Factbox: Latest on the spread of the coronavirus around the world

(Reuters) – The World Health Organization (WHO) voiced deep concern on Wednesday about the rapid escalation and global spread of the coronavirus. “In the next few days, we will reach 1 million confirmed cases and 50,000 deaths worldwide,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

DEATHS, INFECTIONS

** More than 935,000 people have been infected across the world and over 46,900 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

** For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

** U.S.-focused tracker with state-by-state and county map, open https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T in an external browser.

EUROPE

** Italy’s daily death toll on Wednesday was the lowest in six days, but the overall number of new infections grew and the government extended a national lockdown until at least mid-April.

** Britain’s prime minister promised to ramp up testing after his government faced criticism for being slower than some European peers to roll out mass checks.

** France became the fourth country to exceed 4,000 deaths, while Spain’s death toll topped 10,000.

** The restrictive measures Ireland put in place last week may well be extended beyond the initial deadline of April 12, deputy prime minister said.

** The separatist government of Spain’s Catalonia region abandoned its initial reluctance and asked the national military for assistance.

** Serbia will revoke a decree giving the government control over information on the outbreak, following protests and the detention of a journalist for reporting a major hospital lacked protective gear and properly trained staff.

** Poland may face a peak in infections in April, government spokesman said, adding that further curbs on people’s movements could not be ruled out.

** EU executive chief expressed concern that restriction measures taken by Hungary went too far and insisted they should be limited in time and subject to scrutiny.

AMERICAS

** Four new states imposed sweeping stay-at-home directives on Wednesday, putting over 80% of Americans under lockdown as the number of deaths in the United States nearly doubled in three days.

** About 1,000 sailors from a virus-hit U.S. aircraft carrier were under quarantine at a U.S. naval base on Guam on Thursday.

** Presidents Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro discussed cooperation between United States and Brazil, as Brazil’s health minister warned that infection rates and lack of medical supplies were a big concern.

** Brazil confirmed its first indigenous coronavirus case deep in the Amazon rainforest.

** Mexico’s president urged companies to keep paying workers or face public scorn, even as criticism of his economic management grows.

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

** Mainland China logged fewer new infections on Thursday, but measures restricting movement were tightened in some areas due to a fear of more imported cases.

** India reported its biggest single day increase in cases as officials raced to track down some 9,000 people exposed to the country’s biggest infection cluster during a Muslim missionary group’s gathering last month.

** Facing calls to declare a state of emergency, Japan’s prime minister was derided on social media for instead offering people cloth masks, pointing to growing frustration with his handling of the crisis.

** Indonesia plans to give special assistance to residents of Jakarta within two weeks to limit the exodus from the capital during the Ramadan holiday period.

** South Korea will allow coronavirus patients to vote by mail or as absentees in parliamentary elections this month.

** WHO expects the number of cases in Malaysia to peak in mid-April, saying there are signs of a flattening of the infection curve.

** Singapore suffered its fourth death on Thursday, a day after it reported a record number of new cases that took its total to 1,000.

** Australia’s most populous state said police enforcement of restrictions on personal movement would last three months.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

** Iran’s president said the United States had missed an opportunity to lift sanctions on his country, though he said the penalties had not hampered Tehran’s fight against the virus which has killed more than 3,100 people in the country.

** Turkey’s tourism minister said he expected flights to return to normal by the end of June, as the country planned to step up measures if the virus keeps spreading and people ignore “voluntary” quarantine rules.

** Israel’s health minister and his wife were diagnosed with the virus.

** Egypt has ordered manufacturers to channel medical protective equipment to public hospitals.

** Zambia recorded its first death.

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

** World stocks were pinned down on Thursday by the rising death toll and deepening economic pain, with another record week of jobless claims expected in the United States. [MKTS/GLOB]

** World food prices fell sharply in March, hit by a drop in demand and a plunge in global oil prices, the United Nations food agency said.

** The European Commission will propose a package to help the EU economy, including a short-time work scheme, easier access to funds for farmers and fishermen, and financing for development projects.

** British consumers will receive a three-month freeze on loan and credit card payments, under plans outlined by the financial regulator.

** Kuwait’s central bank announced a stimulus package to support vital sectors and small and medium enterprises.

** China will relax or remove restrictions on car purchases in some regions to help sales of new vehicles, while accelerating plans to boost the scrapping of old ones.

** Light vehicle sales in the United States fell nearly 27% in March, compared with a month earlier.

** Mexico’s economy is forecast to contract by as much as 3.9% in 2020, the finance ministry said on Wednesday, adding that the numbers incorporated a “drastic” virus impact.

** Factories fell quiet across much of the world in March as the pandemic paralyzed economic activity, with evidence mounting that the world is sliding into deep recession.

(Compiled by Sarah Morland, Milla Nissi, Aditya Soni and Uttaresh.V; Editing by Tomasz Janowski, William Maclean, Sriraj Kalluvila)

U.S. could become next coronavirus epicenter, WHO says

By Emma Farge

GENEVA/TOKYO (Reuters) – The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that the United States could become the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, which finally forced reluctant organizers to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.

Britain joined the ranks of countries in lockdown to try to hold back the virus, and data showed business activity collapsing from Australia and Japan and Western Europe at a record pace in March, with the United States showing expected to be just as dire.

“The coronavirus outbreak represents a major external shock to the macro outlook, akin to a large-scale natural disaster,” analysts at BlackRock Investment Institute said.

But amid the gathering gloom, the Chinese province of Hubei, where the virus was first identified in December, said it would lift travel restrictions on people leaving the region as the epidemic eases there.

Confirmed coronavirus cases around the world exceeded 377,000 across 194 countries and territories as of early Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally, more than 16,500 of them fatal.

In Geneva, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters there had been a “very large acceleration” in infections in the United States.

Over the previous 24 hours, 85 percent of new cases were in Europe and the United States, and of those, 40 percent were in the United States.

As of Monday, the virus had infected more than 42,000 people there, killing at least 559.

Asked whether the United States could become the new epicenter, Harris said: “We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the U.S. So it does have that potential.”

Some U.S. state and local officials have decried a lack of coordinated federal action, saying that having localities act on their own has put them in competition for supplies.

President Donald Trump acknowledged the difficulty.

“The World market for face masks and ventilators is Crazy. We are helping the states to get equipment, but it is not easy,” he tweeted.

OLYMPIC ORGANIZERS GIVE IN

Olympic Games organizers and the Japanese government had clung to the hope that the world’s biggest sporting event could go ahead, but finally bowed to the inevitable to make Tokyo 2020 the latest and biggest victim of a ravaged sporting calendar.

After a call with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the July 24-Aug. 9 event would be rescheduled for the summer of 2021 at the latest – as proof of victory over the coronavirus.

“President Bach said he is in agreement, 100%.”

It was the first time in the Olympics’ 124-year history that they had been postponed, though they were canceled outright three times during the two 20th-century world wars.

Of the top 10 countries by case numbers, Italy has reported the highest fatality rate, at around 10%, which at least partly reflects its older population. The fatality rate globally – the ratio of deaths to confirmed infections – is around 4.3%, though national figures can vary widely according to how much testing is done.

Britain, believed by experts to be about two weeks behind Italy in the outbreak cycle, on Tuesday began curbs on movement without precedent in peacetime after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the country to stay at home.

The streets of the capital were eerily quiet as all but essential shops closed and people only went to work if it was unavoidable.

Johnson had resisted pressure to impose a full lockdown even as other European countries had done so, but was forced to change tack as projections showed the health system could become overwhelmed.

Meanwhile China’s Hubei province, the original center of the outbreak, will lift curbs on people leaving the area, but other regions will tighten controls as new cases double due to imported infections.

The provincial capital Wuhan, which has been in total lockdown since Jan. 23, will lift its travel restrictions on April 8.

However, the risk from overseas infections appears to be on the rise, prompting tougher screening and quarantine measures in major cities such as the capital Beijing.

Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus

(Additional reporting by Emma Farge, Stephanie Nebehay, Karolos Grohmann, Leika Kihara, Sakura Murakami, Lusha Zhang and Huizhong Wu; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Jon Boyle and Angus MacSwan)

Exclusive: Elite hackers target WHO as coronavirus cyberattacks spike

By Raphael Satter, Jack Stubbs and Christopher Bing

WASHINGTON/LONDON (Reuters) – Elite hackers tried to break into the World Health Organization earlier this month, sources told Reuters, part of what a senior agency official said was a more than two-fold increase in cyberattacks.

WHO Chief Information Security Officer Flavio Aggio said the identity of the hackers was unclear, but the effort was unsuccessful. He warned that hacking attempts against the agency and its partners have soared as they battle to contain the coronavirus, which has killed more than 15,000 worldwide.

The attempted break-in at the WHO was first flagged to Reuters by Alexander Urbelis, a cybersecurity expert and attorney with the New York-based Blackstone Law Group, which tracks suspicious internet domain registration activity.

Urbelis said he picked up on the activity around March 13, when a group of hackers he’d been following activated a malicious site mimicking the WHO’s internal email system.

“I realized quite quickly that this was a live attack on the World Health Organization in the midst of a pandemic,” he said.

Urbelis said he didn’t know who was responsible, but two other sources briefed on the matter said they suspected an advanced group of hackers known as DarkHotel, which has been conducting cyber-espionage operations since at least 2007.

Messages sent to email addresses maintained by the hackers went unreturned.

When asked by Reuters about the incident, the WHO’s Aggio confirmed that the site spotted by Urbelis had been used in an attempt to steal passwords from multiple agency staffers.

“There has been a big increase in targeting of the WHO and other cybersecurity incidents,” Aggio said in a telephone interview. “There are no hard numbers, but such compromise attempts against us and the use of (WHO) impersonations to target others have more than doubled.”

The WHO published an alert last month – available here warning that hackers are posing as the agency to steal money and sensitive information from the public.

The motives in the case identified by Reuters aren’t clear. United Nations agencies, the WHO among them, are regularly targeted by digital espionage campaigns and Aggio declined to say who precisely at the organization the hackers had in their sights.

Cybersecurity firms including Romania’s Bitdefender and Moscow-based Kaspersky said they have traced many of DarkHotel’s operations to East Asia – an area that has been particularly affected by the coronavirus. Specific targets have included government employees and business executives in places such as China, North Korea, Japan, and the United States.

Costin Raiu, head of global research and analysis at Kaspersky, could not confirm that DarkHotel was responsible for the WHO attack but said the same malicious web infrastructure had also been used to target other healthcare and humanitarian organizations in recent weeks.

“At times like this, any information about cures or tests or vaccines relating to coronavirus would be priceless and the priority of any intelligence organization of an affected country,” he said.

Officials and cybersecurity experts have warned that hackers of all stripes are seeking to capitalize on international concern over the spread of the coronavirus.

Urbelis said he has tracked thousands of coronavirus-themed web sites being set up daily, many of them obviously malicious.

“It’s still around 2,000 a day,” he said. “I have never seen anything like this.”

(Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin in Seoul; Editing by Chris Sanders and Edward Tobin)

WHO calls coronavirus a pandemic as Britain, Italy shore up defenses

Reuters
By Emma Farge and William Schomberg

GENEVA/LONDON (Reuters) – The World Health Organization described the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic for the first time on Wednesday as Britain and Italy announced multi-billion-dollar war chests to fight the disease.

The United States also said it was considering new steps to battle the virus that emerged in China in December and has spread around the world, halting industry, grounding flights, closing schools and forcing events to be postponed.

“We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction,” Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.

“We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic,” he said, using the formal name of the coronavirus.

There are now more than 118,000 infections in 114 countries and 4,291 people have died of the virus, with the numbers expected to climb, Tedros said.

Use of the word pandemic does not change the WHO’s response, said Dr Mike Ryan, the head of the Geneva-based agency’s emergencies program.

WHO officials have signaled for weeks that they may use the word “pandemic” but said it does not carry legal significance. The WHO classified the outbreak as a “public health emergency of international concern” on Jan. 30, triggering an increase in global response coordination.

“The use of this term (pandemic) however highlights the importance of countries throughout the world working cooperatively and openly with one another and coming together as a united front in our efforts to bring this situation under control,” said Nathalie MacDermott, an expert at King’s College London.

Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Britain’s Edinburgh University, added: “It is now clear that COVID-19 is going to be with us for a considerable length of time and the actions that we take must be actions that we can live with for a prolonged period.”

WAR CHESTS

Before the WHO’s comments, Italy – the European country worst hit by the virus – and Britain announced they were setting aside large sums to fight the flu-like disease.

Britain launched a 30-billion-pound ($38.54 billion) economic stimulus plan as new finance minister Rishi Sunak said the economy faced a “significant impact” from the spread of the virus, even if it was likely to be temporary.

“Up to a fifth of the working-age population could need to be off work at any one time. And business supply chains are being disrupted around the globe,” Sunak said in an annual budget speech to parliament.

He announced a package of measures to help companies facing a cash-flow crunch, including a year-long suspension of a property tax paid by smaller firms. The health system and other public services would receive an extra 5 billion pounds to help counter the spread of the coronavirus.

Last week, Italy’s cabinet said it would need 7.5 billion euros ($8.46 billion) to fight the virus, but since then the emergency has escalated and the nation, already close to recession, is under lockdown, with the death toll now 827.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Wednesday earmarked $28.3 billion to ease the economic impact. He said that already tough restrictions on movement might be tightened further after the northern region of Lombardy, centered on Italy’s financial capital Milan, asked for all shops to shut and public transport to close.

The United States, where the S&P 500 stock index was down almost 4%, said its steps could include tax relief that could channel hundreds of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy.

“Bottom line, it’s going to get worse,” Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Congress.

The WHO’s Ryan said the situation in Iran was “very serious” and the agency would like to see more surveillance and more care for the sick. Iran has reported 237 deaths from the virus.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said up to 70% of the population was likely to be infected as the virus spreads around the world in the absence of a cure.

A rebound in stocks ran out of steam on Wednesday despite the Bank of England move. Money markets are fully pricing in a further 10 basis-point cut by the European Central Bank when it meets on Thursday.

As of Tuesday’s close, $8.1 trillion in value had been erased from global stock markets in the recent rout.

But not all the news was bad. Some key industries in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicenter of the epidemic and a hub of car manufacturing, were told they could resume work on Wednesday, a day after President Xi Jinping visited the city for the first time since the outbreak began.

WHO warns of global shortage of medical equipment to fight coronavirus

By Andrea Shalal and Stephanie Nebehay

WASHINGTON/GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday warned of a global shortage and price gouging for protective equipment to fight the fast-spreading coronavirus and asked companies and governments to increase production by 40% as the death toll from the respiratory illness mounted.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates on Tuesday in an emergency move to try to prevent a global recession and the World Bank announced $12 billion to help countries fight the coronavirus, which has taken a heavy toll on air travel, tourism and other industries, threatening global economic growth prospects.

The virus continued to spread in South Korea, Japan, Europe, Iran and the United States, and several countries reported their first confirmed cases, taking the total to some 80 nations hit with the flu-like illness that can lead to pneumonia.

Despite the Fed’s attempt to stem the economic fallout from the coronavirus, U.S. stock indexes closed down about 3%, safe-haven gold rose 3% and analysts and investors questioned whether the rate cut will be enough if the virus continues to spread.

U.S. lawmakers were considering spending as much as $9 billion to contain local spread of the virus.

In Iran, doctors and nurses lack supplies and 77 people have died, one of the highest numbers outside China. The United Arab Emirates announced it was closing all schools for four weeks.

The death toll in Italy, Europe’s hardest-hit country, jumped to 79 on Tuesday and Italian officials are considering expanding the area under quarantine. France reported its fourth coronavirus death, while Indonesia, Ukraine, Argentina and Chile reported their first coronavirus cases.

About 3.4% of confirmed cases of COVID-19 have died, far above seasonal flu’s fatality rate of under 1%, but the virus can be contained, the WHO chief said on Tuesday.

“To summarize, COVID-19 spreads less efficiently than flu, transmission does not appear to be driven by people who are not sick, it causes more severe illness than flu, there are not yet any vaccines or therapeutics, and it can be contained,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva.

Health officials have said the death rate is 2% to 4% depending on the country and may be much lower if there are thousands of unreported mild cases of the disease.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, prices of surgical masks have increased sixfold, N95 respirators have tripled in cost and protective gowns cost twice as much, the WHO said.

It estimates healthcare workers each month will need 89 million masks, 76 million gloves and 1.6 million pairs of goggles.

The coronavirus, which emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, has spread around the world, with more new cases now appearing outside China than inside.

There are almost 91,000 cases globally of which more than 80,000 are in China. China’s death toll was 2,943, with more than 125 fatalities elsewhere.

In a unanimous decision, the Fed said it was cutting rates by a half percentage point to a target range of 1.00% to 1.25%.

Finance ministers from the G7 group of rich countries were ready to take action, including fiscal measures where appropriate, Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said. Central banks would continue to support price stability and economic growth.

AGGRESSIVE CONTAINMENT

In the United States, there are now over 100 people in at least a dozen states with the coronavirus and nine deaths, all in the Seattle area.

New York state reported its second case, a man in his 50s who works in Manhattan and has been hospitalized.

The public transportation agency in New York, the most densely populated major U.S. city of more than 8 million, said on Twitter it was deploying “enhanced sanitizing procedures” for stations, train cars, buses and certain vehicles.

China has seen coronavirus cases fall sharply, with 129 in the last 24 hours the lowest reported since Jan. 20.

With the world’s second largest economy struggling to get back on track, China is increasingly concerned about the virus being brought back into the country by citizens returning from new hotspots elsewhere.

Travelers entering Beijing from South Korea, Japan, Iran and Italy would have to be quarantined for 14 days, a city official said. Shanghai has introduced a similar order.

The worst outbreak outside China is in South Korea, where President Moon Jae-in declared war on the virus, ordering additional hospital beds and more masks as cases rose by 600 to nearly 5,000, with 34 deaths.

WHO officials also expressed concerns about the situation in Iran, saying doctors lacked respirators and ventilators needed for patients with severe cases.

WHO emergency program head Michael Ryan said the need in Iran was “more acute” than for other countries.

While the case numbers in Iran appear to be bad, he said, “things tend to look worse before getting better.”

The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday said the summer games in Tokyo set to begin on July 24 were still expected to happen despite Japan having nearly 1,000 coronavirus cases and 12 deaths. Health officials said they would continue to monitor the situation in Japan before any final decision on the Olympics is made.

Interactive graphic tracking global coronavirus spread: https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-HEALTH-MAP/0100B59S39E/index.html

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal in Washington and Tetsushi Kajimoto in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Michael Nienaber in Berlin, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Kate Kelland in London, Takahiko Wada in Tokyo; Writing by Robert Birsel, Nick Macfie and Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Alexander Smith, John Stonestreet and Bill Berkrot)

Coronavirus spreading fast but stigma is more dangerous: WHO

By Stephanie Kelly and Se Young Lee

GENEVA/BEIJING (Reuters) – Coronavirus now appears to be spreading much more rapidly outside China than within but can still be contained, and stigma is more dangerous than the disease itself, the World Health Organization said on Monday.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said almost nine times as many cases had been reported outside China as inside in the previous 24 hours, adding that the risk of coronavirus spreading was now very high at a “global level”.

He said outbreaks in South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan were the greatest concern, but that there was evidence that close surveillance was working in South Korea, the worst affected country outside China, and the epidemic could be contained there.

“Stigma, to be honest, is more dangerous than the virus itself. Let’s really underline that. Stigma is the most dangerous enemy,” he told a news briefing in Geneva.

He said the fight against the coronavirus should become a bridge for peace, commending the United States for supporting sending medical aid to Iran despite the tensions between them.

“I think we have a common enemy now,” he said.

The global death toll exceeded 3,000, with the number of dead in Italy jumping by 18 to 52 and Latvia, Saudi Arabia and Senegal reporting cases for the first time.

Yet equity markets surged after their worst plunge since the financial 2008 crisis last week, encouraged by the prospect of government action to stem the economic impact.

Finance ministers of the G7 group of leading industrialized democracies were expected to discuss measures in a conference call on Tuesday, sources told Reuters.

Oil prices jumped 4% amid hopes of a deeper output cut by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

( Graphic: Tracking the coronavirus https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-HEALTH-MAP/0100B59S39E/index.html )

MORE THAN PREDICTED

A senior U.S. official said he was concerned about a likely jump in the number of cases in the United States, which has had more than 90, with six deaths.

“When you have a number of cases that you’ve identified and they’ve been in the community for a while, you’re going to wind up seeing a lot more cases than you would have predicted,” Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the infectious diseases unit at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, told CNN.

South Korea has had 26 deaths and reported another 599 infections on Monday, taking its tally to 4,335.

Of the new cases in South Korea, 377 were from the city of Daegu, home to a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, to which most of South Korea’s cases have been traced after some members visited the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the disease emerged.

Vietnamese students of Hanoi National University of Education, wearing protective masks, attend the first day of classes after returning to the university, which was closed for over a month due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, Hanoi, Vietnam March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Kham

The Seoul government asked prosecutors to launch a murder investigation into leaders of the church. Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said that if founder Lee Man-hee and other heads of the church had cooperated, fatalities could have been prevented.

Lee knelt and apologized to the country, saying that one church member had infected many others and calling the epidemic a “great calamity”. “We did our best but were not able to stop the spread of the virus,” Lee told reporters.

It was not immediately known how many of South Korea’s dead were members of the church.

‘OUTBREAKS ARE CURBED’

But Wuhan itself, at the center of the epidemic, shut the first of 16 specially built hospitals that were hurriedly put up to treat coronavirus cases, the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said.

There was also a steep fall in new cases in Hubei, the province around Wuhan, but China remained on alert for people returning home with the virus from other countries.

The virus broke out in Wuhan late last year and has since infected more than 86,500 people, mostly in China.

Only eight cases were reported in China beyond Hubei on Sunday, the WHO said.

Outside China, meanwhile, more than 60 countries now have cases, with more than 8,700 infected and more than 100 deaths.

One of the worst-hit nations, Iran, reported infections rising to 1,501, with 66 deaths, including a senior official. With stocks of gloves and other medical supplies running low in pharmacies, authorities uncovered a hoard of supplies including millions of gloves.

In Britain, which has 40 confirmed cases, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to be prepared for a further spread.

ECONOMIC DAMAGE

Factories worldwide took a beating in February from the outbreak, with activity in China shrinking at a record pace, surveys showed, raising the prospect of a coordinated policy response by central banks.

The epidemic has forced the postponement of festivals, exhibitions, trade fairs and sports events and damaged tourism, retail sales and global supply chains, especially in China, the world’s second-largest economy.

Middle East airlines have lost an estimated $100 million so far due to the outbreak.

An official of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said airlines stood to lose $1.5 billion this year due to the virus and urged governments to help them.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that the outbreak was pitching the world economy into its worst downturn since the global financial crisis, urging governments and central banks to fight back.

(This story corrects to say almost nine times as many cases reported outside China as inside, not vice versa, in the second paragraph)

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Hyonhee Shin and Jack Kim in Seoul, Ju-min Park in Gapyeong, Ryan Woo, David Stanway, Se Young Lee, Emily Chow and Andrew Galbraith in Beijing, Leigh Thomas in Paris, Michelle Price in Washington, Leika Kihara in Tokyo, Jonathan Cable in London, Donny Kwok and Twinnie Siu in Hong Kong and Grant McCool in Washington; writing by Nick Macfie and Philippa Fletcher; editing by Mark Heinrich and Kevin Liffey)

Washington state confirms second U.S. coronavirus death; New York reports first case

By Brad Brooks and David Shepardson

(Reuters) – Health officials in Washington state said late Sunday that a nursing home resident had died after contracting coronavirus, while New York’s governor confirmed his state’s first positive case, as the virus moved out of its West Coast foothold.

The coronavirus, which emerged in China late last year, has decimated global markets as it quickly moves around the world. It appeared poised for a spike in the United States, in part because of more testing to confirm cases.

Florida late Sunday declared a public health emergency as it confirmed its first two cases.

Trump administration officials worked Sunday to soothe nerves and calm fears that a global recession was looming, arguing that the public and media were over-reacting and saying that stocks would bounce back because the American economy was fundamentally strong.

The total number of confirmed cases in the United States is more than 75 with two reported deaths, both in Washington state. Globally there have been more than 87,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths in 60 countries, according to the World Health Organization.

In the United States, a cluster of cases is centered on a nursing home near Seattle.

The Seattle and King County public health department confirmed late Sunday that a man in his 70s who was a resident of the LifeCare long-term care facility in Kirkland and had coronavirus had died the day before.

A sign at the entrance to Life Care Center of Kirkland, the long-term care facility linked to the two of three confirmed coronavirus cases in the state, is pictured in Kirkland, Washington, U.S. March 1, 2020. REUTERS/David Ryder

On Saturday, the department had reported the first death of a coronavirus patient in the United States, a man in his 50s who was living in Kirkland – the same city where the nursing home is located. Six of the 10 confirmed coronavirus cases in Washington state have been residents or workers at LifeCare.

State officials said an additional 27 residents of the nursing home and 25 staff members were reporting symptoms of the virus, which can be similar to that of the common flu.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed on Twitter his state’s first coronavirus case, a woman in her 30s who caught the virus during a recent trip to Iran and was now in home quarantine.

Cuomo did not say where the woman lived, but the New York Times reported she was in the Manhattan borough of New York City, citing state officials.

“The patient has respiratory symptoms, but is not in serious condition and has been in a controlled situation since arriving in New York,” Cuomo said.

Stock markets plunged last week, with an index of global stocks setting its largest weekly fall since the 2008 financial crisis, and more than $5 trillion wiped off the value of stocks worldwide.

A key energy conference in Houston that brings together oil ministers and energy firms was canceled on Sunday with the organizers of CERAWeek noting that border health checks were becoming more restrictive and companies had begun barring non-essential travel to protect workers.

A world economy conference with Pope Francis due to take place in Italy later this month was also canceled.

‘WE’RE READY’

Trump said on Sunday that travelers to the United States from countries at high risk of coronavirus would be screened before boarding and on arrival, without specifying which countries.

Delta Air Lines Inc said on Sunday it was suspending until May flights to Milan in northern Italy, where most of that country’s coronavirus cases have been reported. Flights will continue to Rome. American Airlines Group Inc announced a similar move late on Saturday.

The United States has 75,000 test kits for coronavirus and will expand that number “radically” in coming weeks, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

Vice President Mike Pence, appointed last week to run the White House’s coronavirus response, said the government had contracted 3M Co to produce an extra 35 million respiratory masks a month. He urged Americans not to buy the masks, which he said were only needed by healthcare workers. Honeywell International Inc is the other major U.S. mask producer.

He also told Fox News that clinical trials of a coronavirus vaccine would start in six weeks but that a vaccine would likely not be available this season.

Democrats, who will challenge Trump for the presidency in the Nov. 3 election, have criticized his administration for downplaying the crisis and not preparing for the disease to spread in the United States.

Pence said Americans should brace for more cases but that the “vast majority” of those who contracted the disease would recover.

“Other than in areas where there are individuals that have been infected with the coronavirus, people need to understand that for the average American, the risk does remain low. We’re ready,” Pence told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; David Shepardson and Andrea Shalal in Washington; and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney)

WHO raises global risk of coronavirus from ‘high’ to ‘very high’

By Stephanie Nebehay and Ryan Woo

GENEVA/BEIJING (Reuters) – The rapid spread of the coronavirus increased fears of a pandemic on Friday, with six countries reporting their first cases and the World Health Organization (WHO) raising its global spread and impact risk alert to “very high”.

World shares fell again, winding up their worst week since the 2008 global financial crisis and bringing the global wipeout to $6 trillion.

Hopes that the epidemic that started in China late last year would be over in months, and that economic activity would quickly return to normal, have been shattered.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said his organization was not underestimating the risk.

“That is why we said today the global risk is very high,” he told reporters in Geneva. “We increased it from ‘high’ to ‘very high’.”

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said the scenario of the coronavirus reaching multiple or all countries “is something we have been looking at and warning against since quite a while.”

Switzerland joined countries banning big events to try to curb the epidemic, forcing cancellation of next week’s Geneva international car show, one of the industry’s most important gatherings.

Tedros said mainland China had reported 329 new cases in the last 24 hours, the lowest there in more than a month, taking its tally to more than 78,800 cases with almost 2,800 deaths.

China’s three biggest airlines restored some international flights and the Shanghai fashion show, initially postponed, went ahead online.

TROOPS DEPLOYED

But as the outbreak eases in China, it is surging elsewhere.

Mexico, Nigeria, Estonia, Denmark, the Netherlands and Lithuania reported their first cases, all with travel history connected to Italy, the worst-affected European country. Mexico is the second Latin American country to register the virus, after Brazil.

Countries other than China now account for about three-quarters of new infections.

Bulgaria said it was ready to deploy up to 1,000 troops and military equipment to the border with Turkey to prevent illegal migrant inflows as it steps up measures against the coronavirus. It has not reported any cases.

Mongolia, which has yet to confirm a case, placed its president, Battulga Khaltmaa, in quarantine as a precaution after he returned from a trip to China, state media reported.

A Chinese official said some recovered patients had been found to be infectious, suggesting the epidemic may be even harder to eradicate than previously thought.

Lindmeier said the WHO was looking very carefully into reports of some people getting re-infected.

In addition to stockpiling medical supplies, some governments ordered schools shut and canceled big gatherings to try to halt the flu-like disease.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration was considering invoking special powers to expand production of protective gear.

In Europe, Germany warned of an impending epidemic and Greece, a gateway for refugees from the Middle East, announced tighter border controls.

The death toll in Italy rose to 17 and those testing positive rose to 655. Germany has nearly 60 cases, France about 38 and Spain 23, according to a Reuters count.

OLYMPIC DOUBTS

South Korea has the most cases outside China. It reported 571 new infections on Friday, bringing the total to 2,337, with 13 people killed.

The head of the WHO’s emergency program, Dr Mike Ryan, said Iran’s outbreak may be worse than realized – its toll of 34 dead is the highest outside China. Tedros said he expected a WHO team to be in Iran by Sunday or Monday.

U.S. intelligence agencies are monitoring the spread of the coronavirus in Iran and India, where only a handful of cases have been reported, sources said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States had offered to help Iran, raising doubts about its willingness to share information.

Japan is scheduled to host the 2020 Olympics in July but Ryan said discussions were being held about whether to go ahead.

Organizers will decide next week on the ceremonial torch relay, due to arrive on March 20 for a 121-day journey. Confirmed cases in Japan have risen above 200, with four deaths, excluding more than 700 cases on a quarantined cruise liner, Diamond Princess.

A British man infected on the ship had died, bringing the death toll among passengers to six, Kyodo newswire reported.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had called for schools to close and vowed to prevent a severe blow to an economy teetering on the brink of recession.

In Moscow, authorities were deporting 88 foreigners who violated quarantine measures, the RIA news agency cited Moscow’s deputy mayor as saying.

Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, where the coronavirus has killed two and infected more than 90, quarantined a pet dog of a coronavirus patient after it tested “weak positive”, though authorities had no evidence the virus can be transmitted to pets.

Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-HEALTH-MAP/0100B59S39E/index.html

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Ryan Woo, Yingzhi Yang in Beijing, Lisa Lambert and Mark Hosenball in Washington, Sangmi Chai in Seoul, Leika Kihara in Tokyo, Kate Kelland in London, Tsvetelia Tsolova in Sofia, Michael Shields and Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi in Zurich, Daina Beth Solomon in Mexico City; Writing by Robert Birsel, Giles Elgood and Nick Macfie; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Jon Boyle and Timothy Heritage)

Coronavirus outbreak ‘getting bigger’, WHO says

By Stephanie Nebehay and Ryan Woo

GENEVA/BEIJING (Reuters) – The rapid rise in coronavirus raised fears of a pandemic on Friday, with six countries reporting their first cases, the World Health Organization warning it could spread worldwide and Switzerland cancelling the giant Geneva car show.

World share markets crashed again, winding up their worst week since the 2008 global financial crisis and bringing the global wipeout to $6 trillion.

Hopes that the epidemic that started in China late last year would be over in months, and that economic activity would quickly return to normal, have been shattered as the number of international cases has spiralled.

“The outbreak is getting bigger,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva.

“The scenario of the coronavirus reaching multiple countries, if not all countries around the world, is something we have been looking at and warning against since quite a while.”

Switzerland joined countries banning big events to try to curb the epidemic, forcing cancellation of next week’s Geneva international car show, one of the industry’s most important gatherings.

Mainland China reported 327 new cases, the lowest since Jan. 23, taking its tally to more than 78,800 cases with almost 2,800 deaths.

China’s three biggest airlines restored some international flights and the Shanghai fashion show, initially postponed, went ahead online.

TROOPS DEPLOYED

But as the outbreak eases in China, it is surging elsewhere.

Five more countries have reported their first case, all with travel history connected to Italy. They were Nigeria, Estonia, Denmark, Netherlands and Lithuania, Lindmeier said.

Mexico also detected its first cases of infection in two men who had travelled to Italy, making the country the second in Latin America to register the virus after Brazil.

Countries other than China now account for about three-quarters of new infections.

Bulgaria said it was ready to deploy up to 1,000 troops and military equipment to the border with Turkey to prevent illegal migrant inflows as steps up measures against the coronavirus. It has not reported any cases.

Mongolia, which has yet to confirm a case, placed its president, Battulga Khaltmaa, in quarantine as a precaution after he returned from a trip to China, state media reported.

A Chinese official called the epidemic the most difficult health crisis in the country’s modern history. Another said some recovered patients had been found to be infectious, suggesting the epidemic may be even harder to eradicate than previously thought.

Lindmeier said the WHO was looking very carefully into reports of some people getting re-infected.

In addition to stockpiling medical supplies, governments ordered schools shut and cancelled big gatherings to try to halt the flu-like disease.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration was considering invoking special powers to expand production of protective gear.

In Europe, France’s reported cases doubled, Germany warned of an impending epidemic and Greece, a gateway for refugees from the Middle East, announced tighter border controls.

The death toll in Italy, Europe’s worst-hit country, rose to 17 and those testing positive increased by more than 200 to 655.

Germany has nearly 60 cases, France about 38 and Spain 23, according to a Reuters count.

OLYMPIC DOUBTS

South Korea has the most cases outside China. It reported 571 new infections on Friday, bringing the total to 2,337 with 13 people killed.

The head of the WHO’s emergency programme, Dr Mike Ryan, said Iran’s outbreak may be worse than realised. It has the most deaths outside China – 34 from 388 reported cases.

U.S. intelligence agencies are monitoring the spread of coronavirus in Iran and India, where only a handful of cases have been reported, sources said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States had offered to help Iran, raising doubts about its willingness to share information.

Japan is scheduled to host the 2020 Olympics in July but Ryan said discussions were being held about whether to go ahead.

Organisers will decide next week on the ceremonial torch relay, due to arrive on March 20 for a 121-day journey past landmarks including Mount Fuji and Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park.

A woman wearing a face mask collects food purchased through group orders at the entrance of a residential compound in Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Hubei province, China February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer CHINA OUT.

As of Friday, confirmed cases in Japan had risen above 200, with four deaths, excluding more than 700 cases on a quarantined cruise liner, Diamond Princess.

A British man infected on the ship had died, bringing the death toll among passenger to six, Kyodo newswire reported.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had called for schools to close and vowed to prevent a severe blow to an economy already teetering on the brink of recession.

In Moscow, authorities were deporting 88 foreigners who violated quarantine measures imposed on them as a precaution, the RIA news agency cited Moscow’s deputy mayor as saying.

Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, where the coronavirus has killed two and infected more than 90, quarantined a pet dog of a coronavirus patient after it tested “weak positive”, though authorities had no evidence the virus can be transmitted to pets.

 Follow this link for Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Ryan Woo, Yingzhi Yang in Beijing, Lisa Lambert and Mark Hosenball in Washington, Sangmi Chai in Seoul, Leika Kihara in Tokyo, Kate Kelland in London, Tsvetelia Tsolova in Sofia, Michael Shields and Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi in Zurich, Daina Beth Solomon in Mexico City; Writing by Robert Birsel, Giles Elgood and Nick Macfie; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Jon Boyle and Timothy Heritage)

Schools shut, travel curbed as world races to fight coronavirus

By Colin Packham and Parisa Hafezi

SYDNEY/DUBAI (Reuters) – Governments battling coronavirus epidemics from Iran to Australia shut schools, canceled big events and stocked up on medical supplies on Thursday in a race to contain the outbreak’s rapid global spread.

For the first time, new infections reported around the world surpassed those in mainland China, where the flu-like disease emerged two months ago from an illegal wildlife market but is on the decline after an aggressive containment campaign.

In Japan, where cases rose to 200, there was particular concern after a female tour bus guide tested positive for a second time – one of very few worldwide to do so.

Tokyo has halted big gatherings and sports events for two weeks, and is closing schools early for the spring break. But it still plans to go ahead with the 2020 Olympics, whose cancellation or relocation would be a massive blow for Japan.

The coronavirus has mainly battered China, causing 78,596 cases and 2,746 deaths. But it has spread to another 44 countries with 3,246 cases and 51 deaths reported.

Though meeting the dictionary definition of a pandemic – widespread contagion across a large region – the World Health Organization (WHO) has so far held back from using that term.

“This virus has pandemic potential,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva. “This is not a time for fear. This is a time for taking action to prevent infection and save lives no

MACRON: CRISIS COMING

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison ordered hospitals to ensure sufficient medical supplies, protective gear and staff. U.S. President Donald Trump put his vice president, Mike Pence, in charge of America’s response, while France’s President Emmanuel Macron rallied the nation.

“We have a crisis before us. An epidemic is on its way,” Macron said at a Paris hospital where a 60-year-old Frenchman this week became the second person to die from the coronavirus in France.

Germany, too, has warned of an impending endemic. And Greece, which is a gateway for refugees from the Middle East and beyond, announced tighter border controls, with particular attention on islands used by migrants.

Spooked by the impact on China, the heart of corporate supply chains, and the increasing effect on other countries, stocks sank deeper into the red and oil prices fell.

Global markets have dropped for six straight days, wiping out more than $3.6 trillion in value.

“All of us are very worried about what is currently happening with respect to the spread of the coronavirus,” European Central Bank (ECB) executive board member Isabel Schnabel said during a speech in London.

Klaas Knot, seen as one the ECB’s most hawkish members, also expressed concern but noted that after the 2002-03 SARS epidemic, also originating in China, its economy then rebounded to grow from the world’s sixth to its second biggest now.

A rash of countries have had their first cases in recent days, the latest being Denmark with a man back from a ski holiday in Italy, and Estonia with someone returning from Iran.

There is no cure for the virus that can lead to pneumonia, and a vaccine may take up to 18 months to develop.

New cases in South Korea took its total to 1,261 with 12 deaths, while Europe’s hotspot Italy had 453 infections and 12 deaths, and Iran reported 245 cases and 26 fatalities.

In Singapore, authorities said a 12-year-old student at the elite Raffles Institution school was among the three new cases confirmed on Thursday, taking the city state’s tally of infections to 96.

MISINFORMATION ‘EPIDEMIC’

Urging people to avoid unnecessary travel, Tehran extended its closure of cinemas, cultural events and conferences for another week. Iran’s outbreak has added to the isolation of a nation already under U.S. sanctions.

Desperate to stave off a probable recession, Italy warned that the “epidemic of misleading information” could do worse harm than the virus itself.

The coronavirus has played havoc with global aviation and tourism as airlines cancel flights, countries ban visitors from hot spots and nervous passengers put off travel.

The United States is managing 59 cases – most Americans repatriated from a cruise ship quarantined in Japan where almost 700 cases developed. But Trump said the risk was “very low” in the United States which was “very, very ready”.

Chinese authorities said the number of new deaths stood at 29 on Thursday, its lowest daily tally since Jan. 28. There were just 433 new cases in mainland China over the previous day, compared to 586 in nations and territories elsewhere.

 

(Reporting by Ryan Woo, Yilei Sun and Lusha Zhang in Beijing, Daniel Leussink in Tokyo, Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore, Parisa Hafez in Dubai, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Sudip Kar-Gupta and Michel Rose in Paris, Crispian Balmer and Gavin Jones in Rome; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Nick Macfie)