in The New England Journal of Medicine described the case of a Chinese businesswoman who touched off a cluster of four cases in Germany before she became sick herself. But 4 days later, it became clear the researchers had not contacted the woman, who had flown back to China, before the paper was published. In a later phone interview, she said she had experienced some symptoms while in Germany.

    In follow-up results announced in a 4 February press release, the researchers noted that some patients they studied shed virus even though their symptoms were mild. That’s almost as bad as asymptomatic transmission, says virologist Christian Drosten of the Charité University Hospital in Berlin: Patients with mild symptoms are unlikely to seek medical care and may not even stay home, giving the virus ample opportunities to spread far and wide.

    Scenario 2: pandemic

    Based on what they have seen so far, many researchers think it’s probably too late to contain the virus. “As the virus continues to spread in China, the risk of exportation to other countries grows and sooner or later we will see it spread in another country,” Aavitsland says. So far there has been no sustained transmission outside of China, but Lipsitch expects that to change: “I would be really shocked if in 2 or 3 weeks there wasn’t ongoing transmission with hundreds of cases in several countries on several continents.”

    If the virus does spread to all corners of the world in a pandemic, several questions will loom large: What percentage of the population will become infected, and of those, how many will get very sick or die? More severe cases place heavier demands on health care systems—hospitals in Wuhan are already overwhelmed—and result in greater fears and disruption of daily life. A deadly pandemic might force the world to make stark choices about fair access to medicines or vaccines, if they become available. It might also lead to widespread restrictions on domestic travel akin to those already in force in China, Aavitsland says. If, on the other hand, 2019-nCoV resembles the common cold or a mild flu, the spread of the virus would be less alarming. Existing travel bans likely would be lifted.

    Understanding the severity and case fatality rate is a challenge with any new pathogen. When a new influenza strain emerged in 2009—and went on to cause a pandemic—many worried it might turn out to be a nasty variety. It took months to establish that the new virus killed only about one in 10,000 patients.

    So far, mortality among known 2019-nCoV cases is about 2%, and some reports say 20% of infected people suffer severe disease. But these figures may overlook tens of thousands of people with mild disease—say, a sore throat or a low-grade fever—who never seek medical care and may not even know they were infected with 2019-nCoV. Many may have no symptoms at all. “So what looks like a horrific disease may be the horrific tip of a very large iceberg,” Lipsitch says.

    The fact that four Japanese evacuees were asymptomatic is a case in point. Studies in China have also reported some cases with few or no symptoms. What’s missing is a large study in China, Lipsitch says. He suggests some fraction of the tests that are available in a place with many cases should be set aside for that purpose. (Current recommendations in China call for testing people with clear symptoms only.)

    If indeed 2019-nCoV becomes pandemic, humanity may be stuck with it indefinitely. After spreading far and wide, the virus might become endemic in the human population, just like four other coronaviruses that cause the common cold, and occasionally cause fresh outbreaks. How much death and disease it would cause is anyone’s guess.

    The silver lining of the epidemic is that scientists have collected and shared information at record speed. “Every day that goes by we know more and every day that goes by we can do better modeling,” Vespignani says. “Unfortunately, this beast is moving very fast.”

    Latest Figures: 

    638 people have died so far from the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak as of February 7, 2020, 01:00 GMT.

    There are currently 31,481 confirmed cases in 28 countries. The fatality rate is still being assessed.

  •  

    The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from Wuhan, China has been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday, January 30, 2020. By Friday, January 31, the number of fatalities jumped to 213 and the number of confirmed cases to 9820. 

    WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and other officials announced the declaration in Geneva, which was officially called a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. 

    "Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems," said Ghebreyesus.

    On Friday, Chinese officials reported the highest death toll in a 24-hour period as 43 more deaths were announced in China, bringing the death toll to 213-- all in the outbreak-stricken country.

    Also, in the past 24 hours, roughly 2 000 new cases were recorded in the country, raising the number of cases to at least 9820.

    Tibet has reported its first confirmed case, as well as the UK. Two patients in England who were members of the same family tested positive for the virus.

    There have been 14 cases in Thailand and Japan each, 10 in Hong Kong and Singapore, eight in Taiwan, seven each in Australia, Malaysia, and Macau, six in the U.S. and France, four each in South Korea, Germany, and the UAE, three in Canada, two each in Vietnam and Italy, and one each in India, Nepal, Cambodia, Finland, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines.

    In particular, cases reported in Taiwan, Germany, Vietnam, Japan, France, and the U.S. involved patients who had not been to Wuhan.

    Many countries have started taking measures in efforts to contain the epidemic-- some have advised their citizens to avoid visiting China, while some banned entry from travelers from Wuhan city in Hubei province, the outbreak's core.

    The U.S. has begun evacuating its citizens from China, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the nation's first human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus. The new patient is the husband of the woman who carried the infection back from Wuhan.

    Other countries such as South Korea and the U.K., have also started evacuating their people from China, while an increasing number of major airlines have suspended flights to and from mainland China.

    Russia has ordered the closure of its border with China as a proactive measure as well while there have been no confirmed cases in the country, while capital city Moscow already blocked Chinese tour groups.

    In a port in Italy, over 6 000 tourists aboard a cruise ship were put under temporary lockdown following the isolation of its two Chinese passengers who were feared to have shown symptoms. The passengers later tested negative for the coronavirus.

    "We must all act together now to limit further spread. We can only stop it together," said Ghebreyesus.

    The complete clinical picture with regard to 2019-nCoV is still not fully clear, CDC said. Reported illnesses have ranged from infected people with mild illness to people being severely ill and dying.

     Symptoms can include:

    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath

    CDC believes at this time that symptoms of 2019-nCoV may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure. This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS viruses.

    There are ongoing investigations to learn more. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.

     

  •  

    • HO officials said they are increasing the risk assessment of the coronavirus to “very high” across the world.
    • WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said  health officials are seeing “linked epidemics of COVID-19 in several countries, but most cases can still be traced to known contacts or clusters of cases.”

    World Health Organization officials said Friday they are increasing the risk assessment of the coronavirus, which has spread to at least 49 countries in a matter of weeks, to “very high” at a global level.

    “We are on the highest level of alert or highest level of risk assessment in terms of spread and in terms of impact,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program. The group isn’t trying to alarm or scare people, he said. “This is a reality check for every government on the planet: Wake up. Get ready. This virus may be on its way and you need to be ready. You have a duty to your citizens, you have a duty to the world to be ready.”

    World leaders still have a chance to contain the virus within their borders, Ryan said. “To wait, to be complacent to be caught unawares at this point, it’s really not much of an excuse.”

    Outside China as of Friday morning, 4,351 cases across at least 48 countries have been confirmed, including 67 deaths, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. About two dozen countries have reported only one case.

    He said most cases of COVID-19 can still be traced to known contacts or clusters of cases and there isn’t any “evidence as yet that the virus is spreading freely in communities.” That’s one reason why WHO hasn’t declared the outbreak a pandemic, Tedros said.

    Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Netherlands and Nigeria all reported their first cases on Thursday, Tedros said. All these cases have links to Italy, he added.

    Tedros reiterated that the virus could still turn into a pandemic. He urged against fear and panic, adding, “our greatest enemy right now is not the virus itself. It’s fear, rumors and stigma.”

    On Wednesday, WHO officials said the number of new COVID-19 cases outside China exceeded those inside the country for the first time. Tedros said Thursday that countries must act “swiftly” and “aggressively” to contain the virus.

    “With the right measures, it can be contained,” he said at the time, adding countries should begin thinking about whether they have proper isolation units, medical supplies and other vital equipment.

    Ryan told reporters that containing the virus and interrupting transmission give officials an opportunity to stop the virus.

    “But what it’s clearly doing as you’ve seen in China and Singapore, it’s slowing the virus down and allowing us to get ready to prepare,” he said

    Health officials have said the respiratory disease is capable of spreading through human-to-human contact, droplets carried through sneezing and coughing and germs left on inanimate objects. The virus appears to be particularly troublesome for older people and those with underlying health conditions, health officials have said. Symptoms can include a sore throat, runny nose, fever or pneumonia and can progress all the way to multiple organ failure or death in some severe cases, they said.

    Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said that right now scientists believe there’s no reason to think the virus would act differently in different climate settings.

    LATEST UPDATES ON CORONAVIRUS

     

  • With the death toll from the coronavirus at 1,017, the head of the World Health Organization gathered top scientists in Geneva on Tuesday to try and answer a raft of questions about the new disease. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued a plea for global unity against "a common enemy that does not respect borders or ideologies."

    The WHO said there were 42,708 confirmed cases of the disease in China alone, with 393 more in 24 different countries. That includes a new case confirmed Monday in San Diego, the 13th person diagnosed in the U.S. Like most cases, that patient was recently in the Chinese city of Wuhan. All but one of the fatalities from the virus have been in China.

    "With 99% of cases in China, this remains very much an emergency for that country, but one that holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world," Tedros warned Tuesday, urging health officials and governments to "use the window of opportunity that we have now."

    The WHO has grown increasingly concerned about the virus being transmitted from people with no recent history of travel to China to others in their home countries. Tedros said Monday that this "community spread," which has been seen now in the U.K. and Spain, at least, could be the "spark" that lights a bigger fire.

    People were also expressing their outrage against the government for mishandling the crisis and for allegedly suppressing facts about the outbreak.

    Fueling people's anger against the government were the death of Li Wenliang, the whistleblower doctor who tried to warn others about the virus, and the alleged silencing of journalist Chen Qiushi, who went missing after doing critical reporting from Wuhan.

    Hundreds of thousands of people in China began demanding freedom of speech online but hashtags about the protest have since been censored by Chinese social media platform Weibo.

    Tencent, the second biggest company in China, reportedly listed figures for the coronavirus showing that over 24 000 have died and more than 150 000 were infected-- further igniting the backlash. The news came amid widespread speculation that the Communist Party in Beijing may be suppressing the numbers of the deadly epidemic.

    Furthermore, a conversation between an undercover investigator and a Wuhan funeral home staffer reportedly revealed the real number of deaths. According to one worker at an undisclosed crematorium, at least 100 body bags were required every day. Bodies were collected from Wuhan's three major hospitals, as well as private residences and other small hospitals.

    On Monday, February 10, China recorded the highest daily death toll from the novel coronavirus outbreak (2019-nCoV), adding to overall 1 018 fatalities as of Tuesday, February 11, 2020. A group of professionals from the World Health Organization (WHO) arrived in China on Monday to assist with containing the epidemic, amid mounting backlash against the Chinese government for heavy censorship.

    According to Chinese health authorities, the virus claimed 108 lives in mainland China on Monday, mostly in Wuhan-- the biggest single-day death toll since the outbreak began in December 2019.

    The National Health Commission said Tuesday that the confirmed deaths on the mainland stand at 1 016, surpassing 744 killed by the SARS epidemic, which also began in China.

    Furthermore, there are now 43 105 people diagnosed with the virus, the majority in China, and two deaths outside of the country (one each in Hong Kong and the Philippines). On a positive note, around 4 000 patients have been treated and discharged from hospitals.

    On Monday, a team from WHO landed in China to help in combating the outbreak, led by Dr. Bruce Aylward who has also responded to Ebola and made initiatives for immunization, communicable disease control, and polio eradication.

    According to WHO director-general Tedros Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, they will "lay the groundwork for a larger international team."

    On Tuesday, Ghebreyesus also issued a statement on the opening of global research, warning that the virus holds a grave threat worldwide.

    "It’s hard to believe that just two months ago, the 2019nCoV-- which has come to captivate the attention of media, financial markets, and political leaders-- was completely unknown to us. With 99 percent of 2019-nCoV cases in China, this remains very much an emergency for that country, but one that holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world."

    The team's arrival came after WHO received backlash for its initial decision not to declare the outbreak a global health emergency yet. 

    People were also expressing their outrage against the government for mishandling the crisis and for allegedly suppressing facts about the outbreak.

     

     

    Fueling people's anger against the government were the death of Li Wenliang, the whistleblower doctor who tried to warn others about the virus, and the alleged silencing of journalist Chen Qiushi, who went missing after doing critical reporting from Wuhan.

    Hundreds of thousands of people in China began demanding freedom of speech online but hashtags about the protest have since been censored by Chinese social media platform Weibo.

    Tencent, the second biggest company in China, reportedly listed figures for the coronavirus showing that over 24 000 have died and more than 150 000 were infected-- further igniting the backlash. The news came amid widespread speculation that the Communist Party in Beijing may be suppressing the numbers of the deadly epidemic.

    Furthermore, a conversation between an undercover investigator and a Wuhan funeral home staffer reportedly revealed the real number of deaths. According to one worker at an undisclosed crematorium, at least 100 body bags were required every day. Bodies were collected from Wuhan's three major hospitals, as well as private residences and other small hospitals.

    Speaking on state television Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping told his people to "have confidence" that the country will win the battle against the epidemic, adding that the development of drugs to combat the virus is promptly underway.

    "This 2019-nCoV outbreak is testing us in many ways. It’s a test of political solidarity-- whether the world can come together to fight a common enemy that does not respect borders or ideologies," Ghebreyesus also said in his statement.

    "It’s a test of financial solidarity-- whether the will invest now in fighting the 2019nCoV outbreak or pay later to deal with its consequences. And it’s a test of scientific solidarity," he added.

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