Countries around the world are taking measures to try to stem the spread of the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19, as the death toll continues to rise.
Below are Feb. 25 updates. For Feb. 26 updates, click here.
First US Soldier Tests Positive
The first U.S. soldier tested positive for the new virus, the military said in a statement on Wednesday. The U.S. Forces Korea soldier is stationed at Camp Carroll.
The 23-year-old male is currently in self-quarantine at his residence off-base.
The man visited Camp Walker on Feb. 23 and Camp Carroll between Feb. 21 and Feb. 25.
South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. military are working on locating people the soldier was in contact with.
South Korea authorities informed the United States on Tuesday that a U.S. Forces Korea dependent living in Daegu tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, prompting the forces to raise the risk level to “high” for personnel peninsula-wide “as a prudent measure to protect the force,” the military said in a statement.
That patient, a 61-year-old female, visited Camp Walker’s Post Exchange on Feb. 12 and 15.
Italy Sees Cases Rise 45 Percent in a Day
Italy reported a 45 percent one-day increase in people infected with the coronavirus as other countries in Europe recorded their first cases Tuesday, producing evidence that travelers are carrying the virus from the European outbreak’s current epicenter.
Italian officials reported 11 deaths and 322 confirmed cases of the virus, 100 more than a day earlier. While the majority were concentrated in northern Italy, some of the new cases registered outside the country’s two hard-hit regions, including three in Sicily, two in Tuscany and one in Liguria.
An Italian couple from the afflicted north tested positive in the Canary Islands off Africa, forcing the quarantine of their hotel in what one guest said felt like being “monkeys in a cage.” Austria, Croatia and Switzerland reported their first cases, all in people who recently traveled to Italy.
The four new deaths in Italy, like the seven reported earlier, were in patients who were elderly, suffering from other ailments or both, officials said.
Amid increasing cases and distribution problems with protective gear and test kits, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte defended the measures Italy has taken to contain the outbreak and predicted a stabilizing of numbers soon. But he acknowledged that the rise in cases—the most outside Asia—was “worrisome.”
“Obviously I can’t say I’m not worried because I don’t want anyone to think we’re underestimating this emergency,” he said before a meeting with a visiting World Health Organization mission. “But we trust that with the measures we’ve implemented there will be a containing effect in the coming days.”
Italy has closed schools, museums and theaters in the two regions where clusters have formed and troops are enforcing quarantines around 10 towns in Lombardy and the epicenter of the Veneto cluster, Vo’Euganeo.
The sponsors of one of the world’s largest furniture and design trade shows, held in Milan, announced late Tuesday that they decided to postpone the international event s due to concerns over the virus. Milan is the Lombardy regional capital.
“In view of the ongoing public health emergency, the decision has been taken to postpone the upcoming edition of the Salone del Mobile. Milan to June 16th – 21st,” a statement from the organizers said. The show originally was scheduled for April 21-26.
Italian health officials haven’t yet identified the source of the outbreak. Angelo Borrelli, the head of the Italian civil protection department, said the case count grew from 222 to 322, representing a 45% increase, in a 24-hour period from Monday evening to Tuesday evening.
The southern island of Sicily reported its first three positive cases from a woman vacationing from Bergamo, in Lombardy and two others traveling with her. Two cases were also reported in Tuscany, south out of the epicenter.
US Health Official: Vaccine Trials to Start in 6 Weeks
Testing trials of a potential COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine are expected to start in about six weeks, coming ahead of schedule, according to a top U.S. health official.
“We are on time at least and maybe even a little bit better,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told reporters on Tuesday. However, he cautioned about potential “further glitches.”
The National Institutes of Health has been working with Moderna, a biotechnology company, to produce a vaccine that uses the current strain of the coronavirus.
U.S. health officials are fast-tracking development on a coronavirus vaccine, Fauci suggested.
Iran Says Official Who Played Down Virus Fears is Infected
The head of an Iranian government task force on the coronavirus who had urged the public not to overreact about its spread has tested positive for the illness himself, authorities said Tuesday, as new cases emanating from the country rapidly emerged across the Middle East.
Only a day earlier, a coughing and heavily sweating Iraj Harirchi said at a televised news conference in Tehran that “the situation is almost stable in the country.”
Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour confirmed Harirchi had the virus. Harirchi himself posted an online video saying he had it and that he had quarantined himself at home. He promised that authorities would bring the virus under control.
“I wanted to tell you that, rest assured that with efforts of your servants at the Health Ministry … and backed by you people, the government and all elements of the establishment, we will be victorious in our combat against this virus within the next few weeks,” Harirchi said.
He had the following advice for worried Iranians: “Take care of yourselves. This virus is a democrat virus! It does not differentiate between the rich and the poor or official and nonofficial and anyone could get it.”
A prominent pro-reform lawmaker, Mamoud Sadeghi of Tehran, also said in a tweet that he tested positive for the virus.
In Iran, 15 people have died so far amid 95 confirmed cases. Experts remain concerned Iran may be underreporting cases and deaths, given the rapid spread from Iran across the Persian Gulf.
US Official Warns Americans: Prepare for Community Spread
Americans should prepare for community spread of the new coronavirus, with families sitting down and explaining that there could very well be a rapid, sudden increase in the number of patients, a top federal health official said on Tuesday.
In an escalation from previous warnings, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official, said Americans should prepare for their lives to be disrupted by spread of the new virus, including closures of schools and businesses.
She told reporters in a phone call that the number of cases popping up without a known source of exposure in Italy, Iran, South Korea, and other countries “makes all of us feel that the risk of spread in the United States is increasing.”
Messonnier recounted sitting down with her family at breakfast on Tuesday and telling her children that they’re likely not at risk of getting infected with COVID-19, the disease the virus causes, at the moment, but that the family needed to be prepared for their lives to significantly change.
South Korea Has Nearly 1,000 Cases
South Korea on Feb. 25 reported 144 new cases of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and three additional deaths.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) announced 84 new cases late on Feb. 25. Earlier in the morning, the Korean government reported a rise of 60 new cases from the previous day.
Three additional deaths were also reported on Feb. 25, bringing the national death toll to 11.
The 11th death was the first foreign national in South Korea to have died from the virus. A 35-year-old male from Mongolia died in a hospital on the outskirts of Seoul, according to the KCDC. He had a history of liver problems.
57 Cases Confirmed in US, 76 People Being Monitored in State of Oregon
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 57 cases of coronavirus in the United States, an increase of four from Monday.
All of the new cases were evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was held in medical isolation for two weeks off the coast of Japan.
In all, the confirmed cases include 40 passengers who were on board the Diamond Princess, three people evacuated from China, and fourteen other U.S. cases.
The Oregon Health Authority on Monday, meanwhile, confirmed that 76 people are currently being monitored for coronavirus, adding that hundreds have been monitored since January.
The officials stressed that there are no confirmed cases, and of those monitored people, none of them have shown any symptoms of the virus, reported Fox12.
Oregon Health Authority spokesman Jonathan Modie said two people showed symptoms for the virus, but their test results came back as negative.
“Because we don’t have a case here in Oregon, we don’t have that person-to-person transmission, that community transmission and that means that the risk for the general public is low here in Oregon. It remains low,” he told the station.
Iran May Have Suppressed Information: US
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday said the United States was “deeply concerned” Iran may have covered up details about the spread of coronavirus, and he called on all nations to “tell the truth” about the epidemic.
“The United States is deeply concerned by information indicating the Iranian regime may have suppressed vital details about the outbreak in that country,” Pompeo told reporters, as he also criticized Beijing for what he characterized as the censorship of media and medical professionals.
“All nations, including Iran, should tell the truth about the coronavirus and cooperate with international aid organizations,” he said.
Iran’s coronavirus death toll rose to 16 on Tuesday, the highest outside China, increasing its international isolation as nations from South Korea to Italy accelerated emergency measures to curb the epidemic’s global spread.
Drugmaker Delivers Experimental COVID-19 Vaccine to US Researchers
Moderna, a U.S.-based drugmaker, has sent the first batch of an experimental vaccine against the new coronavirus to federal researchers to use with humans.
Moderna sent the vaccine from its Norwood, Mass., manufacturing plant to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is based in Bethesda, Md., and part of the National Institutes of Health.
The shipment came just 42 days after the company selected part of the genetic sequence of the virus.
The institute expects to start a clinical trial of around 20 to 25 volunteers by the end of April, NIAID Director Anthony Fauci told The Wall Street Journal. “Going into a phase one trial within three months of getting the sequence is unquestionably the world indoor record. Nothing has ever gone that fast,” Fauci said.
Tenerife Hotel Placed in Quarantine
A hotel in the resort area of Tenerife, Spain, has been placed on partial lockdown after an Italian man tested positive for coronavirus, according to officials.
Health authorities in the Canary Islands quarantined the H10 Costa Adeje Palace hotel on Monday.
“H10 Hotels has implemented all health and operational recommendations from the health authorities to ensure the safety and wellbeing of customers and employees,” the hotel said in a statement.
So far, Italy has reported 283 cases of the virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, and seven deaths as officials are attempting to curb its spread. The Tenerife patient, meanwhile, is the third case of the virus in Spain.
FDA Identifies 20 Drugs with Shortage Risks
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has contacted producers of about 20 drugs that either source all of their main ingredients from or are finished in China to gauge if they will face shortages due to the coronavirus outbreak.
None of the companies reported that a shortage is expected for their drugs due to the outbreak, an FDA spokeswoman said.
“We have been in contact with those firms to understand if they face any drug shortage risks due to the outbreak,” FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Caccomo said in a statement late on Monday. “None of these firms has reported any shortage to date.”
Caccomo did not identify any of the drugs or the companies.
She said the FDA has also reached out to more than 180 manufacturers to remind them of their requirement to notify the regulator of any expected supply disruptions.
U.S. officials raised concerns this week about the security of the U.S. drug supply chain in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in China, where a significant portion of the ingredients used to make prescription drugs is manufactured.
Around 88 percent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients used in drugs for the U.S. market were manufactured overseas in 2018, according to the FDA. About 14 percent of the API for U.S. drugs in that year were produced in China, the FDA said.
Death Rate for Critically Ill Patients Higher Than SARS: Study
The mortality rate for critically ill coronavirus patients is high—greater than that for SARS, according to a new study analyzing a cohort of patients in virus epicenter Wuhan.
Chinese researchers, in a Feb. 24 study published by The Lancet, examined 52 critically ill patients admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) of Wuhan Jin Yin-tan hospital between late December 2019 and Jan. 26, and found that 32 people—61.5 percent—later died.
All of those patients had died within 28 days of admission to the ICU, it found. The median duration from ICU admission to death was seven days.
“The mortality of critically ill patients with SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia [Novel Coronavirus] is high,” the study said. “The survival time of non-survivors is likely to be within 1-2 weeks after ICU admission.”
Italy Reports First Case South of Rome
Italian authorities on Tuesday reported a woman had tested positive for coronavirus in Sicily, the first case south of Rome, as the country battles to prevent the outbreak spreading from its origin in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto.
Sicily’s regional governor Nello Musumeci said a tourist from Bergamo in Lombardy had been hospitalized in the island’s capital Palermo after being diagnosed with the illness and all those traveling with her had been quarantined.
The number of cases in Italy, the country in Europe worst affected, rose to more than 260 overnight from 229 on Monday, with 34 new cases reported in Lombardy and six new ones in Veneto. The number of deaths was unchanged at seven.
“Authorities have not declared that there is an outbreak of coronavirus in Sicily yet, they said there are some suspect cases,” student Maura Ragusa said, wearing a protective mask after returning from Milan to the eastern port of the Sicilian city of Catania.
“I am worried but not too much because it is important that we keep the alarm level low,” another Catania resident, Nicola Iraca, said.
The sudden outbreak of the disease over the weekend triggered alarm in the country, bringing a noticeable drop in the number of people in public places and prompting shoppers to rush to supermarkets to stock up on basics.
Meanwhile, off the coast of Sicily, NATO has been undergoing antisubmarine warfare training exercises, involving hundreds of soldiers and crew members from nine nations including the United States, Canada, Britain, France, and Germany.
Hundreds of Police Officers in China Infected
An internal government document obtained by The Epoch Times revealed that at least 813 police officers and their close family members at the center of the epidemic in Hubei province have been infected with the Novel Coronavirus.
These officers are at the frontline of the authorities’ response to the outbreak, tasked with controlling public opinion to ensure it aligns with the regime’s narrative.
The document, dated Feb. 21, details how officials in Hubei are trying to cope with the crisis.
The tally includes 371 police officers, 61 retired officers, and 381 officers’ family members. Another 277 officers are suspected to have the virus. At least four officers have died.
Korean Air Crew Member Tests Positive
One cabin crew member with Korean Air has tested positive for the virus, according to Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The news prompted South Korea’s flag carrier airline to close its office near Incheon International Airport where the crew member had visited.
Further details about the potential contact persons were not immediately available.
According to the Center for Aviation, Korean Air, Asiana Airlines, and Air Busan all announced on Tuesday a temporary suspension of services to Mongolia.
Westerdam Passenger Virus-Free: US
The 83-year-old American woman who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) while trying to enter Malaysia after disembarking from the MS Westerdam cruise ship, is not a carrier of the virus, CNN reported, citing CDC spokeswoman Erin Burns.
“Two sequential tests on samples from that same person were negative,” Burns said.
The cruise, run by the U.S.-based Holland America Line, had departed from Hong Kong with 1,455 passengers and 802 crew on board.
No other passengers or crew members have since tested positive for the virus.
Table Tennis World Championships Postponed
Next month’s table tennis world championships in South Korea have been postponed until June.
The event was scheduled for March 22-29 in the southern city of Busan but will be pushed back provisionally to June 21-28, organizers said on Tuesday.
“Given the uncertainty and changing situation in Korea Republic amidst the outbreak of COVID-19 across the nation, the decision was made with the health and safety of players, officials, and fans as the top priority,” the International Table Tennis Federation said in a statement.
Bahrain Temporarily Stops Dubai Flights, Dubai Airport Takes Action
The tiny island nation of Bahrain suspended flights on Tuesday to the world’s busiest airport for international travel in Dubai.
The move by Bahrain, a small island off the coast of Saudi Arabia, suggested its monarchy had doubts about screening incoming passengers in Dubai.
Flights from the nearby Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates have also been suspended.
Bahrain said the ban was immediate and would last at least 48 hours.
Bahrain counted its first case of the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 illness on Monday in a school bus driver who transited Dubai while coming from Iran. Later it confirmed a second case, also a traveler from Iran via Dubai.
Dubai has been screening passengers on incoming flights from China, where the outbreak began. Long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad are among the few international airlines still flying to Beijing. However, the outbreak in Iran only became public in recent days.
Shortly after Bahrain’s announcement, Dubai International Airport said that the UAE is suspending all flights to and from Iran, with the exception of Tehran, until further notice.
It added that “all passengers arriving on direct flights from Tehran will receive thermal screening at the airport.”
The UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula, has reported 13 cases of the new virus. Most of those were connected to Chinese travel.
Meanwhile, Kuwait raised the number of its infected cases from three to five people. All five were passengers returning on a flight from the Iranian city of Mashhad, where Iran’s government has not yet announced a single case of the virus.
The state-run Kuwait News Agency reported the two latest cases on Monday evening in two women whose nationalities were not disclosed. Kuwait had halted over the weekend transport links with Iran and was evacuating its citizens from Iran.
Oman, which has good ties with Iran, has halted flights with its Persian Gulf neighbor.
Fourth Diamond Princess Passenger Dies
A fourth former passenger of the Diamond Princess cruise ship has died after contracting the virus, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported Tuesday.
According to the agency, the male patient was in his 80s.
The other three cruise passengers who have died from the virus were also in their 80s.
Following multiple rounds of testing, 691 passengers on the vessel were confirmed to have contracted the virus.
Most of those infected remain in Japan for further monitoring, while those who were cleared of the virus have been allowed to return home, although most are subject to another round of self-quarantining.
Melanie Sun, Frank Fang, Eva Fu, Cathy He, Zachary Stieber, Jack Phillips, Reuters, and The Associated Press contributed to this article.
For updates from Feb. 24, click here.