Coronavirus Live Updates: World Reaches ‘Decisive Point’ in Outbreak Fight, W.H.O. Says

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Financial markets around the world continued their relentless plunge on Friday, with European exchanges all declining more than 3 percent. Wall Street seemed poised to follow.

Investors have been unnerved by the steady march of the new coronavirus around the globe, and the growing threat it poses to economic growth.

Africa has long been a source of concern, and a case in Nigeria raised fears that more infections might lurk undetected. In Europe, Wales and Northern Ireland both reported their first confirmed cases.

In Japan, already in shock over the decision to close schools for a month, officials in Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s main islands, declared a state of emergency because of the pace of new infections there.

Switzerland banned all gatherings of more than 1,000 people.

The drumbeat of reports added to the sense that the outbreak may be becoming a pandemic, with health officials close to admitting it may have passed the point of no return.

More than 83,000 people in at least 53 countries have been infected, and more than 2,800 have died. New infections outside China are now outpacing those within the country, the site of the first and by far the largest outbreak.

“This virus has pandemic potential,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, warned late Thursday. “We are actually in a very delicate situation in which the outbreak can go in any direction based on how we handle it.”

Even as countries prepared for the likelihood of significant outbreaks, early missteps raised troubling questions about how nations will handle a flood of cases — even those with robust health care systems.

A whistle-blower complaint in the United States outlined how federal health care workers had interacted with quarantined Americans without proper training or safety equipment.

Leaders Italy and South Korea defended their handling outbreaks — the largest outside China — even as the number of cases in those countries continued to grow.

European and Asian markets tumbled again on Friday as investors became even more concerned about the potential harm to worldwide economic growth from the spread of the new coronavirus.

Indexes in Britain, Germany and France slid more than 3 percent in early trading on Friday. The losses followed a 4.4 percent drop in the S&P 500 on Thursday, the worst day for American shares since 2011.

Futures markets indicated that Wall Street would open lower on Friday, too.

Investment bank economists issued increasingly glum predictions of how much the coronavirus outbreak would hurt economies around the world.

“The more countries that are faced with fighting a pandemic, the wider the potential for economic disruption and potential for increased recessionary risks,” Tai Hui, the chief market strategist for Asia at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, said in a research note on Friday.

The declines in Europe followed another grim day of trading in Asia. Shares in Japan fell 3.7 percent, and markets in Australia and South Korea each declined 3.3 percent.

  • 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 Shanghai index dropped 3.7 percent, and Hong Kong shares fell 2.5 percent.

“Staff at points of entry must realize that Covid-19 has no ethnicity or nationality, so personal biases must be checked,” she said, using the name of the disease caused by the coronavirus.

President Battulga Khaltmaa of Mongolia and other government officials have begun a 14-day quarantine after returning home from China, the state news agency Montsame reported on Friday.

Mr. Battulga and the other senior officials including the foreign minister visited Beijing on Thursday and held meetings with the leader of China, Xi Jinping, and Premier Li Keqiang.

The Mongolian president said he would donate 30,000 sheep to China in support of the country’s fight against the epidemic, according to Chinese state media, which hailed Mr. Battulga as the first foreign head of state to visit the country since the outbreak.

The president and his team were immediately taken into quarantine upon arriving in Mongolia as a precautionary measure, Montsame reported.

Mongolia, which shares a border with China, has not reported any confirmed cases. The landlocked country had earlier closed its borders to China and temporarily banned arrivals from Japan and South Korea. All schools and universities have been closed until the end of March, and the country has extended its suspension of coal deliveries to China until mid-March.

A dog that was owned by a Hong Kong resident infected with the coronavirus tested “weak positive” for the pathogen, the city’s government said Friday, but experts cautioned that further tests were needed to confirm if the animal had actually contracted the virus.

The authorities found remnants of the virus in the dog, who was removed from its owner’s apartment on Wednesday, but said dog did not have any “relevant” symptoms.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said it would conduct additional tests to determine if the initial findings were the result of “environmental contamination” rather than an infection.

Ben Cowling, a professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong, said the result could indicate that the dog “licked a contaminated surface and the virus was picked up as contamination, not infection.”

The dog was taken by the authorities and put in quarantine. The government said it would be reunited with its owners if it conclusively tested negative for the virus that causes the respiratory disease Covid-19.

The Health Department on Friday said going forward, pets owned by residents who tested positive for the virus would be placed in quarantine for 14 days.

The new coronavirus is believed to have started in mammals, likely bats, before jumping species to humans. Since the start of the outbreak, some have feared that pet cats and dogs were at risk for infection, but the authorities have not yet determined if those animals can catch or transmit the virus to people.

In Hong Kong and mainland China, where surgical masks are a coveted commodity, protective pet owners have recently been seen putting masks and makeshift facial coverings on their cats and dogs.

“We have not finished our testing of Shincheonji worshipers in Daegu yet and as the statistics from there reach us, you will see daily increases in the number of patients,” said Jung Eun-kyeong, head of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a sign of the epidemic’s toll on business activity, including the entertainment industry, the K-pop supergroup BTS canceled a series of upcoming concerts on Friday.

The coronavirus “outbreak has made it impossible at this time to predict the scale of the outbreak during the dates of the concert in April,” the boy band said in a statement.

Federal government health workers were not given proper medical training or protective gear when they were sent to assist Americans who had been quarantined for possible exposure to the coronavirus, according to a whistle-blower complaint.

Staff members entered quarantine areas at Travis Air Force Base and March Air Reserve Base in California, interacted with the people who were in isolation and then moved freely around and off the bases, the complaint said.

The whistle-blower, described as a senior leader at the Department of Health and Human Services, said at least one worker stayed in a nearby hotel and left California on a commercial flight.

Many of the health workers were unaware of the need to test their temperatures three times a day, the person said. The complaint was submitted to the Office of the Special Counsel, and a portion was obtained by The New York Times.

The employees were not given training in safety protocols until five days after they were ordered into quarantined areas, including a hangar where evacuees from coronavirus hot zones in China and elsewhere were being received, the whistle-blower said.

The first U.S. case of coronavirus infection in a patient with no known risk factors — travel to a hot zone or contact with another person known to be infected — emerged this week near Travis Air Force Base.

In a statement on Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged the complaint, saying, “We take all whistle-blower complaints very seriously.”

New York City officials said on Thursday they had a possible coronavirus patient and were sending a sample for testing to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. The patient had respiratory symptoms and had recently traveled in Italy, which has emerged as a hub of the coronavirus, health officials said.

Health officials said the patient was under 50, but provided few other biographical details. This was the first suspected case in New York City since the C.D.C. expanded its testing criteria to account for the spread of the virus in a number of countries beyond China, including Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.

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