South Korea mobilizes against drastic increase in Covid-19 cases

Seoul, Feb 24 (Prensa Latina) South Korea is strengthening its response on Monday to curb the Covid-19 coronavirus, as it reported a drastic increase in the number of patients to 833 and eight deaths, thus becoming the second country in the world with the largest number of cases, after China.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of cases among members of the Shincheonji religious sect, in the southeastern city of Daegu, has increased, as well as in a hospital in the neighboring town of Cheongdo.

More than 50% of cases in South Korea are related to those two outbreaks.

In light of the situation, Daegu authorities called on its 2.5 million inhabitants to stay at home, a suggestion that the government also made to individuals with a fever and a cold, pregnant women and the elderly in the rest of the country.

The Ministry of Education postponed the beginning of the second semester for March 9, and the Parliament cancelled its plenary session, after three opposition lawmakers had contact with a patient.

For its part, the technological giant Samsung Electronics closed its plant in Gumi, where it makes the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy Z Flip phones, and the TV station JTBC suspended its morning news after one of its employees was diagnosed with the respiratory disease.

President Moon Jae-in called for special decisions and measures in a rapid, aggressive and unrestrictive manner, due to fears of a nationwide outbreak if the Covid-19 is not contained in Daegu.

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China: Wuhan Expands Controls by Closing Residential Complexes

Spraying public sites and reducing mobility are other measures to halt the diffusion of the coronavirus.

China’s health authorities Tuesday strengthened the quarantine in Wuhan by closing all existing residential complexes inside the city.

RELATED: President Xi Vows to Win People's War Against New Coronavirus

According to the municipal government's new guidelines, all urbanizations will be sealed to minimize the flow of people among the various areas of the city.

To achieve the above, the urbanizations will be surrounded by fences that will impede traffic but will not prevent the receipt of food orders and other household goods.

Wuhan is the epicenter of the pneumonia epidemic caused by the new coronavirus and keeps its nine million inhabitants in quarantine since January 23.

Simultaneously, the municipal government is carrying out a large-scale disinfection operation whereby streets and other public places are disinfected twice a day to contain the coronavirus diffusion.

The local authorities also indicated that all buildings with confirmed or suspected cases of pneumonia should be sealed and managed "strictly".

All people who have a fever or other coronavirus-related symptoms should seek medical attention at the nearest health center and not go to health facilities in other districts.

If people must be admitted and the health center does not have enough beds, the clinic must find a place in the neighborhood where the observation period can take place.

Chinese authorities asked citizens to "actively support" these measures and to deter those who "interfere and hinder" their application.​​​​​​​

Until Tuesday morning, Wuhan recorded 43 percent of Chinese pneumonia cases (18,454 people) and 74 percent of patients killed by the coronavirus (748 people).​​​​​​​


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Coronavirus: China’s death toll soars above 560 as hospital tests new drug

China on Thursday finished building a second new hospital to isolate and treat patients of a virus that has killed more than 560 people and continues to spread, disrupting travel and people’s lives and fueling economic fears.

A first group of patients was expected to start testing a new antiviral drug, as China also moved people with milder symptoms into makeshift hospitals at sports centers, exhibition halls and other public spaces.

READ MORE: 2 Canadians test positive for coronavirus on cruise ship quarantined in Japan

The health care system in the central city of Wuhan, where the outbreak was first detected in December, has been overwhelmed with the thousands of ill patients. A new, 1,500-bed hospital specially built for virus patients opened days after a 1,000-bed hospital with prefabricated wards and isolation rooms began taking patients.

Other treatment centers had tight rows of simple cots lining cavernous rooms. And Wuhan had another 132 quarantine sites with more than 12,500 beds, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Chinese health authorities reported 563 deaths and another sharp jump in the number of confirmed cases to 28,018. Outside mainland China, at least 260 cases have been confirmed, including two deaths in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Hospital workers in Hong Kong demanding a shutdown of the border with the mainland were on strike for a fourth day. Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam announced a 14-day quarantine of all travelers entering Hong Kong from the mainland starting Saturday, but the government has refused to seal the border entirely.

A Hong Kong medical union warned that its 20,000 members could resign en masse if the city’s Hospital Authority refuses to hold a dialogue with them over their demands. It estimated 7,000 were on strike and said those who were working were worried about their safety.

The outbreak of the new type of coronavirus has also ensnared two cruise ships, with the passengers and crew now quarantined on the docked vessels in Hong Kong and Japan.

READ MORE: Will travel insurance cover coronavirus? Experts break down why and why not

Ten passengers confirmed to have the virus were escorted off the Diamond Princess at a port near Tokyo, after 10 others were taken off the previous day. The group taken to hospitals Thursday are mostly passengers in their 60s and 70s, four of them Japanese, two Americans, two Canadians, one New Zealander and one Taiwanese. Tests are still pending on others on board who had symptoms or had contact with infected people.

More than 3,000 passengers and crew on the Hong Kong ship, the World Dream, were being screened after three passengers on a previous voyage were diagnosed with the virus. Hong Kong authorities also said they were trying to track down people who had been on the ship’s recent trips.

Xinhua said clinical trials for the antiviral drug Remdesivir have been approved and the first group of patients are expected to start taking the drug on Thursday. Word of the trials had boosted the stock price of the drug’s maker, American biotechnology company Gilead Sciences Inc.

Antivirals and other drugs can reduce the severity of the virus, but “so far, no antivirals have been proven effective,” said Thanarak Plipat, a doctor and deputy director-general of Thailand’s Disease Control Department of the Health Ministry. He said there were a lot of unknowns, “but we have a lot of hope, as well.”

READ MORE: Unanswered questions leave health officials scrambling to contain coronavirus

China’s National Health Commission said the number of infected patients who were “discharged and cured” stood at 1,153 as of Thursday. Details weren’t given, but milder cases have been seen in younger, healthier people. The new virus is in the coronavirus family that includes MERS and SARS, and it causes fever, cough and shortness of breath, and in severe cases, pneumonia.

China has strongly defended its epidemic control measures, including locking down several cities in central Hubei province, where the outbreak has been concentrated. More than 50 million people are under virtual quarantine in Hubei, but outlying cities, towns and villages have enacted varying restrictions and other countries have severely restricted travel to and from China.


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WHO warns of racism and anti-Chinese sentiments linked to coronavirus

Geneva, February 6 (RHC)-- The World Health Organization is calling on countries not to impose medically unnecessary restrictions as the coronavirus spreads, warning these moves can fuel racism without improving public health.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “We reiterate our call to all countries not to impose restrictions inconsistent with the international health regulations.  Such restrictions can have the effect of increasing fear and stigma with little public health benefit.”

The virus’s death toll has reached over 500 people — nearly all of whom are in China — with nearly 25,000 people infected worldwide.  The virus has also unleashed a wave of anti-Chinese racism and xenophobia.

Edited by Ed Newman

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Coronavirus outbreak not yet pandemic, World Health Organization says

The deadly coronavirus outbreak that has spread from China does not yet constitute a "pandemic", the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease, according to the WHO.

At least 427 people have died with more than 20,000 confirmed cases around the world, most of them in China.

More than two dozen nations have reported cases but, so far, no confirmations have been made across Africa or Latin America.

On Tuesday, three more Asian countries - Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand - confirmed infections among citizens who had not travelled to China.

Officials say 425 people have died in China and one in Hong Kong. One death has also been confirmed in the Philippines.

The new coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory infection and symptoms usually start with a fever, followed by a dry cough.

Among the main developments on Tuesday:

  • Taiwan said that from Friday it would deny entry to all foreign nationals who have been to mainland China in the past 14 days
  • Macau - a special administrative region of China and one of Asia's biggest gambling hubs - announced that it would temporarily close down all its casinos
  • The UK government told all Britons in China to leave the country if they can. Many other nations are continuing to evacuate their citizens from affected areas of China
  • Health officials are screening about 3,700 people on board a cruise ship off Japan after a passenger tested positive for the virus

On Monday, China's top leadership admitted "shortcomings and deficiencies" in the country's response to the outbreak, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, Hubei province.

The rare admission came from the Politburo Standing Committee, which called for an improvement in China's emergency management system and ordered a "severe" crackdown on illegal wildlife markets, where the virus is thought to have emerged.

What did the WHO say?

Sylvie Briand, head of WHO's Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness division, acknowledged that there was rapid spread of transmission in Hubei but said the situation "currently" was not a pandemic.

She praised how Chinese authorities had responded to the outbreak, voicing hopes that the world could "get rid of this virus". She also stressed the importance of tackling unfounded rumours.

"When you deal with an epidemic, you rapidly see that in addition to the epidemic of diseases, we often have an epidemic of information. And this is what we call 'infodemic'," she said.

"And so we have realised over time that this infodemic could be really an obstacle for good response and hamper effective implementation of counter-measures."

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Coronavirus Pneumonia: 9,822 Confirmed Cases Reported Worldwide

The European Union will support research that contributes to more efficient management of patients.

A total of 9,822 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) were reported in China and other countries by Friday morning, with the death toll standing at 213. 

RELATED: Coronavirus Is a Business Opportunity: US Secretary of Commerce

Of the total number, 9,720 were reported in China, with 213 dead and 179 recovered. There are 102 confirmed cases outside of China.

Thailand and Japan have 14 each, while Singapore has 13. There are also a handful of cases in Australia, Malaysia, France, and the United States. And Italy has confirmed its first two cases.

Authorities around the world have been offering up conflicting messages even as they sought to calm panic buying of masks seen as a guard against coronavirus. Some experts said the wrong handling of masks could even increase infection risk of the epidemic.

No one wants this virus. These are dedicated & brave medical personnel fighting for every blessed one of us across the globe. A huge THANK YOU to all in #China serving those who are sick and those who are dying. The world is rooting for you.
He is a doctor
This is d moment, before he leaves his wife to Wuhan, treat virus patients.This is a coronovirus suicide mission &many of these brave doctors &nurses won't come back to their loved ones. "God bless them". Human Story is same everywhere #CoronavirusOutbreak

In Singapore, for instance, the government has taken out a special insert in the main newspaper saying, "do not wear a mask if you are well."

Authorities around the world have been offering up conflicting messages even as they sought to calm panic buying of masks seen as a guard against coronavirus. Some experts said that the wrong handling of masks could even increase the infection risk of the epidemic.

In Singapore, for instance, the government has taken out a special insert in the main newspaper saying, "do not wear a mask if you are well."

Official guidance from the World Health Organisation (WHO) makes no mention of wearing a face mask as a preventative measure against the virus.

Coronavirus can be transmitted from person to person, although it is not clear how easily. Most cases have been in people who have been in Wuhan, family members of those infected, or medical workers.

On Thursday, the European Commission (EC) indicated that the Horizon 2020 Research & Innovation Program will allocate ten million euros to research projects that allow a better understanding of the coronavirus and "contribute to a more efficient clinical management of infected patients."

According to what is known so far, the transmission of the coronavirus pneumonia is likely through contact with an infected person via particles in the air from coughing or sneezing, or by someone touching an infected person or object with the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.


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Here's The Science on How Serious The Wuhan Coronavirus Outbreak Actually Is

How serious is the coronavirus outbreak? What are its symptoms and how contagious is it? Experts studying the new virus still have key questions to answer before they can assess its danger.

The toll so far

As of Tuesday, more than 4,500 cases have been confirmed in China, its country of origin, of which 106 have been fatal. Several cases have been detected in Asian countries, as well as a few in Australia, France and the United States.

So far, no-one outside China has died, but both Germany and Japan on Tuesday confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission of the disease.

2019-nCoV, as it has been named, is part of the coronavirus virus family, the source of two previous fatal epidemics.

The 2002/03 SARS outbreak (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) started in Beijing and killed 774 people out of a total 8,096 infected.

The 2012 MERS outbreak (Middle East respiratory syndrome) killed 858 people out of the 2,494 infected.

So those outbreaks had significantly different mortality rates of 9.5 percent and 34.5 percent respectively.

In general however, those hit by the new virus "are in a less serious condition than with SARS", said Yazdan Yazdanpanah, head of infectious diseases at Paris Diderot University.

"For the moment, the mortality rate is less than five percent", he added.


Chinese scientists reported in The Lancet Friday that, based on a study of 41 early-detected cases, some of the new virus's symptoms resemble those of SARS.

All patients had pneumonia, most had a fever, three-quarters of them were coughing and more than half had trouble breathing.

Despite this, lead author Bin Lao added: "there are some important differences", such as a lack of runny noses, sneezing or sore throats.

The average age of the 41 patients studied was 49, most of them having visited Wuhan market, identified as the source of the outbreak. Nearly a third of them had serious breathing difficulties and six of them died.

All this gives a preliminary sketch of the new virus, even if one has to be cautious about drawing conclusions based on such a small sample.

The study is all the more important because a current epidemic of flu, which has similar symptoms, has made isolating patients of the new virus difficult.


Scientists at Britain's Imperial College estimate that each coronavirus patient infects on average 2.6 others - making it roughly as infectious as annual influenza outbreaks.

Ma Xiaowei, head of China's National Health Commission, said that transmission of coronavirus was possible during the disease's incubation period.

That means that someone who is sick with coronavirus would be able to pass it on to someone else even if they aren't yet displaying any symptoms.

This working hypothesis is yet to be fully confirmed, however.

"In my view it is premature to conclude, on the basis of the evidence currently available, that the new virus can be transmitted before symptoms appear," said Mark Woolhouse, professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh.


Researchers think the new virus probably came from bats, as the SARS virus did, with which it shares 80 percent of its genetic makeup.

But we still don't know which animal passed it on to humans. Last week a Chinese team suggested it could be a snake, but that was immediately challenged by other experts, who think a mammal is the more likely culprit.

Identifying which animal it was could help fight the outbreak.

With SARS, it turned out to be a civet, whose meat is very popular in China.

Banning the consumption of civet and closing their breeding farms helped stop SARS from making a comeback, says Arnaud Fontanet of the Pasteur Institute in Paris.

On the other hand, one reason it was harder to stem the MERS outbreak is because it came from dromedary camels, a widely used working animal.


Health authorities and scientists say the same precautions against other viral illnesses can be used: wash your hands frequently, cover up your coughs, try not to touch your face.

And anyone who does come down with the virus should be placed in isolation.

"Considering that substantial numbers of patients with SARS and MERS were infected in health-care settings", precautions need to be taken to prevent that happening again, the Chinese team warned in The Lancet.

17 Die From China's Coronavirus, Over 470 Affected Amid Global Fears

BEIJING/SHANGHAI: Deaths from China's new flu-like virus rose to 17 on Wednesday, heightening global fears of contagion from an infection suspected to have come from animals.

The previously unknown and contagious coronavirus strain emerged from the central city of Wuhan, with cases now detected as far away as the United States. Officials believe the origin to be a market where wildlife is traded illegally.

The latest death toll in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, had risen to 17 by 1200 GMT on Wednesday, state television quoted the provincial government as saying.

Hours earlier, officials had put the toll at nine dead, all in Wuhan, and more than 470 cases confirmed in China.

Contrasting with its secrecy over the 2002-03 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed nearly 800 people, China has this time given regular updates to try to head off panic as millions travel at home and abroad for the Lunar New Year.

"The rise in the mobility of the public has objectively increased the risk of the epidemic spreading," National Health Commission vice-minister Li Bin said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) began an emergency meeting to rule if the outbreak was a global health emergency.

After official appeals to stay calm, many Chinese were cancelling trips, buying face masks, avoiding public places such as cinemas and shopping centres, and even turning to an online plague simulation game or watching disaster movie "The Flu" as a way to cope.

"The best way to conquer fear is to confront fear," said one commentator on China's Twitter-like Weibo.

The virus has spread from Wuhan around China to population centres including Beijing, Shanghai, Macau and Hong Kong.

Abroad, Thailand has confirmed four cases, while the United States, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan have each reported one.

President Donald Trump said the United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a good containment plan. "We think it is going to be handled very well," he said at Davos in Switzerland.

Respiratory Threat

Li said the virus, which can cause pneumonia, was being spread via breathing. Symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. About 2,200 people in contact with infected people were in isolation.

There is no vaccine for the virus.

"I believe the government for sure, but I still feel fearful. Because there's no cure for the virus," said Fu Ning, a 36-year-old woman in Beijing. "You have to rely on your immunity if you get an infection. It sounds very scary."

Fears of a pandemic initially spooked markets, with aviation and luxury goods stocks hit and the yuan falling, but they were regaining their footing on Wednesday in approval of China's containment response.

Across China, companies from Foxconn to Huawei Technologies and HSBC Holdings were warning staff to avoid Wuhan and handing out masks. Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of Apple supplier Foxconn, said he was advising employees not to visit China.

With more than 11 million people, Wuhan is central China's main industrial and commercial centre and an important transport hub, home to the country's largest inland port and gateway to its giant Three Gorges hydroelectric dam.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said new cases would appear as China stepped up monitoring. But Li said there was no evidence of "super-spreaders" capable of disseminating the virus more widely, as happened during the SARS outbreak. SARS was thought to have crossed to humans from civet cats sold for food.

Global Precautions

Airports round the world have stepped up screening of people from China.

Russia's consumer safety watchdog said it had strengthened its sanitary and quarantine control, Britain said it would start enhanced monitoring of passengers arriving from Wuhan and Singapore started screening all passengers arriving from China.

The Chinese-ruled gambling hub of Macau confirmed its first case of pneumonia linked to the coronavirus and tightened body-temperature screening measures.

A first case of the virus emerged in Hong Kong on Wednesday, media reported. The patient arrived via high-speed railway from the mainland and had been quarantined.

"The whole world is watching," the city's commerce secretary, Edward Yau, told Reuters at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Mexico said it was investigating a potential case of the virus.

North Korea banned foreign tourists from Wednesday due to the virus, several foreign tour operators said, losing one of its main sources of foreign currency.

Sport too was affected, with some qualifying boxing matches for the 2020 Olympics set for Wuhan cancelled and women's football qualifiers shifted to Nanjing.

China's Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, the top legal authority in the communist-ruled country, posted on Tuesday that anyone failing to report virus cases "will be forever nailed to the pillar of historical shame".

But despite such openness, some experts were sceptical.

"We have reason to doubt whether surv (surveillance) is adequate as cases mount," tweeted Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University Law School in Washington.

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