(AP) - New virus cases in South Korea jumped again and the first U.S. military soldier tested positive. His infection and many others are connected to a southeastern city where the government has been mobilizing public health tools to contain the virus.
A airport agent, who declined to be identified, wears a protective mask as she waits to assist international travelers at SeaTac International Airport, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in SeaTac, Wash. Few travelers or workers were taking such precautions at the airport Monday, but a new virus is taking aim at a broadening swath of the globe, with officials in Europe and the Middle East now scrambling to limit it. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A U.S. military statement said the 23-year-old man is in self quarantine at his off-base residence. It says the soldier was originally based in Camp Caroll in a town near the southeastern city of Daegu, where most of South Korea’s virus cases are clustered.
South Korea said 134 of the 169 new cases were confirmed in Daegu. South Korea’s case totals were expected to rise as health workers test members of a Daegu church that has an infection cluster.
South Korea has almost 1,150 cases of the new coronavirus, the biggest outbreak outside mainland China.
About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea as deterrence against potential aggression from North Korea.
US should expect coronavirus to spread, CDC says
A spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that they ultimately expect the coronavirus to spread in communities in the U.S.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, spoke on the potential spread of the new virus also referred to as COVID-19.
She said the public should “prepare for the expectation that this might be bad.”
“It’s not so much a matter of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” she said.
Health and Human Services Secretary also addressed COVID-19 in a Senate committee hearing Tuesday. He called it an unprecedented and potentially severe global challenge.
“We cannot hermetically seal off the United States to a virus, and we need to be realistic about that," he said.
President Donald Trump tried earlier in the day to minimize fears about coronavirus spreading rampantly. At a news conference during his trip to India, he said the situation is “very well under control in our country.”
His administration has asked Congress for an additional $2.5 billion for preparations in case of a widespread outbreak. He says the urgent $2.5 billion funding request he sent lawmakers will help prepare the U.S. in the event of a coronavirus outbreak.
The Republican president says some of the money will help other nations ill-equipped to prepare for a deadly outbreak. Democrats say $2.5 billion is not enough.
The White House budget office says the funding would be used for vaccine development, treatment and protective equipment.
The U.S. has 53 of the more than 80,000 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide. The drugmaker Moderna has shipped a potential vaccine for humans to government researchers for testing.
Shares of the biotech company soared Tuesday, a day after the company said it sent vials to an arm of the National Institutes of Health for early-stage testing in the U.S.
The first clinical trial is underway in Nebraska and eventually expected to include 400 patients at 50 locations around the world. Half the patients will receive the antiviral medicine remdesivir while the other half will receive a placebo.
Several other studies are already underway internationally. Dr. Andre Kalil, who will oversee the study at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said Tuesday the clinical trial was developed quickly in response to the virus outbreak that is centered in China.
Coronavirus fears were credited with Monday’s 1,000-plus-point drop in the stock market. The virus has slammed the economy of China, where it originated.
‘Time is everything’: World braces for spread of new virus
China bought the world valuable time with its travel restrictions and huge lockdowns.
Now, as the world teeters on the brink of a pandemic of the new virus, hospitals are counting boxes of masks and gloves.
Authorities are asking for cooperation from schools, churches and businesses.
In many nations, existing plans for pandemic influenza are being adapted because the new virus spreads in much the same way as flu.
With no vaccine or specific medicine yet available for the new coronavirus, authorities are ready to keep people away from crowds, even if it means canceling large events.
Researchers are still at least a year away from having a vaccine ready for widespread use.
Desperate to stop virus’ spread, countries limit travel
Countries desperate to stop the spread of a deadly new virus are erecting police checkpoints, issuing travel warnings and suspending flights. With a widening global crisis encompassing not just Asia, but also Europe and the Middle East, there is a sense the virus will inevitably press into new places.
Cases of people living and working in close proximity to others are spurring fear.
Korean Air says one of its crew members tested positive, while cases are popping up on military bases in South Korea and in a school bus driver in the tiny Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain.
President Moon Jae-in of South Korea is warning his country is at a turning point in containment efforts.
China and South Korea are reporting more cases of the new virus that has been concentrated in North Asia, but concerns are growing about increasing clusters of the disease in the Middle East and Europe.
China reported 508 new cases and another 71 deaths. That brings mainland China’s totals to more than 77,600 cases and more than 2,600 deaths. The new deaths bring the world’s total to more than 2,700.
South Korea now has the second most cases with 977. Health workers continue to find batches in the southeastern city of Daegu and nearby areas, where panic has brought towns to an eerie standstill.
As fears of the soaring viral outbreak grip Daegu and nearby areas, many residents are struggling as they try to avoid the disease. Some stock up on instant noodles and rice, while others avoid any kinds of public activities. Wedding hall employees say they require guests to wear masks.
The outbreak is a sudden development for residents of the region, which hadn’t reported a case until last week. As the central government struggles to contain the outbreak, public anxiety over the virus is destabilizing everyday lives and causing a serious impact on the local economy.
Meanwhile, factories in China that make the world’s smartphones, toys and other goods are struggling to reopen after the virus outbreak idled the country’s economy. Even with the ruling Communist Party promising help, companies and economists say it may be months before production is back to normal.
The problem is supply chains: the thousands of companies that provide components, from auto parts to zippers to microchips. China’s are famously nimble, but the most sweeping anti-disease controls ever imposed left them short of raw materials and workers.
Automakers and other factories are reopening but production at some suppliers of smartphone components is as low as 10% of normal levels.
Italy sees 45% rise in virus cases, 11 deaths
Civil protection officials in Italy say the number of virus cases in the country increased by 100, or 45%, in a 24-hour period and there now have been a total of 11 deaths.
Officials reported late Tuesday that 322 people in Italy had confirmed infections,. The new cases include ones well outside the two hard-hit regions of northern Italy that has become the epicenter of Europe’s virus outbreak, including three in Sicily and two in Tuscany.
As the cases continued growing at a worrisome rate, evidence is emerging that travelers are carrying the virus from northern Italy to other European countries.
Austria, Croatia, Switzerland and Spain’s Canary Islands reported their first confirmed cases on Tuesday.
As cases continued growing at a worrisome rate, evidence emerged that the virus was spreading from its epicenter in Europe to other countries with vacationing Italians and Europeans who visited the afflicted northern regions.
Switzerland, Austria and Croatia confirmed their first COVID-19 cases in their countries Tuesday involving people who had recently traveled from virus-hit parts of neighboring Italy.
A 70-year-old man from southern Switzerland tested positive after returning from a trip to Milan.
Authorities in Tyrol say a woman and a man tested positive after traveling to Austria from Italy’s Bergamo region Friday.
Croatian authorities said the country’s first case involved a man who had also recently been to Milan.
Iran says official who played down virus fears is infected
Iranian officials say the head of a government task force on the coronavirus has tested positive for the illness himself as new cases from the country rapidly emerge across the Middle East.
On Monday, Iraj Harirchi said at a news conference in Tehran that “the situation is almost stable in the country.” He coughed and was sweating visibly as he spoke.
The acknowledgement of his illness underscores a growing crisis of confidence felt by many in Iran about the government in recent months.
The announcement comes as countries across the Mideast say they’ve had confirmed cases of the virus that link back to Iran, which for days denied having the virus.
The United Arab Emirates has banned all flights to and from Iran over the outbreak of the new coronavirus, just a day after its spread was announced across multiple Mideast nations from the Islamic Republic.
A spokesman at Iran’s Health Ministry says that the outbreak has killed 15 people in the Islamic Republic amid 95 confirmed cases. That’s according to Jahanpour, who gave the figure in an interview Tuesday on Iranian state television.
Jahanpour said many cases have links to Qom, a major Shiite religious center where other cases have emerged.
Canary Islands hotel quarantined after virus confirmed
Spanish officials say a tourist hotel on the Canary Islands has been placed in quarantine after an Italian doctor staying there tested positive for the new coronavirus.
The positive test was evidence that the Italian epicenter of the outbreak in Europe is spreading with vacationing Italians.
The press office for the town of Adeje on the island of Tenerife said Tuesday that the H10 Adeje Palace hotel was in quarantine. Spanish news media says some 1,000 tourists staying at the complex are not allowed to leave.
The virus also spread within Italy, as a woman from the northern Lombardy region tested positive in southernmost Sicily.
Civil protection officials on Tuesday reported a large jump of cases in Italy, from 222 to 283. Seven people have died, all of them elderly.
Abe: Flex hours, work style among key steps to fight virus
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the success of new measures such as letting employees work from home and expanding hospital treatment capacity will determine whether the country can control its virus outbreak.
Abe says slowing the pace of new infections is crucial to stopping the spread of the disease.
Japan has confirmed 850 cases, the third highest number behind China and South Korea.
The government is urging people with mild illness to stay home or go to family doctors instead of hospitals with specialized virus-control facilities, which are treating many seriously ill patients already.
IOC senior member: 3 months to decide fate of Tokyo Olympics
The longest-serving member of the International Olympic Committee estimates there’s a three-month window to decide the fate of the Tokyo Olympics. The games are being threatened by the fast-spreading virus from China.
IOC member Dick Pound tells the Associated Press “you could certainly go to two months out if you had to.” The Olympics open on July 24.
Pound says if the virus has not abated by then “you are probably looking at a cancellation. This is the new war and you have to face it.”
Pound said he was speaking for himself, not for the IOC. He no longer serves on the IOC’s executive board where he was a member for two decades. He also sounded a hopeful note and urged athletes to keep training. He says “as far as we know you’re going to be in Tokyo.”
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