February 27 coronavirus news

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4:34 a.m. ET, February 27, 2020

20 countries have confirmed their first cases in the past 7 days

In the past week, new outbreak clusters have formed across Europe and the Middle East, sparking fears and emergency measures.

The outbreaks are centered largely around Italy and Iran; Italy now has 400 cases and 12 deaths, and Iran has 141 cases and 22 deaths. Nearby countries have begun closing borders and implementing travel bans, as the virus spreads across the region.

20 countries have confirmed their first coronavirus cases in the past week:

  1. Lebanon
  2. Oman
  3. Israel
  4. Afghanistan
  5. Greece
  6. Denmark
  7. Austria
  8. Estonia
  9. Romania
  10. North Macedonia
  11. Georgia
  12. Pakistan
  13. Norway
  14. Spain
  15. Brazil
  16. Algeria
  17. Switzerland
  18. Croatia
  19. Bahrain
  20. Kuwait
3:58 a.m. ET, February 27, 2020

If you're just joining us, here is the latest on the novel coronavirus outbreak

Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant as a precaution against the new coronavirus at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, February 25.
Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant as a precaution against the new coronavirus at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, February 25. Jin Yeon-soo/Yonhap via AP

At least seven European countries have reported their first cases of novel coronavirus in the past two days, as the outbreak spreads across the world.

Elsewhere in Europe, Italy is struggling to contain its outbreak -- the largest outside Asia. Meanwhile, authorities in the Middle East are also racing to contain the virus spread.

In Asia, the epidemic is far from over -- South Korea has reported its largest number of new infections yet on Thursday.

What you need to know:

  • South Korea spike: The East Asian country reported more than 500 new cases and one death in 24 hours, bringing the national total to 1,766 cases and 13 deaths. Many of the cases are linked to a religious group in the country's south. The total new case count is more than China’s announcement today of 433 new cases.
  • Military infections: Joint US-South Korea military drills have been postponed "until further notice" after a US soldier and several members of the South Korean military contracted the virus.
  • Diamond Princess quarantine flawed: A top Japanese government adviser has admitted to CNN that authorities knew that by allowing crew members to continue working they were risking further spread of the infection. "We suspected some of the cruise staff may have already been infected, but ... they had to operate the cruise ship itself, they had to see the passengers, they had to deliver the meals," Dr. Norio Ohmagari said
  • Virus spreads in Europe: Denmark, Estonia, Norway, Georgia, Greece, Romania and North Macedonia have all announced their first virus infections since Wednesday morning. The number of countries around the world that have reported cases is now nearly 50.
  • Cases rise in Italy: Italy has at least 400 infections -- the largest outbreak outside Asia. Many European countries are now implementing emergency measures, with Italy effectively placing 100,000 under quarantine with travel restrictions.
  • Trump places VP in charge: US President Donald Trump has placed Vice President Mike Pence in charge of efforts to contain the spread of the virus in the United Sates. US health officials have warned the country may have had its first case of community transmission -- where the patient did not have “relevant travel history or exposure to another known patient."
  • Middle East borders closed: Iran now has at least 139 cases and 19 deaths. This week, the virus has spread across Middle Eastern nations, including Iraq, Kuwait and Bahrain, prompting travel restrictions and closed borders.
  • More new cases outside China: For the first time in the outbreak, the number of new cases reported outside of China in a single day was larger than those reported inside the country, said the World Health Organization. China reported 412 newly confirmed cases yesterday, while 459 additional cases were reported outside of China, according to the WHO’s daily report.
6:21 a.m. ET, February 27, 2020

BREAKING: South Korea reports largest jump in new cases yet

Patients are moved from Seoul Medical Center to other hospitals, in Seoul, South Korea, today. Yonhap has blurred this image to protect the identity of the individuals.
Patients are moved from Seoul Medical Center to other hospitals, in Seoul, South Korea, today. Yonhap has blurred this image to protect the identity of the individuals. Yonhap/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

South Korea has announced another 171 cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing the total to 505 in the past 24 hours.

It is the largest jump in one day for South Korea since the outbreak began. In total, there are now 1,766 infections across the country, which has left 13 people dead.

Out of the 171 new cases, 115 are from Daegu and 24 are from the North Gyeongsang province that surrounds the southern city.

South Korea’s total new case count reported Thursday has overtaken China’s announcement today of 433 new cases.

8:30 a.m. ET, February 27, 2020

Expert predicts coronavirus in China will be under control by end of April

Zhong Nanshan speaks at a news conference in Beijing on January 20.
Zhong Nanshan speaks at a news conference in Beijing on January 20. Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

A top Chinese respiratory expert says he is confident “the epidemic (will) be basically under control at the end of April.”

Speaking a news conference on Thursday, Zhong Nanshan, the director of China’s National Clinical Research Center for Respiratory Disease, said he had so far reasonably accurately projected the course of the virus.

“We previously predicted that the peak should be in mid or late February, it turned out the number of new cases began to drop after February 15. We predicted the number would be 60-70 thousand, and now it is 78-79 thousand in China," he said.

The Chinese expert said that his original global projections regarding the outbreak had needed to change due to the increased cases outside of China.

New job for Zhong: iPhone maker Foxconn announced this week that it had appointed Zhong as a chief consultant to the company as it continues to resume operations at facilities throughout China.

Zhong is seen as one of the heroes in China’s battle against severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, and is also currently leading the country’s national research team on the novel coronavirus outbreak. 

##Asia

8:30 a.m. ET, February 27, 2020

Japanese man infected with novel coronavirus dies in hospital 

A man in his 80s has become the eighth person in Japan to have died from the novel coronavirus since the outbreak began.

Local government officials in Hokkaido announced the death today, saying the patient had died from pneumonia. He tested positive for the virus on February 22.

The victim was from a town called Shiriuchi in Hokkaido and had no known links with the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

He also had not traveled abroad recently, making it unclear how he caught the virus.

Mask production stepped up: At least 186 cases of the coronavirus have been detected in Japan outside of the Diamond Princess.

Speaking at a news conference today, Japan's Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced the government has asked manufacturers of masks nationwide to work around the clock to provide face masks for the public.

He said the government will attempt to increase production of masks from 100 million in January to 600 million in February.

The government spokesperson urged people to only buy the masks if they they need them, due to shortages.

An employee inspects disposable face masks on the production line of the Yokoi Co. Ltd. factory on February 06 in Nagoya, Japan.
An employee inspects disposable face masks on the production line of the Yokoi Co. Ltd. factory on February 06 in Nagoya, Japan. Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images
3:22 a.m. ET, February 27, 2020

Australian PM: "You can still go to the football, you can still go to the cricket"

Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison on February 23, 2020 in Sydney, Australia.
Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison on February 23, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said while the risk of a global pandemic is growing, there is no need yet for Australians to avoid large public events.

“As a government, we need to take the steps necessary to prepare for such a pandemic," he said at a news conference today.

“(But) there is no need for us to be moving towards not having mass gatherings of people – you can still go to the football, you can still go to the cricket, you can still go and play with your friends down the street, you can go off to the concert and you can go out for a Chinese meal."

He said that this was all possible because Australia had "acted quickly" to avoid further infections.

Travel ban reinstated: As part of those precautions, Morrison said Australia would extend its travel ban on mainland China for another week. Australia has barred any travelers entering from or having transited in mainland China since early February.

Morrison added that “further travel bans are not recommended” and the bans are reviewed on a weekly basis. Australia has 22 cases of the novel coronavirus, 10 of whom have already recovered.

3:08 a.m. ET, February 27, 2020

iPhone maker Foxconn is now making a million masks a day

People walking past a Foxconn sign in Taipei in January 2019. 
People walking past a Foxconn sign in Taipei in January 2019.  Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images

Foxconn, a major electronics maker and supplier to Apple, has started making surgical face masks for all of its factory workers.

The Taiwanese tech giant said in a statement today that it had ramped up production significantly to meet its internal requirements of making approximately a million masks per day for employees at its facilities.

“Having previously dealt with SARS, Foxconn has a good understanding of how to care for our employees’ health and how we will need to allocate resources in the manufacturing and production departments,” the company told CNN Business earlier this month. 

“We have measures in place to ensure that we can continue to meet all global manufacturing obligations.”

Foxconn also announced this week that it had appointed Zhong Nanshan, a renowned respiratory scientist, as a chief consultant to the company as it continues to resume operations at facilities throughout China.

Zhong is seen as one of the heroes in China’s battle against severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, and is also currently leading the country’s national research team on the novel coronavirus outbreak. 

2:53 a.m. ET, February 27, 2020

Top Japanese government adviser says Diamond Princess quarantine was flawed

Norio Ohmagari, an infectious disease specialist, on February 26 in Tokyo.
Norio Ohmagari, an infectious disease specialist, on February 26 in Tokyo. Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

A top Japanese government adviser has admitted that the quarantine measures enacted on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama may have allowed additional infections to spread among the ship's crew and passengers.

At least 705 people contracted the virus during the quarantine, four of whom have died. For a time, the ship had the largest concentration of cases outside of mainland China, where the outbreak began. 

In an interview with CNN, government adviser Dr. Norio Ohmagari said that the quarantine of the cruise ship "may not have been perfect."

He said a "tough decision" had been made by the Japanese government to allow the cruise workers to keep working aboard the vessel, despite the risk of infection, to ensure the smooth running of the cruise ship.

But by failing to isolate the crew of the Diamond Princess from the beginning of the quarantine, he said infected workers may have passed on "secondary or tertiary" infections to their fellow crew members and passengers, thereby exacerbating the deadly outbreak. 

"We suspected some of the cruise staff may have already been infected, but ... they had to operate the cruise ship itself, they had to see the passengers, they had to deliver the meals," Ohmagari said.
"So that may have caused some close contact with the cruise ship workers and also the passengers."

Read the full story here.

7:55 a.m. ET, February 27, 2020

Iraq announces new coronavirus case, bringing its total to 6

Outside the quarantine zone at the hospital in central Najaf where the first case of coronavirus documented in Iraq is being treated on February 24.
Outside the quarantine zone at the hospital in central Najaf where the first case of coronavirus documented in Iraq is being treated on February 24. Haidar Hamdani/AFP/Getty Images

A man in Iraq’s capital Baghdad tested positive for coronavirus after returning from Iran, the Iraqi health ministry said in a statement today.

It is the first case of the virus in Baghdad and brings the total number of cases in Iraq to six.

The man is currently under quarantine. He tested positive after he went to a medical facility in Baghdad.

Middle East outbreak: Iraq's neighbor Iran has the largest concentration of coronavirus patients in the Middle East.

Nearly 140 cases of the virus have been confirmed in Iran, and 19 deaths.

Several neighboring countries have cut off travel to Iran, while Qatar has ordered the evacuation of its citizens from the country, and will also help Kuwaitis to evacuate.