March 3 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Mike Hayes, Meg Wagner and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 9:23 p.m. ET, March 2, 2020
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10:56 a.m. ET, March 2, 2020

Almost 9 times more coronavirus cases were reported outside China than inside in the last 24 hours

From CNN’s Amanda Watts and Jacqueline Howard

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks during a news conference on COVID-19 in Geneva, Switzerland, on o
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks during a news conference on COVID-19 in Geneva, Switzerland, on o Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg/Getty Images

In the past day, there have been almost 9 times more new coronavirus cases reported outside of China than inside, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said today

During a press conference, Tedros said, the epidemics in the Republic of Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan are the organization’s greatest concern.

"We appreciate that people are debating whether this is a pandemic or not. We are monitoring the situation every moment of every day and analyzing the data. WHO will not hesitate to describe this as a pandemic if that’s what the evidence suggests," Tedros said. 

He added: "We are in unchartered territory. We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures."

11:01 a.m. ET, March 2, 2020

Without early detection and containment, African countries are at severe risk, says Africa CDC head

By CNN's David McKenzie in Johannesburg

A visitor sanitizes their hands before being allowed into a state hospital at Yaba in Lagos, Nigeria on February 28.
A visitor sanitizes their hands before being allowed into a state hospital at Yaba in Lagos, Nigeria on February 28. Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images

Public health experts have consistently warned that the novel coronavirus outbreak presents a unique public health threat to the African continent.

The World Health Organization says that only eight countries are ready to deal with the outbreak. Up until recently, most have lacked any diagnostic capability and few countries on the continent have sufficient health systems to deal with severe cases on a large scale. 

Despite operating multiple direct flights to coronavirus-hit China, there were no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Sub-Saharan Africa until last week. That is when Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), received a phone call in the early hours of the morning from Nigeria, where an Italian travelling on business was rapidly diagnosed and isolated.  

Nkengasong, who is a former senior official of the US CDC, and his colleagues have been working on a diagnostics and containment strategy to combat the disease.  

Nkengasong spoke to CNN about the risk posed by coronavirus to African countries. 

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. 

Nigeria faced a stiff test and it seems, at this stage, that they passed. What is the danger facing Africa now with the novel coronavirus? 

I think there are two dangers facing Africa now -- the first is our ability to detect quickly, and the second is the ability to contain it. Nigeria was able to detect the virus quickly, I would say. The coming days will tell us if the containment strategy is right. The contacts of an individual who tests positive must be isolated and their contacts traced quickly. 

Why is speed so important in diagnostics? 

Speed is so important in diagnostics because it allows you to isolate the people that are positive and keep them and monitor them for at least two weeks. If you do not pick up these people early, they will keep on mingling in the population and then they keep transmitting the virus to the population. 

Before this outbreak, you had to send samples to just two labs from across the continent. What has changed? 

Just three weeks ago, South Africa and Senegal were the only two countries on the continent that were doing the testing. But we have ramped up training very quickly … and as we speak today there are over 40 countries that have the ability to detect the virus.

Africa is a very diverse place. But why are some countries in Africa very susceptible to this particular disease? 

Early on — particularly at the start of this outbreak — there were certain countries that had direct flights with China. That is Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius and South Africa. Those were the first countries with high risk, and most of those countries stopped flying to China. But Ethiopian Airlines is still continuing, though they have reduced to two flights a day going to China. 

Then you have the big countries like Nigeria. They don't have direct flights, but they have many people going from there to China. Then you have countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo — it is a large country and we have a current Ebola outbreak and conflict there. Countries like the DRC have fragile systems, and they are very, very vulnerable without rapid detection and containment. 

But in Africa, why is that particular type of disease dangerous? 

It is dangerous for several reasons. Our health systems are not strong enough to provide those respiratory support systems that are required to care for patients that are infected, as we have seen in China. 

There are very few countries in Africa with those systems in place in their hospitals to care for a large number of patients. They may be able to care for some patients, but not for a large number of patients if they are overwhelmed, like we are seeing in China.

So it is clearly important to really stop this virus in its tracks everywhere, but particularly in Africa. If we cannot do that, what is the scenario for health systems?

We have to. We don't have a choice, we have to scale our ability to train many people on infection prevention and control, to enhance the screening at our points of entry as quickly as possible to cascade the diagnostics into the country so that our strategy continues to be rapid detection and rapid containment. 

Because there is no way our health systems will be rapidly improved to be able to cope with a large outbreak, like we are seeing in China. 

Read the rest of our interview with Nkengasong here.

11:30 a.m. ET, March 2, 2020

Hong Kong reaches 100 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus

From CNN's Bex Wright

Security guards watch as people queue to walk past a temperature checkpoint at the entrance to a government office building in Hong Kong on March 2.
Security guards watch as people queue to walk past a temperature checkpoint at the entrance to a government office building in Hong Kong on March 2. Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong has confirmed two more coronavirus cases, making the total number of confirmed cases 100, according to Hong Kong's Center for Health Protection (CHP) Monday.

One of the new cases is a 63-year-old man with "underlying illness" and is the brother of another previously confirmed case. He is in stable condition and receiving treatment at Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital, the CHP said.  

The man had no travel history during the incubation period and attended his daughter's wedding on February 22, where his sister, the previously confirmed case, was present. 

10:37 a.m. ET, March 2, 2020

Iraq reports 2 new novel coronavirus cases

From CNN's Aqeel Najim and Hamdi Alkhshali

A medic checks the body temperature of a woman arriving to the checkpoint of Arbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, on March 2.
A medic checks the body temperature of a woman arriving to the checkpoint of Arbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, on March 2. Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images

Iraq announced today that two more patients have been tested positive for novel coronavirus, Health Ministry said in a statement. This brings the total number of positive coronavirus cases in Iraq to 21.

The two new cases have been registered in Baghdad from two Iraqis who have returned from Iran recently. They are currently quarantined in a special medical facility that belongs to the Health Ministry.

10:21 a.m. ET, March 2, 2020

Husband of New York coronavirus patient is also being tested for illness

The 39-year old who tested positive for coronavirus in New York was working in Iran prior to returning home where she remains in isolation with her husband, another healthcare worker, who is also being tested, the New York governor said Monday.

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo said he assumes the husband will test positive as well given the circumstances. He has been following the same protocols, Cuomo said.

While it is not believed she was contagious on the plane, authorities are contacting the people on the flight as well as the driver of the private car service she took from the airport to her residence, Cuomo said. He stressed that she did not take public transportation. 

The testing was done at Mount Sinai hospital in New York and the hospital was contacted before arrival.

The woman has manifested respiratory illnesses, but her condition is mild, Cuomo said.

Looking forward, the governor said they are coordinating with private hospital and labs round the state and that the intention is to get the testing capacity “as high as possible.” 

“I said to the people around this table that I would like to have a goal of 1,000 tests per day capacity within one week. Because again, the more testing the better. Once you can test and find a person who is positive, then you can isolate that person so they don't infect additional people.”

Cuomo added: “We have been ahead of this from day one.”

10:18 a.m. ET, March 2, 2020

Leader of South Korean religious group with spiking coronavirus cases apologizes

From CNN's Yoonjung Seo in Seoul

People watch a TV screen showing a live broadcast reporting about Lee Man-hee, a leader of Shincheonji Church of Jesus, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul on March 2.
People watch a TV screen showing a live broadcast reporting about Lee Man-hee, a leader of Shincheonji Church of Jesus, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul on March 2. Lee Jin-man/AP

The founder and leader of Shincheonji religious group, which is at the center of the rapid rise in South Korean coronavirus cases, apologized "sincerely" to the country today at his first news conference since the nation's outbreak.

The group has faced mounting criticism after more than half of South Korea's positive cases was linked to the group.

At a press conference at one of Shincheonji's facilities, called Peace Palace, in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi Province, Lee Man-hee took a deep bow on his knees after issuing an apology to the public.

"It is not intentional but I’m deeply sorry that many of our members have been infected,” and the group “is trying its best to fully cooperate with the authorities,” Lee said.

“I apologize sincerely to the public for the outbreak related to the 31st confirmed case,” he added.

Last night, Seoul City filed a legal complaint against Lee and the group’s twelve regional leaders for charges including homicide.

While he did not mention the Seoul City complaint today, the 88-year-old said that the group's leaders “are like parents for the members and what kind of parents would just wait and watch children dying?"

He denied accusations that he and his group have been hampering the health authorities’ efforts to contain and prevent infections, adding that “this is not the time to scrutinize who’s done right and who’s done wrong. This is the time for everyone to do one’s best for the people to resolve the situation.”

When asked if he has kept to the self-quarantine, he said that he was a busy person and has not been able to stay in one place.

Korean health authorities are reviewing whether Lee’s presser is a violation of quarantine act.

South Korea has the most diagnosed cases of the virus — more than 4,200 cases and 26 deaths — outside of mainland China.

As of Monday, at least 57% of total confirmed cases in South Korea are related to Shincheonji, according to the South Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

10:11 a.m. ET, March 2, 2020

Two more schools close in Washington state due to coronavirus fears

From CNN's Gregory Lemos

As the number of novel coronavirus infections continue to rise in Washington, the Mukilteo School District announced the closing and cleaning of two more schools Monday morning, according to a statement on their website.  

The decision to close both Mariner High School and Discovery Elementary School came after the District learned Sunday evening that a parent of a Mariner student had tested positive for COVID-19, the district said. 

"The Mariner student is not showing any symptoms, but will be quarantined at home and monitored for 14 days as recommended by the Snohomish Health District," the statement says.

The Mariner student visited Discovery Elementary last week, prompting the closing of the Elementary School as well, the District said.

The closing of these two schools bring the total number of school closures in the state to six.

10:11 a.m. ET, March 2, 2020

New York will begin bleaching buses and schools, governor says

Rick Elkins/Getty Images
Rick Elkins/Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state is implementing new cleaning protocols at schools, on public transit and other public areas to protect against coronavirus.

Workers will use disinfectants in these areas, including bleach.

"So if people smell — if it smells like bleach when you get on a bus or when a child goes to school, it's not bad cologne or perfume, it is bleach," he said.

Cuomo added that the state will soon move emergency legislation authorizing $40 million for extra staff and equipment.

New York reported its first case yesterday: A woman in her late 30s, who contracted the virus while traveling in Iran and is currently isolated in her home.

10:05 a.m. ET, March 2, 2020

New York governor: "There is no doubt that there will be more cases"

Thomas Trutschel/Photothek/Getty Images
Thomas Trutschel/Photothek/Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he's certain there will be more cases of coronavirus in the state.

New York reported its first case yesterday: A woman in her late 30s, who contracted the virus while traveling in Iran and is currently isolated in her home.

"In general, there is no doubt that there will be more cases where we find people who test positive. We said early on, it wasn't a question of if, but when. This is New York. We're a gateway to the world. You see all these cases around the world, around the country, of course we're going to have it here," Cuomo said today.

Cuomo said the focus is now on limiting the spread of the virus. The state is prioritizing testing possible patients.

"You're not going to eliminate the spread but you can limit the spread," he said.