Most New Infections Now Outside China, WHO Says: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) -- More coronavirus cases were reported in countries other than China in the past 24 hours for the first time since the initial patient was identified on Dec. 8, the World Health Organization said. It’s a significant development as China battles the oubreak and new cases spread elsewhere around the globe.
New infections were diagnosed in countries from Pakistan to Brazil, which reported the first case in Latin America, while Italy and Iran confirmed additional patients with the disease. Germany said it was likely at the start of an epidemic, and 700 people remained confined in a hotel in Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands.
In the U.S., President Donald Trump and federal health officials plan to brief the public Wednesday on efforts to prevent the spread of the pathogen. A top American health official said that the increase in outbreaks outside China will make it harder to keep the virus outside the U.S.
- China death toll at 2,715, Hubei province adds 52 fatalities
- U.S. confirms 15th case, not including ship evacuees
- Globally 2,771 have died and 81,233 people have been infected
- Hong Kong sets stimulus package with one-time cash handouts
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WHO: Most New Cases Now Outside China (3:43 p.m.)
More coronavirus cases were reported in countries other than China in the past 24 hours for the first time since the initial patient was identified on Dec. 8, the World Health Organization said.
The agency said in its daily situation report that there were 459 confirmed cases outside of China in the past 24 hours, compared with 412 new ones in China, where the outbreak began.
Nestle Bans Travel by Employees Until Next Month (2:43 p.m. NY)
Nestle SA, the world’s largest food and beverage company, told employees to avoid traveling for business reasons until the middle of next month to keep from contracting or spreading the coronavirus.
The Swiss maker of KitKat snack bars and Nespresso capsules “shares global concerns over the spread and impact on public health of coronavirus,” it said by email.
Nestle, which employs 291,000 people worldwide, is one of the first multinationals to take such a decisive step in the face of the outbreak. The Nestle measure extends to March 15 and will be reviewed, the company said.
3M Climbs as Virus Boosts Mask Demand (2:10 p.m. NY)
3M Co. rose the most in almost three months as Melius Research upgraded the shares to buy from hold, citing demand for N95 respirator masks now in short supply.
U.S. health officials said there could be a need for 300 million facemasks to combat a domestic coronavirus outbreak. St. Paul, Minnesota-based 3M, which makes everything from dental equipment to Post-it notes, is the biggest supplier of the masks, which are widely used by health-care workers.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told a House panel Wednesday that the U.S. has about 12 million N95 respirators stockpiled currently, but would need significantly more in the event of an outbreak in the country.
Azar Says 15th Case Confirmed in U.S. (2 p.m. NY)
Azar said the U.S. has a 15th confirmed case of the coronavirus. His count doesn’t include the 42 passengers who were evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship or three who were repatriated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak.
Nassau County Monitoring 83 People (1:40 p.m. NY)
Health officials in Nassau County on New York’s Long Island are monitoring 83 people who have visited mainland China or may have come in contact with the new coronavirus, officials said Wednesday.
Radio station 1010 WINS, citing County Executive Laura Curran, said six people have been tested so far and that five have been confirmed not to have it. Results of the sixth test aren’t in yet.
Health officials around the U.S. have been testing hundreds of travelers who had visited China, where the coronavirus originated.
Spahn: Germany at Beginning of Epidemic (12:45 p.m. NY)
New cases of the virus in the German states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Wurttemberg are a sign that Germany is “at the beginning of a coronavirus epidemic,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said in Berlin on Wednesday.
“It is questionable whether out current strategy of isolating the infection and capping infection chains will work further,” Spahn said. “The probability that this virus will circumvent Germany won’t be fulfilled”
Pakistan Confirms First Coronavirus Cases (12:05 p.m. NY)
Pakistan’s health minister said the country had identified two cases of coronavirus, the first in the country.
Both cases are being treated and are stable, Pakistan health minister Zafar Mirza said on Twitter. “No need to panic, things are under control,” Mirza said.
Europe Health Official Predicts Wider Outbreak (11:46 a.m. NY)
“It is likely that Europe will see similar developments like in Italy, varying from country to country,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said in an update Wednesday. “The risk of the occurrence of similar clusters, similar to the ones in Italy, associated with Covid-19 in other countries in the EU/EEA and the U.K. is currently considered to be moderate to high,” ECDC said in its risk-assessment report.
Even though “we are still in the containment phase,” European Union member states should review their “pandemic plans,” the bloc’s health chief, Stella Kyriakides, said in Rome earlier today.
“All Member States need to inform us about their preparedness plans and how they propose to implement them,” Kyriakides said in a press conference, according to a copy of her prepared remarks. “This is the kind of crucial information that we all need to have if the virus spreads further and I urge Member States to share this with us and each other, as this is important for our mutual security.”
White House Says Not Planning to Appoint Virus Czar (11:27 a.m. NY)
The Trump administration said it doesn’t plan to appoint a “czar” to take over response to the coronavirus, pushing back on a report in Politico that it was considering doing so.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said the talk of a czar being appointed wasn’t accurate:
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has been leading an administration task force on the virus, and has said U.S. containment efforts have been working well so far. “I don’t anticipate one, I think this is working extremely well,” he said Wednesday, responding to questions about the appointment of a czar from Congress. “That would be for the president to decide.”
Trump Administration Could Seek More Virus Funding (10:45 a.m. NY)
Azar suggested the Trump administration may seek more money for a virus response than the $2.5 billion announced on Tuesday. He told a House panel Wednesday that the administration is planning to spend “at least” that amount and would work with Congress on a final figure.
“We’re trying to be flexible,” he said in response to questions.
Azar on Tuesday faced critical questioning about the administration’s response from members of both parties at congressional hearings on Tuesday. Democrats responded with their own plans to respond to the virus. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday proposed $8.5 billion in spending for the virus response. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump response “meager, anemic,” and a Democratic aide said the House would vote on its own funding plan the week of March 9.
State Department Adds Virus to Italy Travel Advisory (10:44 a.m. NY)
The U.S. State Department said travelers to Italy should exercise increased caution when traveling there because of the coronavirus outbreak in the region of Lombardy. The State Department notice tells people to take precautions but doesn’t suggest they cancel travel.
The department’s warning has been at Level 2 already because of terrorism risk.
NIH’s Fauci Says Global Spread Raises U.S. Risk (10 a.m. NY)
A top American health official said that the spread of cases outside China will make it harder for the U.S. to keep the coronavirus outside its borders.
“The more you see outside of the United States, the greater the risk of it spilling over into the United States,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.
“Nothing has changed inside our country, but things have changed outside that may ultimately have an impact here,” Fauci said during a television interview Wednesday.
Schumer Prepares $8.5 Billion Funding Request: (9:55 a.m. NY)
U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer is preparing a request for emergency coronavirus funding totaling $8.5 billion, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide. His request is expected to be finalized early Wednesday and sent to Appropriations committee members.
Six Nations Rugby Match on March 7 Is Called Off (9:46 a.m. NY)
The Six Nations rugby match between Ireland and Italy, scheduled for March 7, has been called off. Ireland had on Tuesday recommended the match be scrapped on public health grounds.
Four More Cases Reported at Resort in Italy (9:30 a.m. NY)
The total number of cases in Italy rose to 378. Four infections were reported at a hotel in the coastal resort of Alassio in the Liguria region, which is in lockdown with an adjacent hotel, according to regional Governor Giovanni Toti. Some of the 147 tourists will be transferred and quarantined back home as they don’t show symptoms.
Brazil Confirms Coronavirus Case, First in Latin America (9:21 a.m. NY)
Brazil has confirmed the first coronavirus case in Latin America and will announce it shortly at a press conference, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.
A 61-year-old Brazilian who recently traveled to Northern Italy for work tested positive in a preliminary test, the Health Ministry said in a statement late Tuesday evening. A second round of tests have confirmed the diagnosis, said the person, who isn’t authorized to speak publicly ahead of the press conference.
Russia Limits Visas for Iranians, Cuts Korea Flights (9 a.m. NY)
Russia has stopped issuing visas to most citizens of Iran and is limiting flights to South Korea, as the country’s top public-health official warned of growing risks that the virus will spread in the country.
Authorities are also calling on Russians to refrain from visiting Italy and will extend restrictions already imposed on travel to China until April 1.
Though its shares a long land border with China, Russia has so far reported only two local cases of COVID-19, both involving Chinese nationals.
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