Coronavirus Live Updates: Europe Threatened as Disease Spreads from Italy


An American soldier in South Korea has tested positive for the new coronavirus, the U.S. military said on Wednesday.

The patient, a 23-year-old man, is based in Camp Carroll in Waegwan, only 12 miles from Daegu, the South Korean city at the center of an outbreak in the country.

The soldier, the first U.S. service member to become infected, has been quarantined in his off-base residence, the military said.

The soldier visited Camp Walker, a military base in Daegu, on Monday and visited Camp Carroll from Friday to Tuesday.

South Korean and American “health professionals are actively conducting contact tracing to determine whether any others may have been exposed,” the military said.

The military added that it was “implementing all appropriate control measures to help control the spread of Covid-19 and remains at risk level ‘high’” for all its 28,500 soldiers stationed in South Korea “as a prudent measure to protect the force.”

The U.S. military in South Korea elevated its risk level to “high” on Monday, advising all troops to “limit non-mission essential” meetings and “off-installation travel.” At gates of the American military bases across South Korea, soldiers are being given temperature checks and screening questionnaires.

On Tuesday, the United States and South Korea said they would consider scaling back joint military exercise after an outbreak among South Korean soldiers had infected at least 13.

South Korea reported 169 new patients on Wednesday, bringing the total number to 1,146, the biggest outbreak outside China. More than half of the patients were residents of Daegu.

A second European hotel was put on lockdown on Wednesday, as coronavirus infections spread across the Continent.

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

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

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

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

The spread in Europe mirrored outbreaks in the Middle East, particularly Iran, and Asia, where the death toll in South Korea is rapidly mounting.

A Chinese community worker checking on residents a in central Chinese city found a six-year-old boy fending for himself after his grandfather died at home. The discovery set off a wave of criticism on Chinese social media.

The worker in the city of Shiyan in Hubei Province, the heart of the coronavirus outbreak, had been conducting medical checks on residents on Monday when the boy answered the door.

  • Updated Feb. 25, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is probably transmitted through sneezes, coughs and contaminated surfaces. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • Where has the virus spread?
      The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has sickened more than 80,000 people in at least 33 countries, including Italy, Iran and South Korea.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      The World Health Organization officials have been working with officials in China, where growth has slowed. But this week, as confirmed cases spiked on two continents, experts warned that the world is not ready for a major outbreak.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The C.D.C. has warned older and at-risk travelers to avoid Japan, Italy and Iran. The agency also has advised against all non-essential travel to South Korea and China.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

The worker found that the boy’s 70-year-old grandfather had died at home, the Shiyan People’s Procuratorate, the office that carries out investigations and prosecutions, said on Weibo, a Chinese social media site, on Tuesday. It identified the grandfather by his surname, Tan.

The boy had not left home because his grandfather had told him not to go out, to avoid exposure to the outbreak, the Weibo post said. It cited a hospital worker who said the man appeared to have been dead for two or three days when he was found. It also said Mr. Tan was not infected by the coronavirus and that the time of his death was being investigated.

The reports unleashed public anger online over whether public officials had, in imposing severe lockdown and containment measures in the province, allowed a vulnerable family to fall through the cracks.

Some social media users also accused the boy’s parents of negligence, even though as one Chinese news outlet reported, Mr. Tan’s adult son was in the southern Chinese region of Guangxi and unable to return home. Others worried that the boy had been traumatized.

A volunteer , identified only as Mrs. Li, has since taken in the boy, reported Hongxing News, a Chinese news outlet. Guo Ruibing, a local party official in the city’s Zhangwan district, told the outlet it was not possible that the man had died for three days before he was found, because the district was implementing “wartime controls” with community workers checking people’s temperatures and conditions at their homes every day.

The Zhangwan government could not be immediately reached for comment.

Hong Kong will give each adult permanent resident close to $1,300 this year, part of an effort to help a faltering economy and ease some of the financial pain caused by months of protests and the coronavirus outbreak.

Hong Kong entered a recession in the second half of last year, with the economy contracting 1.2 percent, the first annual decline since 2009.

Several regional economies have also faced difficulties, with Singapore and South Korea recording weak growth in the last quarter of 2019 and Japan’s output shrinking by an annualized 6.3 percent for October through December.

Paul Chan, Hong Kong’s financial secretary, said the city would implement $15 billion in new spending and tax breaks as part of a new budget put forward Wednesday. The cash disbursement will go to about seven million people and cost around $9 billion, Mr. Chan said.

Mr. Chan said the handout involved “a huge sum of public money,” adding that it was an exceptional measure that he did not believe would impose a long-term burden on the city’s finances, with about $140 billion in fiscal reserves.

Under the proposed budget, Hong Kong will also cut salaries taxes for about two million workers by up to $2,500 per person, a measure that would cut revenues by about $2.4 billion, he said.

The government had previously announced a $3.8 billion fund to help fight the new coronavirus and aid small businesses harmed by the outbreak. Hong Kong has 85 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections, and two deaths from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Despite such stimulus measures, Mr. Chan offered a sobering picture for Hong Kong’s economy in the coming year, with estimates ranging from a 1.5 percent contraction to 0.5 percent growth.

Japanese businesses are moving to allow their employees to work from home in an unusual break from the country’s office-bound corporate culture as the authorities try to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The advertising giant Dentsu said on Tuesday that it had ordered 5,000 staff members based in its Tokyo headquarters to telecommute after an employee in his 50s tested positive for the virus.

And on Wednesday, the cosmetics firm Shiseido announced that it too would ask more than 8,000 workers to stay home until March 6, according to NHK, the public broadcaster.

Other major companies, including the communications firms NTT Group and Softbank, had earlier said they would allow employees to work from home.

The decisions to ask workers to stay at home follow similar moves in China, where many employees have been telecommuting since January.

So far, Japan has reported just 170 cases of the coronavirus, not including the hundreds of infections on the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship that was quarantined in the port of Yokohama.

But the authorities have said that the next two weeks will be a critical period in their efforts to stem the rise in new cases, and they have called on people to avoid large gatherings and to stay home if they have symptoms.

On Tuesday, as Japanese officials laid out a set of policies for contending with the virus, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government would encourage telecommuting.

Working from home is a rarity in Japan’s office-centric culture, where employees are expected to log long hours behind their desks. Dentsu, in particular, is notorious for a hard-charging work culture in which staff members are expected to stay at work late into the night.

Asian stock markets followed Wall Street lower on Wednesday, as alarm continued to grow among global investors that the newly emerged coronavirus would continue to spread and hurt global economic growth.

Share prices in Japan and in South Korea both were down about 1 percent at midday on Wednesday. The South Korean authorities have confirmed more than 1,100 cases, prompting the United States to warn its citizens about travel there.

The Shanghai stock market fell 1.1 percent in early trading on Wednesday but rebounded and was up slightly at midday. There are signs that some economic activity is resuming in coastal China cities, where few cases of the virus have been reported lately.

The Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong was also down about 0.5 percent midday.

The Australian stock market slumped on Wednesday for the third day in a row, dropping more than 2 percent in Sydney.

The declines in Asian markets came after the S.&P. 500 index in the United States extended its steep slide this week by falling 3 percent on Tuesday. Investors in the United States and Asia appeared to be disheartened by developments that included a warning by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that clusters of cases in the United States were “inevitable.”

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note also fell to a record low on Tuesday, an indication that investors may expect American economic growth to falter

A cruise ship in the Caribbean has been turned away from two ports over fears of the coronavirus. The pattern of denial is similar to the Westerdam, a ship that made visits at five ports before being allowed to dock in Cambodia this month.

The ship, the MSC Meraviglia, has more than 4,500 passengers and 1,600 crew members. It was not allowed to dock in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands after it was discovered a crew member onboard was unwell.

After the ship’s command reported one case of influenza onboard, Jamaican authorities, concerned that the man might have the coronavirus, said no one could disembark. The ship left Ocho Rios for its next port of call, Georgetown, Cayman Islands, after waiting to be cleared for nearly four hours.

The ship was expected to dock in Georgetown on Wednesday morning, but the Ministry of Health said on Tuesday night that it could not do so.

“I hope this voyage doesn’t get any worse,” Philip Emerson, a British passenger on the ship, wrote in a text message before the decision was made public.

Earlier this month, the Westerdam, a ship operated by Holland America, was turned away from five countries over concerns of a coronavirus outbreak. After the Westerdam docked in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, one passenger tested positive for the illness. The C.D.C. later said that the woman’s diagnosis was a false positive.

Having another ship blocked from docking is more bad news for the cruise industry, which has already seen bookings fall across Asia. Another cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, was placed in a two-week quarantine in Japan, where hundreds of people onboard fell ill.

Pregnant women in China are facing an emergency they could hardly have imagined a few months ago: The doctors and hospitals they were relying on are suddenly unavailable.

The government has taken nurses and doctors away from their usual jobs and assigned them to work on the coronavirus outbreak. That has left many small community hospitals, where prenatal care and childbirth are often handled, so understaffed that they have closed temporarily.

Many pregnant women have been unable to find even basic care, while reports of infected mothers giving birth have heightened fears of passing on the virus to newborns — though there is no evidence of such transmission.

In Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak, pregnant women have struggled to figure out where they can give birth. Not only are hospitals closed, so is the public transit system, and residents are not allowed to leave the city.

“I worry every day about whether my child will die in my belly,” said Jane Huang. “I worry if there is an early delivery, it will not be able to survive.”

Women who have given birth in China since the epidemic began say they have received minimal care in short-handed hospitals. Regular checkups for babies have been postponed, and mothers have been unable to get their infants vaccinated.

Experts say the situation is undercutting the major political effort in recent years to prod Chinese women to have more children amid historically low birthrates and a looming demographic crisis.

Reporting was contributed by Russell Goldman, Choe Sang-Hun, Keith Bradsher, Austin Ramzy and Alexandra Stevenson.

Source : Nytimes