February 24 coronavirus news

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9:55 a.m. ET, February 24, 2020

Italy has yet to identify the source of its outbreak

An ambulance waits in front of a medical laboratory in Milan on February 22.
An ambulance waits in front of a medical laboratory in Milan on February 22. Credit: Valeria Ferraro/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Italy still has not identified “patient zero,” the source of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, two officials said Monday.

“The important thing is to identify ‘patient zero,’ where he/she is from, and to stop this chain of infection,” Angelo Borrelli, the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, said.

Luca Zaia, the governor of the Veneto region, said “no news” when asked Monday by CNN affiliate Sky 24 about the hunt for the carrier.

Borrelli suggested an explanation for the sudden spike in cases over the weekend: “I believe that the incubation period meant that the infections all exploded at a certain moment."

9:48 a.m. ET, February 24, 2020

The Dow has lost all of its 2020 gains

US stock markets opened moments ago and the Dow plunged almost 1,000 points as coronavirus fears mount.

The Dow has now lost more than 1,400 points in the span of the three trading days. That sharp drop wiped out the Dow’s gains for the year — leaving the index slightly negative for 2020.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq are both down this morning, but remain positive on the year.

9:47 a.m. ET, February 24, 2020

Oman reports first coronavirus cases

Oman’s Ministry of Health announced the first two positive cases of coronavirus in the country, for two Omani women coming from Iran.

The ministry said that the two patients are in stable condition and in quarantine.

In the statement, the ministry said it is calling on everyone to “avoid traveling to countries where cases of this virus have been registered unless absolutely necessary.”

9:45 a.m. ET, February 24, 2020

US stocks plunge because of coronavirus fears

US stocks plunged this morning on mounting worries about the spread of the coronavirus outside China to major economies including South Korea and Italy.

Here's what happened when the markets opened on Wall Street: 

  • The Dow dropped as much as 997 points, or 3.4%. 
  • The S&P 500 declined 3.1%.
  • The Nasdaq plunged 3.9%.

The Dow has now lost more than 1,400 points in the span of the three trading days. The sharp drop wiped out the Dow’s gains for the year, leaving the index slightly negative for 2020. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq remain positive on the year.

Watch:

9:33 a.m. ET, February 24, 2020

What life is like for the American couple kept apart by coronavirus

Kent and Rebecca Frasure from Oregon are both on dry land in Japan — and are so close but yet so far from meeting each other again.

The couple, who traveled in the Diamond Princess cruise ship, have been separated after Rebecca tested positive for the virus.

Kent has been documenting his journey from the Diamond Princess to his Tokyo hotel. And a CNN team is with him on the ground as he waves to his wife through her hospital window for the first time. 

Watch the full clip below:

9:27 a.m. ET, February 24, 2020

Why health officials are still not calling coronavirus a pandemic

Health officials have yet to label the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic — but they could be close to calling it one.

"We're on the knife's edge," said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and a longtime adviser to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We're really on the brink," says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes for Health.

There is no precise, mathematical definition of a pandemic. Outbreaks get characterized as pandemics by epidemiologists — who are not yet using the term.

So why aren't epidemiologists labeling this a pandemic yet? It’s because they've yet to see sustained transmission among people who have not recently traveled to China or had close contact with someone who recently traveled to China. 

It's not enough for a cluster of disease in a country to exist and even spread — it has to spread in a sustained way, from person to person, time and time again, through many generations of transmission.

Right now, certain countries may still be able to contain the clusters of disease they are experiencing, and if they snuff out the outbreaks before they progress and achieve sustained transmission, they will have avoided a pandemic.

9:27 a.m. ET, February 24, 2020

UAE bans citizens from traveling to Iran and Thailand over coronavirus outbreak

The United Arab Emirates is banning its citizens from traveling to Iran and Thailand “until further notice in order to ensure the safety and health of citizens” because of the coronavirus outbreak, UAE’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement according to the state news agency, WAM.

The foreign ministry is also calling on Emirati citizens that are currently in those two countries to contact UAE’s embassies or contact the ministry on a phone number provided in the statement.

9:08 a.m. ET, February 24, 2020

Only Hong Kong residents traveling home from South Korea will be allowed in

Hong Kong's government has announced that only Hong Kong residents arriving from South Korea will be allowed to enter the city.

Secretary for Security John Lee said that starting tomorrow at 6:00 a.m. local time, non-residents arriving from South Korea would not be allowed to enter Hong Kong. Lee also added that all Hong Kong residents arriving from South Korea will have to undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine.

This comes as the Hong Kong government issued a "Red Outbound Travel Alert" on South Korea. A statement from the government added that the public should avoid non-essential travel to South Korea. 

8:53 a.m. ET, February 24, 2020

Iran is on the front line of the Middle East's coronavirus outbreak

A border crossing between Turkey and Iran in Turkey's Yuksekova district. Turkey has temporarily closed its border over the coronavirus outbreak.
A border crossing between Turkey and Iran in Turkey's Yuksekova district. Turkey has temporarily closed its border over the coronavirus outbreak. Credit: Ulas Guven/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Across the Middle East, flights from Iran have stopped and borders with the country have been closed as the region tries to keep the spread of a deadly coronavirus at bay.

Iran is on the front line of the outbreak -- the health ministry has confirmed 61 cases and 12 deaths (though one lawmaker in Qom claims the death toll is much higher).

Several travellers from Iran have contracted the virus -- three cases have been confirmed in Kuwait, one in Bahrain, one in Lebanon, one in Iraq, and one in Canada.

Turkey, Pakistan and Iraq have closed their borders with Iran. Kuwait Airways, Iraq Airways and Turkey have suspended flights to the country.

In Lebanon, flights from Iran continue, despite a social media backlash. Lebanon has a large Shia population, many of whom regularly pay pilgrimage to Shia holy sites in Iran, such as Qom. 

In Qatar, passengers from Iran -- as well as South Korea -- have been quarantined.

One Iranian lawmaker, Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani from the holy city of Qom, criticized the government’s handling of the outbreak, accusing officials of covering up numbers.

Farahani said 50 people had died from the virus in Qom, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran.

Iran’s health ministry has denied his claims.