Coronavirus Live Updates: Outbreak Has Reached at Least 44 Countries


The virus is on every continent but Antarctica, with more new cases now being reported outside China than within it.

Right Now

South Korea and the United States called off their joint military exercises.


Credit…Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

From the Austrian Alps to an island off the coast of Africa. From an evangelical church in South Korea to a holy Shiite city in Iran. Governments and health workers around the world scrambled to contain the rapidly spreading new coronavirus, as the number of new cases outside China for the first time exceeded those inside the country at the heart of the epidemic.

More than 81,000 people have been infected with the virus that causes the respiratory disease Covid-19, and new cases have been documented in at least 44 countries and on every continent but Antarctica. So far, nearly 3,000 people have died, the vast majority of them in a single Chinese province, Hubei.

  • In Europe, France, Spain and Germany reported increases in cases, likely tied to an outbreak in Italy’s Lombardy region, where more than 400 people have been infected.

  • In the Middle East, a dangerous cluster in Iran, where at least 100 people had been infected, spread to Iraq, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia halted visits to the holiest sites in Islam, in the cities of Mecca and Medina.

  • In Asia, as the authorities in China were slowly lifting citywide lockdowns that had ensnared more than 100 million people, a major outbreak tied to a megachurch in South Korea ballooned to more than 1,500 cases.

  • South America recorded its first case, a 61-year-old man in Brazil. And a person in California who had not been exposed to anyone known to be infected tested positive for the virus.

As fears spread to the United States, President Trump named Vice President Mike Pence his point person to coordinate the government’s response, expressing confidence that the United States would prevent a widespread domestic outbreak.

“We’re very, very ready for this,” Mr. Trump said.

The fast-growing coronavirus outbreak touched South Korea’s military alliance with the United States on Thursday, as the two countries announced that they would postpone their joint spring military exercise.

The decision came as South Korea reported 334 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the total number to 1,595, the largest outbreak outside of China. Nearly 84 percent of the patients were from Daegu, a city in southeastern South Korea, and in nearby towns.

On Wednesday, the United States military reported the first case of a soldier being infected. The soldier was stationed at a base near Daegu.

Both South Korea and the United States said their annual spring combined training, originally scheduled to take place next month, would be postponed “until further notice.”

  • Updated Feb. 26, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?

      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like 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 worried should I be?

      New outbreaks in Asia, Europe and the Middle East are renewing fears of a global pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned this week that Americans should brace for the likelihood that the virus will spread to the United States.
    • 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 non-essential travel to South Korea and China.
    • How can I prepare for a possible outbreak?

      Keep a 30-day supply of essential medicines. Get a flu shot. Have essential household items on hand. Have a support system in place for eldery family members.
    • 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?

      The 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 is not ready for a major outbreak.

South Korea has placed itself on the highest possible alert to deal with the outbreak, suspending nonessential military training and placing more than 9,500 troops under quarantine. It has also barred most of its enlisted soldiers from taking leave.

The drug maker Gilead Sciences is expanding its clinical trials of the antiviral drug remdesivir as a possible coronavirus treatment into several countries, mainly in Asia.

Two new clinical trials starting in March will involve about 1,000 patients who are severely or moderately ill from the virus, to try to determine which patients would be helped most, Gilead said.

The drug is experimental and has not been approved yet to treat any disease. It is already being tested in Wuhan, China, the center of the epidemic, and on patients who are being treated in Nebraska.

“We are looking for ways we can help the world prepare as well as possible for what appears to be a pandemic at this point,” Dr. Diana Brainard, Gilead’s senior vice president for H.I.V. and emerging viruses, said in an interview.

In the last month, Gilead’s stock has risen 17 percent, to $74.70 at the close of markets Wednesday from $68.80 in late January.

The Times is beginning a coronavirus newsletter, an informed guide to the outbreak with the latest developments from our reporting and expert advice about prevention and treatment.

Every day at 6 p.m. Eastern (7 a.m. in Hong Kong), we’ll tell you exactly what you need to know about this far-reaching and fast-moving story.

Sign up here.

A person in California who was not exposed to anyone known to be infected with the coronavirus, and who had not traveled to countries where it is circulating, has tested positive for the infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday night. It may be the first instance of community transmission in the United States.

“The case was detected through the U.S. public health system and picked up by astute clinicians,” a C.D.C. statement said.

It brought the number of cases in the United States to 60, including the 45 cases among Americans repatriated from Wuhan, China — the epicenter of the outbreak — and the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was overwhelmed by the virus after it docked in Japan.

The new case, in which the source of infection is unknown, is cause for concern, experts said.

“That would suggest there are other undetected cases out there, and we have already started some low-grade transmission,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University.

An oil company and a media group have told hundreds of employees in London to work from home. A German airline has asked workers to take unpaid leave.

For weeks, the coronavirus outbreak in China rattled global supply chains, exacting a toll on major businesses around the world, though often in indirect ways. Now, as it spreads across Europe and Asia, the virus is becoming a more immediate threat to all types of businesses.

From Milan to Berlin to London, companies in practically every industry are refining their emergency protocols or sending employees home to prevent an outbreak.

This week, Chevron instructed 300 workers at one of its London offices to work from home after an employee returning from Italy developed flulike symptoms. The media group OMG has taken the same step in London, sending home 1,000 employees after a staff member began showing symptoms. And Germany’s flagship airline, Lufthansa, has frozen hiring and offered employees unpaid leave.

For the most part, these disruptions to daily work life have been confined to Europe and Asia. In China, most businesses ground to a halt in January as the government worked to contain the outbreak, which has sickened tens of thousands of people and killed over 3,000.

Syracuse University moved on Wednesday to shut down a study abroad program in Florence, Italy, as the coronavirus continues to spread, bringing to at least six the number of universities and colleges that have taken such steps.

“Yesterday, on very short notice, we made the difficult decision to suspend our academic program in Florence, Italy, based on Italy’s very aggressive stance toward virus containment and travel restrictions,” Kent Syverud, the Syracuse chancellor, said in a statement.

New York University’s president, Andrew Hamilton, said in a statement on Wednesday that “out of an abundance of caution,” classes in Florence were being canceled for the rest of the week, and students there were to “promptly travel home or to another appropriate location.”

Other colleges that have suspended study abroad programs include Elon University, Fairfield University, Florida International University and the University of Tennessee.

With just under five months before the opening of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo on July 24, organizers in Japan and at the International Olympic Committee say they are confident the Games will go on.

At a news briefing on Wednesday, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said that preparations for the Games were proceeding “as planned,” adding that the Olympic torch would begin its journey to Japan in March as scheduled.

The I.O.C. has also declined to entertain the possibility that the Games might not take place as planned.

But sporting events in Japan and elsewhere are already being canceled, as governments try to discourage large gatherings in major cities. In preparing for the Olympics, Japan had focused on the prevention of measles and rubella, sexually transmitted diseases and food poisoning.

A new disease, like the coronavirus, was not central to its calculations.

“I’ve never seen an Olympic organizing committee asked, ‘Are you prepared for a global pandemic?’” said Terrence Burns, a veteran Olympics consultant.

Reporting and research was contributed by Russell Goldman, Choe Sang-Hun, Roni Caryn Rabin, Denise Grady, David Yaffe-Bellany, Ed Shanahan, Andrew Keh and Ben Dooley.

Leave a Reply