Globe braces for long battle against coronavirus as cases spread

(AP) - The fight against the new virus is continuing, with crews scrubbing everything from money to buses and quarantines in effect in places from a beachfront resort in the Atlantic to a remote island in the Pacific.

Workers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at a bus garage in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. The number of new virus infections in South Korea jumped again Wednesday and the U.S. military reported its first case among its soldiers based in the Asian country, with his case and many others connected to a southeastern city with an illness cluster. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

The World Health Organization says the number of new cases reported outside China exceeded the number of new cases in China for the first time.

Worries over the economic fallout from the disease are multiplying.

Amid fears of mass gatherings where germs could easily spread, some are even questioning the fate of the Olympics, due to open in Tokyo in five months.

A growing list of countries have cases of the virus, which has sickened about 81,000 people around the globe.

Scientists can’t tell yet just how deadly the new virus really is.
Deepening the mystery, the fatality rate differs even from one part of China to another.

In the outbreak’s epicenter in Wuhan, the World Health Organization put the death rate at 2% to 4%. But it’s less than 1% in the rest of China.

One reason is that other parts of China had time to prepare while Wuhan’s health care system was quickly overwhelmed.

Experts caution that as other countries struggle to contain clusters of cases, they may have a similar learning curve.

Hardest-hit China, South Korea count 767 new virus cases

South Korea and China each reported hundreds more virus cases as the new illness persists in the worst-hit areas and spreads beyond borders.

South Korea reported 334 more cases, bringing its total to 1,595. Most were in the country’s fourth-biggest city, Daegu, where the outbreak has hit hardest. But there are signs the virus is spreading with dozens of cases in Seoul and Busan.

China reported 433 new cases, mostly in Wuhan, where the virus emerged in December. But worries about COVID-19 were multiplying, as the epidemic reached Latin America and was causing more new cases outside China than inside the country.

South Korea, US postpone annual military drills due to virus

The South Korean and U.S. militaries postponed their annual joint drills out of concerns over a viral outbreak that has infected soldiers in both countries’ armed forces, put many troops in quarantine and closed base facilities.

Twenty South Korean soldiers and one American service member in South Korea have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

South Korea has already suspended some unilateral field training, placed 9,570 troops under quarantine and banned most of its enlisted soldiers from leaving their bases.

The U.S. military closed some amenities at several bases and was urging its personnel to avoid handshakes and large gatherings if possible.

On Wednesday, the U.S. confirmed its first case among American soldiers based in the Asian country. A U.S. military statement said the 23-year-old man is in self quarantine at his off-base residence.

The statement says the soldier was originally based in Camp Caroll in a town near the southeastern city of Daegu where the government has been mobilizing public health tools to contain the virus.

About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea as deterrence against potential aggression from North Korea.

Tokyo Olympics organizers, government take offensive on virus threat

Tokyo Olympic organizers and the Japanese government have gone on the offensive following a senior IOC member saying the 2020 Games were being threatened by the spread of a viral outbreak.

Former International Olympic Committee vice president Dick Pound said their fate would probably be decided in the next three months.

Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto abruptly called a news conference to address comments. Muto says “our basic thoughts are that we will go ahead with the Olympic and Paralympic Games as scheduled.”

Brazil confirms first coronavirus case in Latin America

Brazil’s government has confirmed the first case of the new coronavirus in Latin America.

The health minister said Wednesday that a 61-year-old man who traveled to Italy’s Lombardy region has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

The man had begun to show symptoms compatible with the illness, like a dry cough, throat pain and flu symptoms, and so was tested for the virus.

Since the illness began to spread throughout the world, Brazil and other countries in the region have registered dozens of suspected cases, all of which previously had been discarded.

An increasingly isolated Iran girds for long virus battle

Iran is girding for a long battle against the coronavirus that is spreading rapidly across the country and the wider Middle East.

Iranian state television says 19 people have been killed by the new coronavirus amid 139 confirmed cases in the country so far. That’s the highest death toll outside of China.

Iran’s president said there is no immediate plan to quarantine cities over the outbreak, but he acknowledged it may take “one, two or three weeks” to get control of the virus.

As Iran’s 80 million people find themselves increasingly isolated in the region by the outbreak, the country’s sanctions-battered economy saw its currency slump to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar in a year.

2nd virus death in France, 1 new infection linked to Italy

A 60-year-old Frenchman has died of the new virus in a Paris hospital, the second virus-related death in France since it emerged in China last year. The head of France’s national health service made the announcement but did not say where the man contracted the virus.

The man was among three new cases of the virus announced in France on Wednesday. One of the others was a man who had made repeated trips to the Italian region of Lombardy.

France is stepping up restrictions on people who have traveled from Italy after a new outbreak of the virus there.

German with virus in grave condition; Austria probes death

Authorities in western Germany said Wednesday that a man who contracted COVID-19 is in critical condition. Officials in neighboring Austria sealed off an apartment complex where a female tourist from Italy with a possible infection died overnight.

The health ministry of North Rhine-Westphalia state said the man was first hospitalized Monday with serious pneumonia in the town of Erkelenz near the Dutch border. He was then diagnosed with the new virus and isolated in an intensive care unit.

The man was transported to Duesseldorf’s University Hospital overnight Wednesday. His wife was also isolated on suspicion of contracting the virus after showing symptoms.

A German news agency reported that the man was in his 40s and had a pre-existing condition.

Tokyo organizers, IOC going ahead as planned with Olympics
A spokesman for the Japanese government says the International Olympic Committee is going ahead as planned with the Tokyo Olympics.

The comments from spokesman Yoshihide Suga follow the assertion by former IOC vice-president Dick Pound that the Olympics are facing a three-month window to decide the fate of the Games. The Olympics are set to open on July 24.

Pound told the Associated Press that the fast-spreading virus from China could cancel the Olympics. Suga says Pound’s opinion doesn’t reflect the official view of the IOC, which has repeatedly said there are not plans to cancel or postpone the Olympics.

Global shares slide on fears virus’ spread may be unstoppable

Global shares are falling on growing fears the virus’ spread may be unstoppable, posing a big threat to the global economy.

Benchmarks in France, Germany and Britain are falling in early Wednesday trading. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 declined 0.8% to finish at 22,426.19. Other indexes in Asia, except for Malaysia, finished lower.

U.S. shares may recoup recent losses with Dow futures and S&P 500 futures rising. The worst-case scenario for investors - where the virus spreads and cripples supply chains and the global economy - hasn’t changed, but some analysts feel the probability of its happening has risen.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 has lost 7.6% in the last four days since hitting a record high last Wednesday. That’s the benchmark index’s worst such stretch since the end of 2018.

The latest wave of selling came as more companies, including United Airlines, warned the outbreak will hurt their finances, and more cases were reported in Europe.

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