US Warns of ‘Apparent Community Spread’ of Coronavirus in Countries Outside China

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in Maryland. He covers U.S. and world news.
February 20, 2020Updated: February 20, 2020

The United States warned travelers of “apparent community spread” of the new virus in five countries outside of China, as well as the island of Taiwan.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending Americans not travel to China and is also advising travelers of the apparent spread in Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, and Taiwan.

“Community spread means people have been infected with the virus, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected. At this time, the extent of virus spread is not sustained or widespread enough to meet the criteria for a travel notice,” the agency stated on its website.

A level 1 advisory is in place for Japan and Hong Kong as the number of cases grow in each place. Multiple instances of community spread have been reported in both Japan and Hong Kong, the CDC noted. If travelers go to either place, they should take steps including avoiding contact with sick people and not touching their eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

Epoch Times Photo
The quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship sits docked at the Daikoku Pier at night in Yokohama, Japan, on Feb. 20, 2020. (Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

Experts say one of the best ways to prevent infection is frequently washing hands with soap or water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Most of the cases in Japan are among passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that’s docked in Yokohama. The United States evacuated more than 300 American passengers several days ago, quarantining them at military bases in California and Texas. Other countries followed suit or made plans to, including Australia and Canada. Two elderly Japanese passengers from the ship died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus, Japanese authorities said on Wednesday.

The 87-year-old man who died had bronchial asthma while the 84-year-old woman who perished didn’t have any preexisting conditions, officials said.

Hundreds of passengers were let go this week after testing negative for the virus in Japan, where at least 73 people not from the ship have tested positive for COVID-19.

Epoch Times Photo
A woman wearing a mask to prevent contracting the coronavirus rides on a subway in Seoul on Feb. 20, 2020. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

The other places the United States is highlighting as having apparent community spread have also reported at least 16 cases each. Singapore has the second-highest number of cases outside China behind Japan with 81 as of Feb. 19, according to the World Health Organization.

South Korea on Thursday reported the first death from pneumonia caused by the virus. Thirteen other patients have tested positive at the hospital where he was bedridden. South Korea also reported 53 new confirmed cases, many in Daegu, a city about 186 miles south of Seoul. About two dozen are linked to a woman who tested positive after attending a recent church service.

SK Hynix, a chipmaker in the country, said 800 workers self-isolated as a precaution after a trainee had contact with a known virus patient.

Vietnam and coronavirus
An employee (L) puts a protective face mask on a child at a railway station in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Feb. 2, 2020. (Nhac Nguyen/AFP via Getty Images)

Few updates have emerged from Vietnam since last week, when officials said they quarantined over 10,000 people. The country has 16 confirmed cases.

Thailand, which has 35 confirmed cases, has also reported no new cases in several days.

Taiwan reported the first death from the disease on Sunday and has at least 20 known cases of COVID-19. President Tsai Ing-wen took offense at the CDC’s claim that community spread is taking place on the island, telling reporters that Taiwan doesn’t meet the standard set for community spread.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said the ministry has asked the United States to correct Taiwan’s status, reported the Taipei Times. The president asked members of the public not to panic and emphasized officials are working to prevent further spread of the virus.