March 4 coronavirus news

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6:17 a.m. ET, March 4, 2020

China's air pollutants levels drop after coronavirus outbreak

NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) pollution monitoring satellites have detected significant decreases in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) over China. There is evidence that the change is at least partly related to the economic slowdown following the outbreak of coronavirus.
NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) pollution monitoring satellites have detected significant decreases in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) over China. There is evidence that the change is at least partly related to the economic slowdown following the outbreak of coronavirus. Credit: NASA

China's air pollutant levels dropped in February as a result of measures taken by the nation's government to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus, the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service confirmed on Wednesday. 

“The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) observed a decrease of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) for February relative to the previous three years,” said the CAMS in a report. It said PM2.5 was one of the “most important air pollutants regarding health impacts,” according to the World Health Organization.

Analysis by the CAMS showed a reduction of approximately 20-30% in air pollutants over large parts of China in February compared with monthly averages in February 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Credit: NASA
Credit: NASA

The CAMS said the reduction is a likely side effect of measures taken by the Chinese government, including restrictions on industry and traffic.

Copernicus is the European Union’s flagship Earth observation service, which analyzes temperature data from around the planet.

6:13 a.m. ET, March 4, 2020

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe may be released for one day

Nazanin Zaghari-Radcliffe is seen with her daughter, Gabriella, in Damavand, east of Tehran, during a temporary release from Evin prison in August 2018.
Nazanin Zaghari-Radcliffe is seen with her daughter, Gabriella, in Damavand, east of Tehran, during a temporary release from Evin prison in August 2018. Credit: Free Nazanin Campaign

British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe may be granted a one-day release from jail in Iran but is in "good health," according to the Iranian ambassador to the UK.

Hamid Baeidinejad tweeted on Tuesday that Zaghari-Ratcliffe did not have coronavirus amid calls for her to be tested after her family claimed she was suffering from symptoms of the virus. 

Baeidinejad said she may be granted a one-day furlough on Wednesday or Thursday to join family in Tehran. Her husband Richard Ratcliffe told CNN she has not yet been released.

5:55 a.m. ET, March 4, 2020

Australia to shoppers: stop buying toilet paper

Shelves are empty of toilet rolls in a supermarket in Sydney, Australia on March 4.
Shelves are empty of toilet rolls in a supermarket in Sydney, Australia on March 4. Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

As fear over coronavirus spreads, worried shoppers in Australia are bulk-buying toilet paper.

They're buying so much that shelves at some supermarkets have been left empty, and Kleenex has urged customers not to panic. CNN saw empty shelves when we visited a supermarket in the city of Brisbane on Wednesday.

Australia's chief medical officer Brendan Murphy is also urging people not to panic buy supplies.

"We are trying to reassure people that removing all of the lavatory paper from the shelves of supermarkets probably isn't a proportionate or sensible thing to do at this time," Murphy told a Senate hearing on Wednesday, according to CNN affiliate 9 News.
"We are a well-prepared health system but even the best-prepared health systems can face a challenge if you have large outbreaks."

Murphy also said most cases in Australia involved people who had traveled from other affected countries, and said there was only "limited community transmission" in New South Wales, the state which is home to Sydney, the country's most populous city.

In Australia, a total of 42 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, including one death.

5:32 a.m. ET, March 4, 2020

Iran's hand sanitizer supply not meeting demand, despite alcohol production increase

An Iranian man sprays alcohol on the hands of people outside an office building in Tehran on March 4.
An Iranian man sprays alcohol on the hands of people outside an office building in Tehran on March 4. Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

Iran is facing a shortage of hand sanitizer as demand increases following the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country.

Mahdi Shah-Moradi, a board member of Iran’s National Medical Equipment Producers’ Association, said Iran had increased its production capacity of alcohol -- a major ingredient in sanitizer -- since the coronavirus outbreak.

But he said that with “the logistics and distributions timeframes, it becomes a time consuming cycle.”

The official told semi-official news agency ISNA on Wednesday that there was a shortfall in daily production of disinfectants and that the virus had disrupted the balance of demand and supply in Iran and globally.

5:19 a.m. ET, March 4, 2020

India confirms 28 coronavirus cases

A Jammu and Kashmir police officer briefs bus passengers about the coronavirus in Lakhanpur, India on March 4.
A Jammu and Kashmir police officer briefs bus passengers about the coronavirus in Lakhanpur, India on March 4. Channi Anand

India has confirmed 28 cases of the novel coronavirus, the nation's Health Minister Harsh Vardhan announced in a press conference on Wednesday.

Vardhan said that the cases broke down as follows:

  • 17 were identified as an Italian travel group and an Indian driver.
  • 1 case reported on Monday in New Delhi was a person who had traveled to Italy.
  • 6 cases in Agra were linked to the New Delhi case.
  • 1 case reported on Monday involved a 24-year-old in India's southern state of Telangana who had traveled to Dubai.
  • 3 cases reported earlier in Kerala have recovered and been discharged.

The minister said that a group comprising of 24 to 30 Italians came to India around February 21. A 69-year-old group member tested positive for the coronavirus after reporting fever and other symptoms in Jaipur -- the capital city of India's western state of Rajasthan.

All members of the group were tested and 16 tested positive for the coronavirus, including the 69-year old’s wife and the group's driver, an Indian citizen. 

The next cluster is linked to the case of an Indian citizen in New Delhi who is known to have traveled to Italy and then to Agra in Uttar Pradesh to see family.

Six of the New Delhi resident's family members in Agra tested positive for the coronavirus and are quarantined in Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, the minister said.

Earlier this month, India's Health Ministry announced a confirmed case of a 24-year-old in Telangana who had traveled to Dubai.

Before this, the southern state of Kerala had reported three cases, which have since been discharged after a full recovery, the Health Minister announced.

4:49 a.m. ET, March 4, 2020

China says 75 international arrivals tested positive for coronavirus

Passengers wearing face masks have their travel history checked as they arrive at the railway station in Hefei, China on March 4.
Passengers wearing face masks have their travel history checked as they arrive at the railway station in Hefei, China on March 4. Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

China's Custom Authority says 75 international arrivals into the country have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Custom Authority said that as of March 3, 6,728 international arrivals to China were showing symptoms, with 779 arrivals classified as suspected cases and 75 testing positive.

Mainland China has recorded more than 80,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 2,981 deaths.

4:25 a.m. ET, March 4, 2020

Here are the countries with the most coronavirus infections

A man wearing a face mask walks past a closed restaurant in Beijing on March 4.
A man wearing a face mask walks past a closed restaurant in Beijing on March 4. Thomas Peter/Reuters

The coronavirus outbreak started in China, but it has now spread to 77 other countries and territories across the world.

China remains the country with the highest number of infections, but over the past few weeks, cases have been growing in several countries.

In total, there are 92,880 confirmed cases, and at least 3,200 deaths worldwide.

These are the five countries worst affected by coronavirus:

  1. Mainland China (80,270 cases, 2,981 deaths) 
  2. South Korea (5,612 cases, 32 deaths) 
  3. Italy (2,502 cases, 79 deaths) 
  4. Iran (2,359 cases, 77 deaths)
  5. Japan (991 cases, 12 deaths)

Check out a full list of cases here.

4:11 a.m. ET, March 4, 2020

South Korea plans to use a GPS-based app to monitor people quarantined at home

South Korea has come up with a new way to make sure people self-quarantined at home stay put: a GPS-based app.

The app will monitor people who are quarantined -- and if they leave their designated location, the system will set off an alarm.

The application will be implemented later this week in Daegu and surrounding North Gyeongsang province, where about 90% of national infections have been reported, according to the government. There are an estimated 2,300 people currently under quarantine in Daegu alone.

“The government discussed about a more efficient way to monitor people in quarantine and developed an application,” Park Jong-hyun, a public relations official of the Central Disaster Relief Headquarters, said at a briefing on Wednesday.

South Korean authorities say several people have broken quarantine and left their homes.

Currently, more than 2,000 confirmed patients in Daegu and North Gyeongsang province are waiting for beds.

The South Korean government began categorizing confirmed cases so that patients with more serious health conditions can be hospitalized, while people with milder symptoms can be monitored from home or government designated facilities.

4:03 a.m. ET, March 4, 2020

There are now 6 coronavirus cases confirmed in Belarus

A car pulls into the entrance of the Minsk Clinical Hospital of Infectious Diseases in Minsk, Belarus on February 28.
A car pulls into the entrance of the Minsk Clinical Hospital of Infectious Diseases in Minsk, Belarus on February 28. Natalia Fedosenko/TASS/Getty Images

There are now six confirmed coronavirus cases in Belarus, the country’s Health Ministry said in a statement Wednesday. 

Previously, the country only had one confirmed case.

Four cases have been reported in the country’s capital Minsk, while another two are in the northeastern Vitebsk region. 

According to the ministry, all patients are experiencing mild symptoms.