Feb 26, 2020 10:24 PM

Coronavirus Wednesday Update: More European Countries Report Infection; South Korea Expects to See More Cases Linked to Church


China is grappling with a new coronavirus epidemic that began in December and has since spread to many countries around the world. While China has made headway controlling the virus’s spread, the picture abroad is less positive as hotspots emerge in a number of other nations, including Japan, South Korea, Italy and Iran.

Caixin Global will continue covering this story as it develops. Please check back regularly for updates.

Caixin’s coverage of the new coronavirus


Wednesday, Feb. 26, 12:00 p.m.

Coronavirus now is spreading faster outside China. Several European countries have reported their first cases of coronavirus apparently linked to the outbreak in Italy, where authorities have confirmed more than 300 cases and 12 deaths.

Greece confirmed its first case Wednesday, a 38-year-old woman who had recently travelled to Italy.

Austria, Croatia, Spain, and Switzerland also announced cases involving people who had been to Italy.

• A Korean Air flight attendant tested positive for coronavirus shortly after working on a flight to Los Angeles, South Korean media reported. The flight attendant worked on a flight from Incheon to Los Angeles and may have spent time in Los Angeles before boarding a return flight. Los Angeles County health officials said they are awaiting confirmation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The flight attendant recently had also worked on an Incheon-Tel Aviv route.

South Korea now has 1,261 confirmed infections of the virus and 12 deaths, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). The number of new cases is expected to jump in coming days as health authorities began testing members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus. The number of confirmed cases linked to the church is estimated to be at least 600, according to the health authorities.

Two British schools closed after staff and students returned from skiing trips to a coronavirus-hit region of Italy, BBC reported. Cransley School in Northwich, Cheshire, and Trinity Catholic College, Middlesbrough, took the decision following new government health advice for Britons returning from northern Italy to self-isolate. Cransley head teacher Richard Pollock said some students on the trip were “showing flu-like symptoms.” Several other schools have also closed for the potential risk.

France confirmed the first death of a French national from the virus. The 60-year-old French man was the second fatality in the country, after an 80-year-old Chinese tourist died there earlier this month.

France has reported four other new cases Wednesday, including two people returning from Italy, bringing the total number of infections to 17.

Compiled by Denise Jia

Wednesday, Feb. 26, 6 p.m.

South Korea was the focus of much attention again on Wednesday, as its coronavirus caseload passed 1,200 after 284 new incidences were reported. The country’s death toll from the virus stands at 12.

In the city of Daegu, where most cases have been reported, news that a secretary to Vice Mayor Lee Seung-ho was infected raised concerns about infections among politicians (link in Chinese). On Wednesday morning, Lee attended a seminar in the city that was also attended by President Moon Jae-in and several ministers. The South Korean government has advised people who attended the seminar to quarantine themselves.

Also on Wednesday, a U.S. soldier stationed in the country tested positive for the virus, the U.S. military said. The 23-year-old is stationed at a military base near Daegu. He has been quarantined at his off-base residence.

In Japan, which has the third greatest number of infections after South Korea and China, the fate of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics has been the ongoing topic of discussion. In an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday, Dick Pound, a senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, said that if the situation proves too dangerous, organizers are more likely to cancel the games than postpone or relocate them.

An IOC spokesperson later clarified (link in Chinese) that preparation for the games is ongoing, and disease prevention will be an important part of the process.

An official at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned Tuesday (link in Chinese) that an outbreak of the virus in U.S. communities was imminent. “It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen,” Nancy Messonnier said in a news briefing.

In other coronavirus-related news:

A total of 48 companies have been eliminated from a government project to support businesses engaged in fighting the coronavirus, several bankers and regulators with the knowledge of the matter told Caixin.

These companies will no longer enjoy government-subsidized low-interest bank loans. The affected enterprises include five coal producers, five local government financing vehicles and 38 transportation-related firms. Many have accused the companies of taking advantage of the government support but doing little to help fight the coronavirus.

• Gilead Sciences Inc. has been granted three patents in China for its antiviral drug remdesivir, which has been undergoing clinical tests to determine if it can effectively treat the coronavirus, He Zhimin, deputy director of the National Intellectual Property Administration said (link in Chinese) at a press conference on Tuesday.

The U.S. drugmaker has applied for eight patents for the drug and the other five are still being reviewed, according to He. The eight patents cover areas including compounds, manufacturing methods and drug usage.

• Hong Kong’s government will distribute HK$10,000 ($1,283) to permanent residents aged 18 or above to boost local consumption and ease people’s financial burden amid the coronavirus outbreak, Paul Chan Mo-po, the city’s financial secretary said (link in Chinese) in his budget on Wednesday. The measure is expected to benefit 7 million people and cost the government HK$71 billion.

Also, the city government is to earmark HK$190 million to build a quarantine facility at Penny’s Bay on Lantau Island, using a four-hectare (9.8-acre) plot of government land, Caixin learned (link in Chinese) from the city’s Food and Health Bureau (FHB) on Tuesday. The facility will be able to provide at least 600 quarantine units. The first batch of about 100 quarantine units is expected to be completed by May.

As of the end of Tuesday, Hong Kong had reported 85 infections and two deaths.

• A renowned epidemiologist said new testing kits that his team are developing could make testing for Covid-19 cases faster and more accurate.

In an interview Monday with Yang Lan, a special correspondent for Caixin, American epidemiologist Walter Ian Lipkin said his team is trying to transfer sequencing capture technology to make the tests cheaper, faster and more sensitive. Lipkin said the new test will soon be sent to China.

Compiled by Mo Yelin

Wednesday, Feb. 26, 11 a.m.

Signs of stabilizing emerge in China

• By the end of Tuesday, China had confirmed 78,190 cases of infection, including 2,718 deaths, according to the latest data (link in Chinese) from the country’s top health body.

• Nearly 30,000, or about 38%, of the confirmed cases had recovered, indicating that medical efforts were proving effective to some extent.

• Over the past week, the number of infections has grown at a slower clip. There were 411 daily new infections reported on Tuesday. This figure has remained below 1,000 for one week.

This is widely seen as a positive development following weeks when hospitals across the country accelerated disease diagnoses in efforts to treat patients in a timely manner.

• Correspondingly, suspected cases on the Chinese mainland dropped further to 2,491 on Tuesday, the lowest level in one month.

• However, of the more than 45,000 patients undergoing treatment on Tuesday, about one-fifth were in a severe condition.

Global jitters continue

• As of Wednesday morning, at least 38 countries outside China had reported 2,818 infections, including 45 deaths.

• Multiple countries have confirmed their first cases lately, including Brazil, Switzerland, Austria, Croatia and the northern African nation of Algeria.

• Some other countries continue to see rising numbers of infections.

South Korea’s number of infections surged past 1,100 on Wednesday morning, according to government data (link in Korean), as it retained its place as the world’s second worst-hit country. The country has reported 12 deaths so far, according to the official Yonhap News Agency.

Japan had reported 862 infections by late Tuesday, according to (link in Japanese) state broadcaster NHK. The number includes more than 690 infected people previously quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Italy remains the most impacted nation in Europe, reporting 323 confirmed cases in total, including 11 deaths, according to Italian newspaper La Repubblica (link in Italian).

Iran is the worst-affected country in the Middle East, reporting 95 cases, including 16 deaths, the most fatalities from the virus outside China.

Compiled by Lin Jinbing

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