U.S.-South Korea military drills postponed as coronavirus spreads faster outside China
SEOUL/WASHINGTON- The United States and South Korea postponed joint military drills on Thursday to limit the spread of coronavirus, as the number of infections outside China, the source of the outbreak, for the first time surpassed those appearing in the country.
Taiwan raised its epidemic response level to the highest as it readied a $2 billion (£1.5 billion) package to cushion the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on its export-reliant economy.
“As the international epidemic outbreak gets more serious day by day, Taiwan needs to enhance its defence against the virus,” President Tsai Ing-wen said while overseeing troops tasked with disinfection.
Taiwan has had 32 cases of the coronavirus and one death.
The virus has in recent days spread far beyond China, where it emerged late lat year, apparently in a market selling wildlife in the city of Wuhan.
Brazil confirmed Latin America’s first infection and the new disease – COVID-19 – was also detected for the first time in Pakistan, Sweden, Norway, Greece, Romania and Algeria. China reported 433 new cases on Thursday, against 406 a day earlier.
Brazil’s first case coincided with the carnival holiday, a peak time for tourism. Brazil’s stock index fell more than 7%.
South Korea reported another 334 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, pushing its total to 1,595, the most in any country other than China.
The U.S. State Department issued a new travel warning for South Korea after the U.S. military reported its first case of the coronavirus on Wednesday, in a 23-year-old soldier based near the South Korean city of Daegu.
The South Korean military has also reported a number of infections and confined most troops to base.
A “command post training”, usually conducted by members of the two militaries’ Combined Forces Command, will be postponed until further notice, the command said.
U.S. health authorities reported the first possible case of community transmission in the United States involving someone who had no relevant travel history or exposure to another known patient. The United States is managing 59 cases – most of them Americans repatriated from a cruise ship in Japan.
U.S. President Donald Trump, seeking to calm U.S. stock markets which fell for the fifth day, said the United States was “very very ready” to face the virus threat.
Asked by reporters whether he was considering restricting travel to and from South Korea, Italy and other countries where infections have exploded in the past week, Trump said everything was on the table.
“At some point, depending on what happens, we may cut certain additional countries off, like we’ve had to do with China, and we hope we can open it up to China soon as possible,” Trump said in a live broadcast.
Oil and Asian share markets extended losses as the rapid global spread of the coronavirus kept investors on edge and seeking safety in gold and bonds.
Stock markets globally have wiped out $3 trillion in value this week, as measured by the MSCI all-country index that comprises stocks across 23 developed and 26 emerging markets. Chinese authorities said the number of new deaths stood at 29 on Thursday, the lowest daily tally since Jan. 28. The virus that can lead to pneumonia has now killed a total of 2,744 people in China, most in the central province of Hubei where it originated late last year.
China has sent an investigation team to Wuhan, Hubei’s capital, after reports a women’s prison released an infected inmate whose relatives then drove her to Beijing, despite the fact the city has been sealed off for more than a month.
“We healthy people get stuck in Wuhan and she can escape the strictest lockdown there with a fever?” one commentator said on the Weibo platform.
The coronavirus has infected about 80,000 people, the majority in China, and its rapid spread through countries such as Italy, Iran and South Korea has raised the risk of a pandemic.
As alarm rose, Mexican authorities barred a cruise ship from docking over what the ship’s company said was a single case of common seasonal flu. The ship was eventually allowed to enter Cozumel port.
Cruise ships have been in the spotlight after confirmed cases of the virus on the British-registered Diamond Princess approached 700 with four deaths since the ship docked at a Japanese port on Feb. 3.
Italy reported another 100 cases nationwide, taking the total in Europe’s biggest hot spot to more than 400, while its death toll rose to 12.
The outbreak is centred on Italy’s industrial heartlands of Lombardy and Veneto, and the government has closed schools and universities, shuttered cinemas and banned public events.
A hotel in Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands remained locked down for a second day on Wednesday with more than 700 guests, over cases linked to Italy.
There have been nearly 50 deaths outside China, including 19 in Iran, according to a Reuters tally.
Iraq on Wednesday banned public gatherings and barred entry by travellers from Kuwait and Bahrain because of the spread of the new coronavirus.
Saudi Arabia suspended foreigners’ entry for the Umrah pilgrimage and tourism from countries with new coronavirus cases. The kingdom has no cases.
(Content and photos syndicated via Reuters)