February 28 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Angela Dewan, Mike Hayes, Meg Wagner and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 0208 GMT (1008 HKT) February 29, 2020
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10:04 a.m. ET, February 28, 2020

Belarus confirms first case of coronavirus

From CNN’s Mary Ilyushina in Moscow

Belarus has recorded its first case of novel coronavirus in the country, identifying the patient as a student from Iran, the Belarus Ministry of Health said today in a statement on its official website.

“During a laboratory test on February 27, the virus was detected in an Iranian citizen who arrived on a flight from Baku on February 22,” the statement says. "The patient and those who were in contact with him are quarantined in Minsk, the young man’s condition is satisfactory.”

The health ministry added that it began testing all travelers coming from South Korea, Iran, and Italy on February 20.

10:42 a.m. ET, February 28, 2020

Can household cleaning products kill coronavirus?

Your coronavirus questions, answered

A customer wearing a protective face mask and gloves reads a cleaning product label in a grocery store in Milan, Italy, on Tuesday, February 25.
A customer wearing a protective face mask and gloves reads a cleaning product label in a grocery store in Milan, Italy, on Tuesday, February 25. Camilla Cerea/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Household disinfectants are thought to be effective against the novel coronavirus. Cleaning products like Lysol and Clorox list the human coronavirus as one of the 99.9% of bacteria it can kill.

However, it's important to note that human coronaviruses are different than the novel coronavirus we are seeing now. This is a new virus and there are no vaccines or antiviral treatments that specifically target it.

Lysol's products have been proven effective in protecting against the other human coronaviruses -- so they're thought to be effective against the novel coronavirus, too, said Saskia Popescu, a senior infection prevention epidemiologist in Phoenix, Arizona.

10:04 a.m. ET, February 28, 2020

UN sanctions committee approves medical equipment to be sent to North Korea

From CNN’s Richard Roth

Doctors in medical masks and protective suits by an ambulance vehicle at the Munsu-dong diplomatic compound in Pyongyang, North Korea, amid an outbreak of the coronavirus on February 6.
Doctors in medical masks and protective suits by an ambulance vehicle at the Munsu-dong diplomatic compound in Pyongyang, North Korea, amid an outbreak of the coronavirus on February 6. Yevgeny Agoshkov/TASS/Getty Images

A United Nations sanctions committee has given approval for Doctors without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), to provide North Korea with diagnostic equipment to prevent any outbreak of the coronavirus.

It is not clear when the equipment will get to North Korea.

The UN’s North Korea sanctions committee on Thursday quickly approved the shipment of goggles, thermometers, and stethoscopes into North Korea, along with kits to detect if sick people there have the virus, the leader of the committee, German UN Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, told reporters Thursday.

“The committee immediately had given permission to export the equipment. The problem is that right now North Korea has closed the border. Around the table the appeal was made for North Korea to allow this equipment in so that the population can be better protected,” he said.
10:04 a.m. ET, February 28, 2020

Foreign diplomats to be evacuated from North Korea

From CNN’s Will Ripley in Hakone, Japan

An official from the Mangyongdae District emergency anti-epidemic headquarters disinfects a tramcar at the Songsan Tram Station in Pyongyang.
An official from the Mangyongdae District emergency anti-epidemic headquarters disinfects a tramcar at the Songsan Tram Station in Pyongyang. Kim Won Jin/AFP/Getty Images

A plan is in the works to evacuate quarantined foreign diplomats from Pyongyang, North Korea, a source inside the country tells CNN.

The source agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, given the extreme sensitivity of the current situation.

Closing operations: The German Embassy, French Cooperation Office, and Swiss Development Cooperation will close Pyongyang operations completely, the source says. 

Other countries with diplomatic missions in North Korea plan to scale down operations, according to the source.

 “I would expect around 60 people to be on the flight,” the source says.

Evacuations from North Korea: The date of the evacuation flight has not been confirmed, but the source says it will likely fly from Pyongyang to Vladivostok, Russia.

Kept in isolation: CNN previously reported foreign diplomats have been kept in complete isolation since early February, amid concerns about the potential spread of novel coronavirus inside North Korea. Diplomatic staff are not allowed to leave their compounds. All flights in and out of the country have been suspended.

North Korean authorities have yet to respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Diplomats in North Korea: The exact number of foreign diplomats stationed inside North Korea is unknown, but is estimated to be just a few hundred.

The country previously announced that all foreigners would be quarantined for 30 days, after quickly closing its borders at the onset of the coronavirus outbreak.

No reported cases: North Korea has not confirmed a single case of the virus inside the country, but global health experts have warned the country is highly susceptible to an outbreak given its close proximity to China and limited medical capabilities.

CNN’s Richard Roth reports a UN sanctions committee has given approval for diagnostic equipment to enter North Korea to prevent any outbreak of the coronavirus. 

1:39 a.m. ET, February 28, 2020

More than 4,400 coronavirus cases recorded outside China as global spread worsens

Mask-clad commuters make their way to work during morning rush hour in Tokyo today.
Mask-clad commuters make their way to work during morning rush hour in Tokyo today. Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images

New Zealand's report of its first coronavirus infection today follows more confirmed cases in countries including Spain, France, Nigeria and the UAE overnight, as outbreaks in South Korea, Italy and Iran continued to worsen.

The virus has now reached more than 50 countries and territories outside mainland China, with over 4,400 infections recorded and at least 70 deaths.

These are the worst-hit countries in each region of the world:

  • Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria; 1 case each
  • Asia: China; 78,824 cases, 2,788 deaths
  • Asia (outside China): South Korea; 2,022 cases, 13 deaths
  • Australasia: Australia; 22 cases
  • Europe: Italy; 650 cases, 17 deaths
  • Middle East: Iran; 245 cases, 26 deaths
  • North America: United States; 60 cases
  • South America: Brazil; 1 case

Read more about the worldwide spread of the virus here.

1:27 a.m. ET, February 28, 2020

We're about to see a lot of different responses to the coronavirus

Analysis from CNN's James Griffiths

Italian Red Cross agents wearing protective suits and masks register migrants rescued in the Mediterranean as they disembark from the Sea Watch NGO's ship on February 27, in, Messina, Sicily.
Italian Red Cross agents wearing protective suits and masks register migrants rescued in the Mediterranean as they disembark from the Sea Watch NGO's ship on February 27, in, Messina, Sicily. Giovanni Isolino/AFP/Getty Images

With the novel coronavirus spreading worldwide, we're about to see what happens when multiple different political systems try to respond at once, in very different ways. 

Some countries are already battening down the hatches, while others are taking a more blasé approach. What's clear is that there is not a unified strategy. Even in the European Union, health policy is left to member states, so there will be some major discrepancies in how countries react to outbreaks. 

This could have an impact because it makes it difficult for people to know how to react or what precautions to take.

If country A has 40 cases and is announcing school closures and quarantines, but country B with 60 cases is only advising extra vigilance, is it because the situation is less serious, or is the government not responding correctly?

There are legitimate reasons that more cases could be less serious, a cluster could all have connections to another country, with no evidence of spreading within the community, so once they are hospitalized and isolated, there's less risk of further contagion. Conversely, a relatively small outbreak that is showing signs of inter-community transmission is far more concerning. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) can be expected to carry out some coordination and provide advice on how governments should react, but the WHO doesn't have the power to compel countries to take certain measures, nor would it likely be willing to publicly shame any that are being negligent. The WHO's authority has also been somewhat knocked by accusations that it pandered to China, praising Beijing's containment efforts even as the virus spread throughout first that country and then the world. 

It's always difficult to know how seriously to take an outbreak, how to find the balance between being safe, and avoiding paranoia. As dozens of different approaches to the virus kick into gear worldwide, that might be about to become a lot harder.

2:45 a.m. ET, February 28, 2020

South Africa to evacuate over 130 nationals from Wuhan

From CNN’s David McKenzie in Johannesburg 

South Africa will evacuate 132 nationals from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, according to a government statement. 

"Cabinet has decided on this course of action after due consideration of the circumstances, and following several requests from the families of South Africans in the city," the statement said.

There are an estimated 199 South African citizens in Wuhan, and 132 of them have so far expressed desire to be repatriated.

“These compatriots are currently living under lockdown conditions following the outbreak of the coronavirus,” the statement said. 

None of the affected individuals have been diagnosed with the virus and none have shown symptoms, according to the statement. Upon arrival in South Africa, they will be placed in quarantine for 21 days as an additional precautionary measure. 

On Friday, Nigeria reported the first confirmed coronavirus case in sub-Saharan Africa. 

 

1:09 a.m. ET, February 28, 2020

How is coronavirus treated?

Your coronavirus questions, answered

Doctors treat a patient for coronavirus at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital on February 16.
Doctors treat a patient for coronavirus at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital on February 16. Credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images

There is no specific treatment, but research is underway.

Most of the time, symptoms will go away on their own, and experts advise seeking care early. If symptoms feel worse than a standard cold, see your doctor.

Doctors can relieve symptoms by prescribing a pain or fever medication. The CDC says a room humidifier or a hot shower can help with a sore throat or cough.

Drink plenty of fluids, get rest and sleep as much as possible.

10:05 a.m. ET, February 28, 2020

Hong Kong now has 93 confirmed coronavirus cases

From Akanksha Sharma in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has confirmed another case of the novel coronavirus, raising the citywide tally to 93, according to a government statement.

The latest patient is an 89-year-old woman with underlying illnesses who lives alone, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said.

The woman has no travel history during the incubation period but she's known to have visited the Fook Wai Ching Buddhist temple multiple times in January and February.

The temple, in Hong Kong Island's North Point district, has been linked to a cluster of cases in the city.

On Thursday, the CHP announced that a 70-year-old woman with links to the same Buddhist temple became the city's 92nd confirmed case.

As of Thursday, of the 93 confirmed cases, 65 remain hospitalized, 26 have been discharged, while two have died.