Coronavirus Live Updates: As New Cases Surge, Businesses Face Grim Fallout

Here’s what you need to know:

Credit…Tingshu Wang/Reuters

Airline revenue down $29 billion. Auto sales in China cratering. Supply chains snapped.

The coronavirus outbreak, whose breadth and duration remains a disquieting question mark, is forcing international companies across nearly every industry to face a stark reality: Business will not go on as usual.

And investors have taken notice. U.S. stocks fell for the second straight day on Friday, with the S&P closing more than 1 percent lower, putting it on pace for its worst day of the month. Oil and gas prices also fell.

Auto sales in China collapsed this month, with the Chinese Passenger Car Association saying that sales at dealerships had plummeted 92 percent in the first half of February compared with the same period last year. China is the world’s biggest car market by a wide margin, so a nose-dive in sales causes pain.

The International Air Transport Association this week warned of a deep drop in earnings of about $29 billion in this year among global carriers, with virtually all of the losses expected to hit airlines in the Asia-Pacific region.

The coronavirus outbreak showed dangerous signs of breaking out beyond China on Friday, as new cases were reported in the Middle East and large clusters emerged around Asia.

Countries were closing their borders with Iran as health officials scrambled to make sense of reports out of Tehran suggesting that the virus was being transmitted more widely than officials there have publicly acknowledged.

As recently as Tuesday, Iranian officials had said there were no cases of the virus in the country. By Friday, however, they acknowledged 18 cases in three cities, with four deaths.

It was not immediately known how the virus had made its way to Iran, and it was far from clear that the country of 80 million people would be able to prevent the spread of the virus locally or abroad. Iran shares a border with Afghanistan and Iraq, where health officials have a limited ability to stop the spread of the virus should it find its way to those countries.

Already, cases of travelers from Iran testing positive for the virus have turned up in Canada and Lebanon.

At the same time, a surge in cases in South Korea — where the total figure soared above 340 on Saturday and scores more were being monitored for symptoms — added to fears that the virus was also spreading across Asia with dangerous speed.

Those cases have been tied to a secretive church.The South Korean authorities are racing to trace people who have come into contact with the infected congregation members, but have struggled to find all of those connected to the church’s hundreds of members.

And in China, there was concern that the virus could spread beyond its starting point in Hubei Province, after officials reported outbreaks in hospitals in Beijing and clusters of infections in at least four prisons across three provinces.

The disturbing new clusters were announced on the same day that Chinese officials acknowledged that their repeated shifts in methodology for counting new cases had sown confusion.

Officials in Hubei revised their case tallies again because of shifting definitions of a confirmed case and what officials described as previously unknown information.

The acknowledgment by provincial leaders came as national officials announced on Saturday that 397 new coronavirus cases had been reported in China in the previous 24 hours, raising the overall total above 76,000. The death toll went up by 109, to 2,345.

  • What do you need to know? Start here.

    Updated Feb. 10, 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 contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • 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.

China is now counting “lab-confirmed” and “suspect” cases. On Friday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization’s director general, praised that decision as “adding clarity” and noted that the same approach was used in Ebola outbreaks, in which many people die without every case being laboratory tested.

China faced a new front in the coronavirus epidemic on Friday as officials reported clusters of infections in at least four prisons in three provinces. The outbreaks, affecting at least 512 prisoners and guards, raised the specter of the disease spreading through the country’s extensive prison system.

Two of the prisons are in Hubei Province, where the epidemic originated. Wuhan Women’s Prison reported 230 confirmed cases, while 41 prisoners tested positive in Hanjin Prison in Shayang County, to the west, according to a statement on the provincial government’s website.

In Shandong Province, officials said 207 cases had emerged in a prison in the city of Jining, 450 miles east of Wuhan. The outbreak prompted the local authorities to dismiss the director and party secretary of the provincial justice department, which oversees the prisons there, along with seven other officials.

The cases there may have spread from a prison guard who developed a cough on Feb. 12 and tested positive for the virus the next day, according to a statement by the provincial government. A second guard was also found to have the virus that day, prompting the prison authorities to begin screening the entire prison population.

In all, 2,077 inmates and prison workers were tested in Shandong, with 200 prisoners and seven guards testing positive for the coronavirus. No deaths have been reported.

The Shandong government is carrying out inspections at other prisons and medical centers where prisoners are being treated for illnesses, including drug and alcohol addiction. It also plans “to quickly set up a hospital” on prison grounds to treat those infected, the statement said.

A similar outbreak in Zhejiang Province prompted the dismissal of a warden and a party secretary at a prison in the city of Quzhou. The facility reported 27 new infections on Friday, according to a report in China Daily, bringing the number of prisoners infected there to 34. A prison guard is also believed to be the source of those infections.

Thirteen of them were travelers who fell ill after returning from overseas, and 21 were people “repatriated” by the State Department.

The contagion “represents a tremendous public health threat,” a federal health official said.

More infections are expected among the people who were passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship and are in quarantine, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said at a news briefing.

Because they may have been in contact with infected people on the ship, “they are considered at high risk for infection,” Dr. Messonnier said.

Ten passengers from the Diamond Princess tested positive in Japan, but are not being counted among the infected in the U.S. yet, because the tests have not been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They will likely be added to the case count, Dr. Messonnier said.

The disappearance of tens of thousands of flights from China’s skies in recent weeks points to how the coronavirus has hobbled a nation.

Within just three weeks — from Jan. 23 to Feb. 13 — daily departures and arrivals for domestic and international flights in China dropped to just 2,004, from 15,072, according to Flightradar24, an industry data firm.

Restrictive measures adopted by China have helped delay the spread of the virus to other countries, the World Health Organization said this week, but the country’s increasing isolation could have lasting economic consequences.

Chinese travelers account for about a fifth of all tourism spending, more than any other country, according to the U.N.’s World Tourism Organization. In 2018, Chinese residents spent $277 billion abroad, according to the United Nations, or nearly twice as much as residents of the United States.

Oxford Economics said in a new report that, in a worst-case scenario, the outbreak could cut $1.1 trillion in global output.

Italy reported a big jump in coronavirus infections on Friday, spiking from three cases to 17, and announced new measures to prevent the virus from spreading further.

With 14 new cases in 24 hours, the country ordered a mandatory quarantine for anyone who has been in contact with an individual who has tested positive for the coronavirus, and 10 towns in the country instituted a lockdown affecting 50,000 people.

Five of the newly infected people are medical workers at a hospital in Codogno, about 37 miles southeast of Milan.

“We were prepared for this eventuality,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Friday evening. “We had a plan and we are carrying it out, and will always adopt rigorous measures of maximum precaution,” he said.

The quarantine ordinance, issued by Health Minister Roberto Speranza, also ordered anyone who had traveled to China in the past 14 days to stay at home and inform local health authorities.

The new measures came after the country announced its first cases of infection in people who had not recently traveled to China.

The patients include a 38-year-old man from the northern region of Lombardy, his pregnant wife and a friend. The man was in critical condition at a hospital in Codogno. His wife was also in critical condition at a hospital in Milan. The condition of their friend, who was in the same hospital in Milan, is unknown.

The five doctors or nurses who have been infected work at the hospital where the 38-year-old man is being treated.

Three other people were admitted to a hospital in the same area with pneumonia overnight and tested positive for the virus. Officials said the three were patrons of a cafe owned by the father of one of the other new patients.

The 38-year-old man first visited the hospital’s emergency ward on Feb. 18, and then returned when his condition worsened. The ward where he is being treated was closed to the public after he tested positive.

The man worked at a Unilever office in Casalpusterlengo and in early February had spent time with a colleague who had returned from China on Jan. 21, but officials said they were not certain that the traveler had been the carrier of the virus, Giulio Gallera, an official from the Lombardy Region said at a news conference Friday.

Mr. Gallera said the man’s immediate family was being tested and had been placed in isolation, and tests were being carried out on his colleagues. In all, 150 people were being tested on Friday.

Mr. Conte said Italy had no plans to suspend the Schengen Accord, an agreement that allows people to travel freely within 26 European countries. “But we are open to any measure,” to protect citizens, he said.

South Korea reported a surge in confirmed infections and a second death from the coronavirus on Friday, with the latest outbreak linked to a secretive church whose members account for two-thirds of the new infections in the country.

Health officials are zeroing in on the Shincheonji Church of Jesus — whose members continued to sit packed together on the floor of the church even when sick — as they seek to contain the country’s alarming outbreak.

On Friday, the number of cases in the country soared above 200 — second only to mainland China, if the outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship is excluded from Japan’s count.

More than 540 other church members have reported potential symptoms, health officials said, raising the possibility that the nation’s caseload could soon skyrocket further. In response, the government is shutting down thousands of kindergartens, nursing homes and community centers, even banning the outdoor political rallies that are a feature of life in downtown Seoul.

As of Friday, more than 340 members of Shincheonji, which mainstream South Korean churches consider a cult, still could not be reached, according to health officials, who were hoping to screen them for signs of infection.

The church, founded by Lee Man-hee in 1984, says it has over 200,000 members around the world, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap. It closed all of its churches in South Korea this week and told followers to watch its services online.

The church dismissed criticism of its practices on Friday, calling it “slandering based on the prejudices among the established churches.”

A spike in coronavirus cases at two Beijing hospitals has raised fears that the epidemic could be growing in a city that has so far largely been spared.

Compared with other cities, Beijing has had relatively few cases: 396 as of Thursday, and four deaths. But Fuxing Hospital now has at least 36 infections, a sizable increase since Feb. 3, when officials first announced that five medical workers there had tested positive.

Peking University Hospital also recorded three cases: a woman who had previously been hospitalized and her daughter and son-in-law who visited her after traveling to Xinjiang, the western region. The couple tested positive for the virus on Feb. 17, days after Beijing’s municipal government announced that all people arriving in the capital must quarantine themselves for 14 days or face legal consequences.

On Friday, officials said that people flying into the city from abroad who had not been in China in the previous 14 days would be exempt from the rules.

Beijing’s measures appear to reflect a strong effort by officials to minimize the spread of the epidemic in the capital as millions of workers return from a prolonged break following the Lunar New Year. Since the new measures were announced, the city authorities have stepped up efforts to control movement in the city, which has been uncharacteristically deserted for nearly a month.

The National People’s Congress, the country’s legislative body, also announced that it was preparing to postpone its annual meetings, scheduled for the first week of March.



Coronavirus Fears Grip Village in Ukraine

The prime minister of Ukraine addressed the heightened tensions surrounding coronavirus, including protests in a village against the arrival of evacuees from China.

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The prime minister of Ukraine addressed the heightened tensions surrounding coronavirus, including protests in a village against the arrival of evacuees from China.CreditCredit…Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

Ukraine’s minister of health said on Friday that she would join a group of evacuees from China in a quarantined rural hospital, in the hope of calming angry protests from neighbors opposed to living near people who are potentially infected.

The minister, Zoryana Skaletska, said on Facebook that she would abide by the same rules as the 45 Ukrainians and 27 people of other nationalities who were evacuated from Hubei Province, the center of the coronavirus outbreak in China, to the Poltava region in eastern Ukraine.

Pilots, flight attendants and doctors who carried out the evacuation are also now quarantined at the site. Once Ms. Skaletska enters the hospital, near the village of Novi Sanzhary, she will not be allowed to leave the guarded site until the quarantine is lifted, she said.

“I will spend the next 14 days together with them, on the same premises, and under the same conditions,” she said in a statement on Thursday. “I hope my presence will calm those in Novi Sanzhary and the rest of the country.”

Fear of the virus had gripped the village. On Thursday, residents blocked a road with cars and burned tires to prevent buses with evacuees from passing. The Ukrainian National Guard used armored personnel carriers to clear the road. Protesters then hurled stones at the buses, breaking windows.

Ukraine has reported no cases of coronavirus infection.

Reporting and research were contributed by Vivian Wang, Paul Mozur, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Choe Sang-Hun, Roni Caryn Rabin, Carlos Tejada, Elaine Yu, Steven Lee Myers, Tiffany May, Andrew E. Kramer, Marc Santora, Amber Wang, Claire Fu, Yiwei Wang, Zoe Mou, Matt Phillips, Keith Bradsher, Elisabetta Povoledo, Denise Grady, Matt Philips, Amie Tsang, Rich Harris, Blacki Migliozzi and Niraj Chokshi.

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