Coronavirus Live Updates: South Korea Confirms Over 800 New Cases


South Korea, which has the largest coronavirus outbreak outside China, reported 813 new cases on Saturday, bringing its total to 3,150. In North Korea, Kim Jong-un ordered all-out efforts to fight the virus at a high-level meeting, state media reported.

South Korean officials have warned that confirmed cases would rise sharply as they aggressively tested thousands of people, particularly in the southeastern city of Daegu. More than 86 percent of patients have been in Daegu and nearby towns; many have been associated with a church called Shincheonji, which has a strong presence in Daegu.

The United States military, which has more than 28,000 personnel in South Korea, said on Saturday that the spouse of an American soldier infected with the virus had also tested positive for it. She had been in self-quarantine since Wednesday, following her husband’s diagnosis, and was being transported to a military hospital, the military said.

Also on Saturday, Mr. Kim, North Korea’s leader, convened the Politburo of his ruling party to order an all-out campaign to prevent an outbreak, state media reported. The North has not reported any coronavirus cases, but there has been concern that the secretive, totalitarian country could be hiding an outbreak.

“In case the infectious disease spreading beyond control finds its way into our country, it will entail serious consequences,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted Mr. Kim as saying. It said that officials had discussed “measures to deter the influx and spread of the infectious disease in a scientific, pre-emptive and lockdown way.”

North Korea has already closed its 930-mile border with China, where the coronavirus emerged, and its border with Russia. But the Chinese border has long been porous for smugglers, who ferry goods across the shallow river that separates the countries. The North has also suspended all flights and trains to and from China and asked all foreign diplomats not to leave their compounds.

The state media report Saturday also said that Mr. Kim had fired one of his top aides, Ri Man-gon, and another official for corruption, but it was unclear whether the dismissals were connected to the antivirus campaign.

Troubling new signs of how the coronavirus is spreading in the United States emerged on Friday, as cases not explained by overseas travel or contact with a person known to be infected were reported in California, Oregon and Washington State.

Officials from the three states announced that their testing had found new cases: a high school student from Washington State; an employee of a school in Oregon, near Portland; and a woman in Santa Clara County, Calif., in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Sixty-five cases of the virus have been reported in the United States, but until this week, all of them could be explained by overseas travel or contact with someone who had been ill. The three new cases on Friday, and a case earlier in the week, in California, were the first in the United States in which the cause was mysterious and unknown — a sign, experts warned, that the virus might now be spreading in this country.

“If we were worried yesterday, we are even more worried today,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “Now we have to ask: How widely, really widely, is this virus out there?”

As word emerged of the unexplained cases, local officials scrambled to trace everyone who had come in contact with those who were ill. California health officials said they were increasing testing. And in Washington State, officials suggested that people needed to prepare for the possibility of schools closing and businesses keeping workers home.

“We’re going to be increasingly recommending that people try and avoid crowds and close contact with other people,” Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health Seattle & King County, said. “We may get to a point where we want to recommend canceling large public gatherings — social events, sporting events, entertainment — until we get over a hump of what might be a large outbreak.”

The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the globe passed 85,000 on Saturday, according to a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University that draws on data from four sources, including the World Health Organization.

Of the more than 85,400 cases recorded, more than 79,000 were in mainland China.

Qatar confirmed its first case of the virus on Saturday, its health ministry said, bringing the number of countries where the virus has been detected to at least 57.

  • Updated Feb. 26, 2020

    • What is a coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crownlike 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 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.
    • 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 nonessential travel to South Korea and China.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      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 was not ready for a major outbreak.

The health authorities in Britain were investigating the country’s first known case of the local transmission of the coronavirus.

The patient was believed to be a man from Surrey, in southeastern England, who had not traveled abroad recently, according to the BBC.

“The virus was passed on in the U.K.,” the chief medical officer for England, Prof. Chris Whitty, said in a statement on Friday. “It is not yet clear whether they contracted it directly or indirectly from an individual who had recently returned from abroad. This is being investigated and contact tracing has begun.”

The patient was being treated at a specialist center in Central London, Professor Whitty said. Three further cases were confirmed on Saturday, he said, two recently returned from Italy and one recently returned from Asia.

The latest diagnoses raised the number of coronavirus cases in Britain to 23, with 18 in England and one each in Northern Ireland and Wales.

The announcement came after a man who was infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan became the first Briton to die from coronavirus.

“We’re still in the containment phase of this disease,” Edward Argar, a health minister, told BBC radio on Saturday. “That’s what our focus is on.”

In France, a third staff member at Tenon Hospital in Paris, the head of the infectious diseases department, was confirmed on Saturday as having tested positive for the coronavirus. None are in serious condition, officials said.

There are now 57 confirmed cases in the country, according to the World Health Organization, at least seven of them locally transmitted and more than 40 confirmed in the past few days.

In Italy — the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe, with 888 confirmed cases and 21 deaths — the main professional soccer league, Serie A, postponed five matches previously scheduled for this weekend.

In a revised schedule posted to Twitter on Saturday, the five games, including a clash between the league leaders, Juventus, and third-place Inter Milan, are set for May 13, at venues to be decided.

During a freewheeling rally in South Carolina on Friday night, President Trump accused his rivals of politicizing the coronavirus outbreak and perpetuating a “new hoax” against him, though there was no evidence for his claims.

“They tried the impeachment hoax,” Mr. Trump said of Democrats, who have criticized his administration’s response to the outbreak as inadequate. “They lost. It is all turning. Think of it. Think of it. And this is their new hoax.”

The president suggested that the news media had also fanned panic over the outbreak, accusing it of being in “hysteria mode.”

As proof that he had the outbreak under control, the president cited his decision to bar foreign nationals who had recently been in China from entering the United States. Experts have disagreed on the effectiveness of border closures and quarantines, but Mr. Trump appeared to tie his decision to his calls for tighter immigration policies.

“We must understand that border security is also health security,” he said.

Other members of Mr. Trump’s administration have also urged calm about the outbreak, though in less explicitly political terms. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump tapped Vice President Mike Pence to lead the country’s coronavirus response.

The government in Japan, which this week asked all the country’s schools to close for a month, will offer subsidies to parents and other caregivers to help offset the cost, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Saturday, as part of a coronavirus emergency spending package totaling 270 billion yen, or $2.5 billion.

He did not offer more details, but he said that the overall emergency package, which would also seek to help small and medium businesses and boost health care, would be crafted in around 10 days. The educational subsidies would be available to parents who had to take time off work, whether they worked full- or part-time, he said. Government officials would also work to help childcare programs extend their hours.

Just a few other countries, including China, where the outbreak began, have suspended classes nationwide.

Officials in Hong Kong, where schools will not reopen until at least the end of April, also announced subsidy measures last week. The education secretary, Kevin Yeung, said the government would use anti-virus funding to boost a recently announced grant program by 1,000 Hong Kong dollars per pupil in kindergarten, primary school or secondary day-school. The additions would bring the total granted in each school year to 3,500 Hong Kong dollars, or about $450.

HNA Group, the Chinese giant once famous for its dramatic global shopping spree, has asked the Chinese government to help bail it out as it struggles with a slowdown from the coronavirus outbreak.

The company, which owns Hainan Airlines and several air-travel-related assets, said it could not deal with a cash crunch on its own after flight cancelations across China and overseas. In a statement posted to its Chinese social media account, the company said it requested the help of a work group of officials from the province of Hainan, where it is headquartered.

It was not immediately clear whether the move amounted to a formal nationalization of the company, which has wrestled with tens of billions of dollars of debt after scooping up companies around the world, from a Swiss logistics firm to stakes in Deutsche Bank and even Hilton Worldwide Hotels.

Before the coronavirus outbreak in December, HNA’s chairman, admitted that the company was having trouble paying its bills and the salaries of some employees. For years, it has had difficulty paying foreign investors who loaned it money.

Officials from the civil aviation administrator and China Development Bank will take over the responsibility of managing the company’s risk, HNA said on Saturday. The group would be led by Gu Gang, who is chairman of Hainan Development Holdings Co., the investment unit of the government of Hainan.

HNA also said on Sunday that it would…


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