20 countries confirm first cases

20-countries-confirm-first-cases

Businessman Son Young-ha, 31, is living at the center of South Korea’s coronavirus outbreak.

Out of the more than 1,700 cases of the virus that South Korea has confirmed, more than 1,100 are from the southern city of Daegu.

On the streets, Son said that there are fewer cars and restaurants are less crowded. “It’s a lot quieter than before. People seem to be careful of the situation,” he told CNN over Skype.

“Weddings and group meetings have been mostly canceled because people are kind of afraid of this situation. I believe that Daegu citizens are aware of the seriousness of the situation, and they’re doing their best.”

But despite that, he says he isn’t overly concerned and claims reports of runs on supermarkets and queues for masks are exaggerated.

“Even if you go to a market or a convenience store in front of the house, there’s no shortage of food,” he said.

“We don’t doubt the central government and local governments are doing their best, so rather than overwhelming fears, we think that if we work together to deal with the situation, we can overcome it.”

A woman working as a tour bus guide in Japan has tested positive for the coronavirus for a second time, Osaka’s prefecture government said on Wednesday.

The first case of reinfection to be reported in the country comes amid mounting fears over the spread of coronavirus there. The number of confirmed cases in Japan has risen to more than 800 — nearly 700 of which were reported on a cruise liner quarantined off Tokyo earlier this month — and seven people have died.

A crew member is seen aboard the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship at Daikoku pier cruise terminal in Yokohama, Japan on February 24.
A crew member is seen aboard the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship at Daikoku pier cruise terminal in Yokohama, Japan on February 24. Credit: Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images

The 40-year-old woman, an Osaka resident, tested positive on Wednesday after developing chest pains and a sore throat, the prefectural government said in a statement. She first tested positive in late January and was discharged from hospital on February 1, after being treated for symptoms at a hospital in Osaka.

The Japanese Ministry of Health guidelines state that coronavirus patients must get tested twice before their release.

The woman had contact with tourists from Wuhan while working as a tour guide in mid-January. An Osaka prefectural official told CNN that she did not attend work, wore a mask at all times and did not have close contact with anyone while she was not in a medical facility. 

Medical professionals wear protective gear at a coronavirus quarantine facility in Chun Yeung Estate, in Hong Kong on February 23.
Medical professionals wear protective gear at a coronavirus quarantine facility in Chun Yeung Estate, in Hong Kong on February 23. Credit: Candice Tang/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Health officials in Hong Kong have confirmed an additional case of the novel coronavirus bringing the city-wide total to 92.

In a press conference on Thursday, Dr. Chuang Shuk-Kwan said the latest case is a 70 year-old female, who developed a fever earlier this month. Dr. Chuang added that the newly confirmed patient had previously visited the Fook Wai Ching Buddhist temple, which has now been connected to several other confirmed cases in the city.

Of the 63 patients still receiving treatment in hospital, four patients are in serious condition and one patient is in critical condition receiving treatment in an intensive care unit.

In the past week, new outbreak clusters have formed across Europe and the Middle East, sparking fears and emergency measures.

The outbreaks are centered largely around Italy and Iran; Italy now has 400 cases and 12 deaths, and Iran has 141 cases and 22 deaths. Nearby countries have begun closing borders and implementing travel bans, as the virus spreads across the region.

20 countries have confirmed their first coronavirus cases in the past week:

  1. Lebanon
  2. Oman
  3. Israel
  4. Afghanistan
  5. Greece
  6. Denmark
  7. Austria
  8. Estonia
  9. Romania
  10. North Macedonia
  11. Georgia
  12. Pakistan
  13. Norway
  14. Spain
  15. Brazil
  16. Algeria
  17. Switzerland
  18. Croatia
  19. Bahrain
  20. Kuwait
Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant as a precaution against the new coronavirus at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, February 25.
Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant as a precaution against the new coronavirus at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, February 25. Jin Yeon-soo/Yonhap via AP

At least seven European countries have reported their first cases of novel coronavirus in the past two days, as the outbreak spreads across the world.

Elsewhere in Europe, Italy is struggling to contain its outbreak — the largest outside Asia. Meanwhile, authorities in the Middle East are also racing to contain the virus spread.

In Asia, the epidemic is far from over — South Korea has reported its largest number of new infections yet on Thursday.

What you need to know:

  • South Korea spike: The East Asian country reported more than 500 new cases and one death in 24 hours, bringing the national total to 1,766 cases and 13 deaths. Many of the cases are linked to a religious group in the country’s south. The total new case count is more than China’s announcement today of 433 new cases.
  • Military infections: Joint US-South Korea military drills have been postponed “until further notice” after a US soldier and several members of the South Korean military contracted the virus.
  • Diamond Princess quarantine flawed: A top Japanese government adviser has admitted to CNN that authorities knew that by allowing crew members to continue working they were risking further spread of the infection. “We suspected some of the cruise staff may have already been infected, but … they had to operate the cruise ship itself, they had to see the passengers, they had to deliver the meals,” Dr. Norio Ohmagari said
  • Virus spreads in Europe: Denmark, Estonia, Norway, Georgia, Greece, Romania and North Macedonia have all announced their first virus infections since Wednesday morning. The number of countries around the world that have reported cases is now nearly 50.
  • Cases rise in Italy: Italy has at least 400 infections — the largest outbreak outside Asia. Many European countries are now implementing emergency measures, with Italy effectively placing 100,000 under quarantine with travel restrictions.
  • Trump places VP in charge: US President Tweety McTreason has placed Vice President Mike Pence in charge of efforts to contain the spread of the virus in the United Sates. US health officials have warned the country may have had its first case of community transmission — where the patient did not have “relevant travel history or exposure to another known patient.”
  • Middle East borders closed: Iran now has at least 139 cases and 19 deaths. This week, the virus has spread across Middle Eastern nations, including Iraq, Kuwait and Bahrain, prompting travel restrictions and closed borders.
  • More new cases outside China: For the first time in the outbreak, the number of new cases reported outside of China in a single day was larger than those reported inside the country, said the World Health Organization. China reported 412 newly confirmed cases yesterday, while 459 additional cases were reported outside of China, according to the WHO’s daily report.
Patients are moved from Seoul Medical Center to other hospitals, in Seoul, South Korea, today. Yonhap has blurred this image to protect the identity of the individuals.
Patients are moved from Seoul Medical Center to other hospitals, in Seoul, South Korea, today. Yonhap has blurred this image to protect the identity of the individuals. Yonhap/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

South Korea has announced another 171 cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing the total to 505 in the past 24 hours.

It is the largest jump in one day for South Korea since the outbreak began. In total, there are now 1,766 infections across the country, which has left 13 people dead.

Out of the 171 new cases, 115 are from Daegu and 24 are from the North Gyeongsang province that surrounds the southern city.

South Korea’s total new case count reported Thursday has overtaken China’s announcement today of 433 new cases.

Zhong Nanshan speaks at a news conference in Beijing on January 20.
Zhong Nanshan speaks at a news conference in Beijing on January 20. Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

A top Chinese respiratory expert says he is confident “the epidemic (will) be basically under control at the end of April.”

Speaking a news conference on Thursday, Zhong Nanshan, the director of China’s National Clinical Research Center for Respiratory Disease, said he had so far reasonably accurately projected the course of the virus.

“We previously predicted that the peak should be in mid or late February, it turned out the number of new cases began to drop after February 15. We predicted the number would be 60-70 thousand, and now it is 78-79 thousand in China,” he said.

The Chinese expert said that his original global projections regarding the outbreak had needed to change due to the increased cases outside of China.

New job for Zhong: iPhone maker Foxconn announced this week that it had appointed Zhong as a chief consultant to the company as it continues to resume operations at facilities throughout China.

Zhong is seen as one of the heroes in China’s battle against severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, and is also currently leading the country’s national research team on the novel coronavirus outbreak. 

A man in his 80s has become the eighth person in Japan to have died from the novel coronavirus since the outbreak began.

Local government officials in Hokkaido announced the death today, saying the patient had died from pneumonia. He tested positive for the virus on February 22.

The victim was from a town called Shiriuchi in Hokkaido and had no known links with the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

He also had not traveled abroad recently, making it unclear how he caught the virus.

Mask production stepped up: At least 186 cases of the coronavirus have been detected in Japan outside of the Diamond Princess.

Speaking at a news conference today, Japan’s Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced the government has asked manufacturers of masks nationwide to work around the clock to provide face masks for the public.

He said the government will attempt to increase production of masks from 100 million in January to 600 million in February.

The government spokesperson urged people to only buy the masks if they they need them, due to shortages.

An employee inspects disposable face masks on the production line of the Yokoi Co. Ltd. factory on February 06 in Nagoya, Japan.
An employee inspects disposable face masks on the production line of the Yokoi Co. Ltd. factory on February 06 in Nagoya, Japan. Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images
Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison on February 23, 2020 in Sydney, Australia.
Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison on February 23, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said while the risk of a global pandemic is growing, there is no need yet for Australians to avoid large public events.

“As a government, we need to take the steps necessary to prepare for such a pandemic,” he said at a news conference today.

“(But) there is no need for us to be moving towards not having mass gatherings of people – you can still go to the football, you can still go to the cricket, you can still go and play with your friends down the street, you can go off to the concert and you can go out for a Chinese meal.”

He said that this was all possible because Australia had “acted quickly” to avoid further infections.

Travel ban reinstated: As part of those precautions, Morrison said Australia would extend its travel ban on mainland China for another week. Australia has barred any travelers entering from or having transited in mainland China since early February.

Morrison added that “further travel bans are not recommended” and the bans are reviewed on a weekly basis. Australia has 22 cases of the novel coronavirus, 10 of whom have already recovered.

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