The Latest: South Korea reports cluster at insurance company
The Latest on the coronavirus outbreak sweeping the globe:
South Korea is reporting a cluster of new viral infections at a Seoul insurance company.
South Korea on Wednesday reported 242 new cases of coronavirus infection from 24 hours ago, bringing its total to 7,755.
Of the new cases, 131 were in Daegu, South Korea’s worst-hit city. But 52 new cases were in the capital, Seoul, where dozens of call-center workers for an insurance company tested positive, raising concerns about a further spread. The country has 60 virus deaths.
China’s outbreak of the new coronavirus continues to subside with about three-fourths of people once infected now free of the illness.
The health ministry Wednesday reported 24 new cases over the past 24 hours, along with 22 more deaths. That brings China’s totals to 80,778 cases and 3,158 deaths since the outbreak began in December.
Nationwide, 16,145 people remain in treatment and 61,475 have been declared free of the virus and released. Nine of the new cases were reported outside Hubei province.
The virus that causes the COVID-19 illness has spread around the world, with Italy and Iran accounting for most illnesses and deaths outside of China.
The outbreak was slow to reach Latin America and the Caribbean, but 100 cases have now been confirmed there. Panama’s government confirmed the first death there and canceled classes and sports and cultural events in the capital.
Panama went from one confirmed case Monday in a recently arrived traveler to eight cases Tuesday in what may be a local outbreak.
Health Minister Rosario Turner says the dead man was a school director and two other teachers at the school have tested positive.
The head of the U.N. weather agency says China’s improved air quality during the coronavirus outbreak demonstrates the impact of human emissions but adds “this is not good news because people are dying.”
World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas at a U.N. briefing Tuesday showed satellite pictures of the much cleaner air quality over China on Jan. 30, 2020, compared to January 2019.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed both the virus and climate change were serious problems that must be defeated. But he said the virus is expected to be temporary while climate change will remain for decades and requires constant action.
He was responding to a question on the possibility the virus epidemic could cut greenhouse gas emissions this year, with decreased energy use, planes grounded and international trade squeezed, and the effect on climate change as soon as the economy bounces back.
Guterres stressed: “We will not fight climate change with a virus.” He said the attention given to fighting COVID-19 “does not distract us from the need to defeat climate change,” inequality and all the other problems the world is facing.
A British health minister has the new coronavirus — the first UK lawmaker to be diagnosed with the disease.
Nadine Dorries, a junior minister in the Department of Health, said she is self-isolating as she recovers.
The Times of London reported that Dorries first showed symptoms on Friday and had since worked in Parliament, held meetings with constituents and attended an International Women’s Day reception with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Britain has confirmed 373 cases of COVID-19, and six deaths.
The Coachella music festival in Southern California has been postponed amid virus concerns.
The festival is organized by concert promoter Goldenvoice, which released a statement Tuesday saying it will be rescheduled for two weekends in October.
Rage Against the Machine, Travis Scott and Frank Ocean had been scheduled to headline the April festival, which attracts tens of thousands to the desert community of Indio, California, and the nearby cities of Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage.
The festival is held over two weekends has a reputation for eye-popping performances, including Beyoncé’s 2018 set that became the Netflix film “Homecoming,” and the 2012 debut of a “hologram” of late rapper Tupac Shakur. This year’s festival was set to reunite Rage Against the Machine — which performed at the first Coachella festival in 1999.
Goldenvoice also puts on the country music festival Stagecoach in Indio. This year’s Stagecoach will move from April 24-26 to Oct. 23-25. The festival’s headliners are Thomas Rhett, Carrie Underwood and Eric Church.
Two people infected with COVID-19 have died in California.
Authorities in Washington state have reported two new coronavirus deaths, bringing the total there to at least 24.
A statement Tuesday from Public Health – Seattle & King County also said officials are working with 10 long-term care facilities where residents or employees have tested positive for COVID-19. The new deaths reported were a woman in her 80s, a resident of a nursing and rehabilitation center in Issaquah, Washington, who died Sunday and a man in his 80s, a resident of a Seattle senior center, who died Monday.
Of the deaths in Washington state at least 19 have been tied to another nursing home, the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington.
The virus has infected more than 800 people in the U.S. and killed at least 29. New Jersey reported its first coronavirus death Tuesday.
This item has been corrected to reflect that at least 29 have died in the U.S., not 30.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she talked to other top leaders of EU member states and the European Commission at a video conference Tuesday evening and explained what her country is doing to contain the spread of the virus and also how the government is financially supporting companies that have been especially hard hit by the outbreak.
She stressed that a coordinated fight against the outbreak among the Europeans is of big significance as well as an international effort to find and develop vaccines against the virus.
A written statement said that the other leaders also stressed that European cooperation in the battle against the coronavirus was much needed.
Fearing a significant increase of the number of COVID-19 cases, Albanian authorities on Tuesday took rigid measures closing all centers where people may gather.
Albania has had 10 COVID-19 cases so far, all resulting from two people visiting Italy. All flights and ferries to and from Italy have been suspended but those for commercial purposes.
People gatherings are prohibited. Social assisting centers will limit the staff while cultural and entertaining centers, gyms and pools will close. Many public employees will work from home. Football league matches will be held without fans.
All discos, pubs, gyms and other people gathering centers will be closed until April 3 while bars and restaurants should keep tables 2 meters apart.
All schools have been shut down for two weeks.
Air Canada is suspending flights to and from Italy.
The airline’s last flight to Rome is scheduled to take off from Toronto on Tuesday, with the final return flight departing Rome for Montreal on Wednesday. Air Canada hopes to restart service May 1. Meanwhile, it says affected customers will be notified and offered a full refund.
Air Canada says regulations and “ongoing health and safety concerns” prompted the decision.
Italy is the center of Europe’s epidemic.
Italian authorities say the number of infections has topped 10,000. More than 600 people with the virus have died there.
In January, Canada’s largest airline halted all direct flights to China — the epicenter of the virus — as it braced for a hit to revenues. Its shares have fallen about 40% in the past seven weeks.
El Salvador’s government says Guatemalans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans will no longer be able to enter the country without a passport due to fears of the new coronavirus, despite an agreement by four Central American nations allowing their citizens free transit.
There have been no confirmed coronavirus cases in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras or Nicaragua.
El Salvador President Nayib Bukele said via Twitter that the decision was spurred by Salvadorans trying to avoid government quarantines by flying into Guatemala from overseas and then traveling overland to El Salvador, where they would not have to show their passports.
The president said foreigners coming from seven countries with a high number of new coronavirus cases will not be admitted. The countries are Spain, Italy, France, Germany, China, South Korea and Iran. Salvadorans coming from those countries are subjected to a 30-day quarantine. As of Sunday, El Salvador had placed 90 people in quarantine who had arrived from the restricted countries. None had tested positive.
Slovenia’s acting prime minister says he has ordered the closure of the border with EU neighbor Italy.
Tuesday’s measure does not apply for freight transport.
Austria also introduced a ban on people arriving from Italy, with exception for citizens returning home and persons carrying doctor’s note certifying they are healthy.
Malta shut down the border to the south, turning away an Italian cruise ship on Tuesday.
Italy is the center of Europe’s epidemic.
Italian authorities say the number of infections has topped 10,000. The number of people with the virus who have died rose to 631.
New York’s governor is sending the National Guard into a New York suburb to help fight what appears to be the nation’s biggest known cluster of coronavirus cases.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that schools, houses of worship and large gathering places will be shuttered for two weeks in a “containment area” centered in suburban New Rochelle.
He told reporters that National Guard troops will help clean surfaces and deliver food in the area, a 1-mile-radius (1.6 km) around a point near a synagogue.
The state and a private health system are setting up a testing facility in the area.
Cuomo says “It’s a dramatic action, but it is the largest cluster of cases in the country.”
New Rochelle is at the center of an outbreak of 108 cases in Westchester County, out of 173 statewide.
New Jersey is reporting its first case of a death in a coronavirus patient.
Judith Persichilli, commissioner of the state health department, said Tuesday the patient who died was a 69-year-old Bergen County man with underlying medical conditions.
The man had no travel outside of the United States but had gone to New York, where there are more than 150 cases of the new coronavirus. New Jersey has 15 cases of the virus.
Stocks are higher on Wall Street after another bout of volatile trading took the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 945 points in the early going and then briefly into the red by late morning.
Markets bumped up again just around midday after Vice President Mike Pence said the nation’s big health insurers would cover co-pays for coronavirus testing. The Dow was up 190 points, or 0.8%, to 24,040 as of 1:05 p.m. Eastern Time.
Investors are likely to see more big swings until the number of infections from the new coronavirus decelerate, market watchers say, and they also want a big, coordinated response from governments and central banks.
The United Nations says it will close its headquarters complex in New York to the general public and temporarily suspend all guided tours starting Tuesday evening as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the United Nations has not been advised of any COVID-19 cases among its 3,000 staff. He said about 1,000 people visit U.N. headquarters every day.
Dujarric said the U.N. has recommended to U.N. personnel who have recently returned from countries where the virus is common should remain at home and self-monitor for 14 days. He said telecommuting and flexible work arrangements are also being recommended for U.N. personnel.
He says further measures could be taken.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has announced new policies to support workers impacted by the new coronavirus and new rules for long-term care centers, including placing limits on visitors and screening workers for symptoms.
At a news conference Tuesday, Inslee said the state is preparing for many more cases than have been reported, potentially tens of thousands, based on estimates of the spread of the disease.
The state has the worst outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S, with 160 cases and at least 22 deaths. Nineteen of those deaths are linked to the Life Care Center, a nursing home in Kirkland.
He says it’s very disturbing that “the number of people who are infected will double in five to eight days. Inslee said the state is still considering banning large gatherings like sporting events.
The governor said the state will require that long-term care facilities limit residents to one adult visitor per day unless residents are near death. Visitors would have to wear protective clothing.
Congo has confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus — a Belgian citizen who tested positive at the airport and who is in quarantine — bringing the number of infections in Africa to 105 in 11 countries.
Burkina Faso late Monday confirmed its first two cases — a husband and wife who returned from a trip to France.
South Africa announced four more cases, bringing its total to seven, all part of a group that returned from Italy.
In North Africa, there have been two deaths, one each in Morocco and Egypt. Egypt now has 59 cases, Algeria has 20, Tunisia has five and Morocco now has one remaining case.
Although Africa’s numbers are low compared to Asia, Europe and the U.S., experts warn that COVID-19 spreading across the continent could be catastrophic given the poor health systems in many African countries.
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