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First case in Hamburg, markets tumble — live updates

February 27, 2020

More countries across Europe have confirmed cases of COVID-19, but EU countries said borders will remain open. Hamburg confirmed its first case — a hospital staffer in the pediatric ward. All the latest updates here.

Clinic in Dusseldorf
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Meissner
  • At least 82,500 people have now been infected globally, with over 2,800 dead.
  • Infections have doubled in the last 24 hours in Germany and France
  • Germany's health minister says the country is facing a "coronavirus epidemic," although EU countries want to keep borders open in the Schengen area.
  • Over 500 new cases have been reported in South Korea, the biggest spike there since the outbreak began.
  • The World Health Organization says that, at this point, the virus has "pandemic potential."

All updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT).

00:18 The US Health Secretary says the coronavirus risk to Americans is low but that could change. "We have really been able to keep the risk to Americans low right now so that everyday Americans don't need to be worried, but that can change and that's why it's important for all of us to prepare," said US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar at a White House event.

00:15 China confirms 327 new coronavirus case on Thursday, down from 433 cases a day earlier. The latest figure takes the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China to 78,824. The number of dead in China also increased by 44 on Thursday, and now stands at 2,788.

00:05 Facebook has called off its annual developers conference amid fears over the coronavirus. The F8 conference, scheduled to be held on May 5 and 6 in San Jose, California, attracts over 5,000 people from across the world. 

Instead of the F8 event, the company will organize "a combo of locally hosted events, videos, and live streamed content," said Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Facebook's Director of Platform Partnerships.

23:40 The hospital staffer in Hamburg who tested positive for COVID-19 was at work in the pediatric ward on Monday and Tuesday. He called in sick the following day and came in on Thursday as a patient.

"The patient is currently in a stable condition in isolation at home," the University Medical Center or UKE said in a statement.

The children and patients he came in contact with will remain in isolation for 14 days, as will his colleagues. "There have been no further admissions at the affected station," the hospital said.

23:20 The Netherland's first case of the coronavirus is a man who traveled to norther Italy, the worst hit area of Europe. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Twitter that he is "in direct contact with (Health Minister) Bruno Bruins, among others, on the measures taken to prepare the country for this," adding that he hoped the patient would recover. 

22:50 The University Medical Center or UKE in Hamburg's Eppendorf district confirmed the first coronavirus case in the city. The patient is a male staff member in the pediatric ward.

22:30 US and European stock markets took a beating as the coronavirus continues to spread outside China amid widespread fears of a global economic slowdown. Here are the major US and European indices that plunged on Thursday:

  • Dow Jones (US) -4.42%
  • S&P 500 (US) -4.42%
  • Nasdaq (US) -4.61%
  • FTSE 100 (UK) -3.49%
  • DAX (Germany) -3.19%
  • CAC 40 (France) -3.32%
  • Oil -4.90%

22:15 Saudi Arabia stops issuing electronic tourist visa for those coming from seven countries; China, Italy, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Kazakhstan, Saudi Press Agency reports.

21:50 The director of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention said the virus can survive on surfaces, including copper, steel cardboard and plastic. Robert Redfield said the virus can survive for "about two hours" on copper and steel surfaces, while it can last longer on cardboard and plastic.

21:29 A cruise ship heading to the Dominican Republic with 1,128 passengers and 384 crew members was turned away due to fears that eight of those aboard showed potential symptoms of coronavirus.

A joint statement made by the country's Public Health Ministry and Port Authority said the captain of the Braemar reported that four Filipinos, two British citizens and two US citizens were under medical observation for symptoms including fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.

21:26  A person infected with coronavirus in the US state of California may be the first patient in the US to have contracted the virus through unknown origins. The woman lives in Solano County, which is home to an air force base where dozens of people infected in China or on cruise ships have been treated.

However, the director of the California Department of Health has said there is no evidence that the woman had any connection to the base.

21:22 Dutch health authorities confirm first coronavirus case in the Netherlands. The Dutch National Institute for Public Health said in a statement that the patient in the southern city of Tilburg had recently traveled in northern Italy and is now being treated in isolation. 

20:28 Another infection has been confirmed in the German state of Bavaria. The Bavarian Ministry of Health said the patient is a man from the Middle Franconia region, close to Nuremberg, who had had contact with an Italian who later tested positive. 

20:26 The Netherlands has confirmed its first case of coronavirus. 

20:20 Sweden is reporting five more infections, taking the country's total number of cases to seven. Three of the patients contracted the illness outside of Sweden, including a woman who had been in Germany. 

20:15 The number of cases diagnosed in Germany has essentially doubled in the past 24 hours. A recap:

Twenty-one cases had been confirmed in the country as of Wednesday. New infections reported today in North Rhine-Westphalia (+14), Baden Württemberg (+4), and Rhineland Palatinate (+1) bring the current total to 40. 

19:52 Three cases have been confirmed in the Austrian capital of Vienna. 

19:50 South Africa is planning to evacuate over 100 of its citizens from the city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. 

"President Cyril Ramaphosa has directed the repatriation of South African citizens from Wuhan city in Hubei province, China," the president's office said in a statement on Thursday. 

19:17 Thirty-three coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the state of California in the US. Reuters reports that five of them have since left the state. 

19:14 The number of infections in France more than doubled between Wednesday and Thursday night, from 18 to 38 cases, the French health ministry has reported. 

19:12 Northern Ireland has reported the first case of coronavirus in the region.

18:47 Four more coronavirus infections have been reported in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, bringing the state total to 8. 

18:16 Fourteen new cases have been detected in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). That makes 20 cases detected thus far in the western German state. 

Around 400 people in one NRW district are currently quarantined in their own homes after many of the residents participated in the same Carnival event as a local who tested positive for the virus. 

"These people as well as their partners and any children must quarantine themselves at home for 14 days," a coronavirus crisis team in NRW said. 

17:50 Three more people in Italy have died from coronavirus, bringing the national death toll to 17. 

Today the number of cases in Italy has risen to 650, a nearly 50% increase from the day before. 

The majority of cases are in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto. 

17:20 The outbreak is causing market chaos across the world. Here is how China is dealing with the economic fallout:

17:05 The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem — the Catholic authority in Jerusalem — has issued special rules of conduct for Mass in light of the new coronavirus outbreak. 

The measures include emptying the holy water pools and refraining from offering worshipers oral communion from a goblet. 

16:40 A spokesman for the International Monetary Fund said coronavirus will have an impact on global economic growth and that the economic institution will likely end up downgrading its global growth forecast. 

16:25 The last coronavirus patient in the German state of Bavaria has been released from the hospital.

The first outbreak in Germany began in January after a China-based employee of local German company Webasto visited her employer days before she was diagnosed with coronavirus. There had been a total of 14 coronavirus cases in the state, all linked — directly or indirectly — to the Webasto outbreak. 

16:10 A total of 130 people have been given permission to leave a four-star hotel in Spain's Canary Islands that has been on lockdown since a coronavirus outbreak was discovered among its guests. 

"All these tourists, clients, guests present no symptoms...and a decision has been made that frees the hotel from the presence of 130 people," said a spokesman for the regional government in a televised statement. 

Over 700 people were quarantined in the hotel on the island of Tenerife after a group of Italian guests were found to be infected with the deadly virus. 

16:00 Germany is making an additional payment of €50 million ($55 million) to the World Health Organization to help fight the coronavirus epidemic, the German finance ministry informed parliament on Thursday. 

The fund is intended to support health systems in developing countries, primarily. 

15:50 Over 6,000 Muslim pilgrims were left stranded at airports in Indonesia after Saudi Arabia banned entry to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. 

Nearly 3,000 pilgrims were about to board at an airport in Jakarta, Indonesia when they were informed that their flights had been cancelled.

Thousands who had already departed are likely to be returned, with transit through Dubai and Malaysia, Ali Machzumi of the Indonesia's Religious Affairs Ministry said.  

15:30 Germany's economics minister Peter Altmaier says the German government is prepared to act should the coronavirus outbreak have a significant effect on the nation's economy. 

Speaking in Berlin, Altmaier said the government is considering what it would do in an "emergency" situation. Changes to tax laws that are already in the works could be moved up if needed, he said, largely dismissing the possibility of an economic stimulus package. 

It is still too early to say whether the virus outbreak will have an effect on previous growth forecasts, Altmaier said. 

The Germany economy has struggled to maintain growth as global demand for automobiles, a key German export, has fallen. 

Read more: Germany's Finance Minister wants to lift debt cap

15:06 The UN's human rights chief has called on governments to combat discrimination that people from Asia have faced since the outbreak of the coronavirus began in central China. 

"The coronavirus epidemic has set off a disturbing wave of prejudice against people of Chinese and East Asian ethnicity," High Commissioner Bachelet said before the UN Human Rights Council at a meeting in Geneva.

The commissioner said measures to protect against the virus need to be carried out proportionately and that people in quarantine must be guaranteed their human rights. 

14:55 German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is in favor of cancelling the International Tourism Trade Show scheduled to begin in Berlin next week.

"It's my personal opinion that the trade show should not go ahead," Seehofer said to German media on Thursday, adding that the risks posed by an event expected to draw international 150,000 visitors are not "predictable."

The global coronavirus outbreak has thus far led to the cancellation or postponement of approximately 230 trade shows worldwide, according to data analyzed by German trade show specialists m+a. 

14:50 One of Iran's vice presidents, Masoumeh Ebtekar, was diagnosed with the new coronavirus infection earlier on Thursday. The minister is reported to have sat near Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. 

14:30 "The virus has pandemic potential," World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said in a news briefing, saying the outbreak had reached a "decisive point."

"This is not a time for fear. This is a time for taking action to prevent infection and save lives now," he added. 

14:25 The demand for non-perishable food products has gone up, German supermarket chains Aldi-Süd and Lidl said on Thursday, responding to a question from German news agency dpa.

"We're well prepared and are increasing our reserves as appropriate," Aldi-Süd said. 

Competitor Rewe, however, said there had been no noticeable increase in demand. 

Germany has confirmed 27 cases of coronavirus within its borders. 

14:10 The Asian Football Confederation will hold an emergency meeting next week to discuss a backup plan should qualifying matches for the World Cup and the Olympics be postponed due to coronavirus. 

Several Asian Champions League matches have already been postponed and officials are considering postponing women's Olympic qualifying matches between China and South Korea scheduled for March 6 and 11. 

13:47 Pope Francis has cancelled a religious service in Rome due to a "slight ailment", a Vatican spokesperson has said. 

At an Ash Wednesday service held last night, the pope displayed symptoms of a cold, which included coughing and a coarse voice as well as a runny nose, a symptom not typically associated with coronavirus

The outbreak of the coronavirus in Italy is thus far confined to regions in the north and has not been confirmed in Rome. 

13:40 Italy is trying to downplay the gravity of the outbreak of the virus within its borders hours after the death toll rose by two. 

"The epidemic of misleading information will do more damage to Italy than the risk of the virus epidemic itself," Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said in a news conference. "Only 0.1% of the country is involved."

Italy's weak economy is poised to fall into its fourth recession in twelve years. Many businesses and supply chains are likely to be hit as the coronavirus outbreak in the north brings life grinding to a halt. 

13:35 Iran has cancelled Friday prayers due to the deadly outbreak of new coronavirus in the country, semiofficial local news agencies have reported. 

13:26 The International Olympic Committee (IOC) says it is "fully committed" to holding the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo as scheduled. 

IOC President Thomas Bach told Japanese media that the comittee "is fully committed to a successful Olympic Games in Tokyo starting July 24." 

Read more: Coronavirus: How can I protect myself from infection?

12:30 The ongoing spread of the coronavirus is expected to have a severe economic impact. Stock markets are falling, and experts reckon German exports and supply chains will be hit especially hard.

Read more of DW's analysis of the economic impact of coronavirus on Germany here:

Coronavirus outbreak hitting German supply chains with fears of economic paralysis

12:10 "Asymptomatic travelers" may be to blame for the spread of COVID-19, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier has told DW.

"We still have to understand more about how possibly asymptomatic people have been transporting the virus and then have been showing up in countries or infecting others without a direct link yet back to the origin," said Lindmeier.

"These tests — looking into the history of travelers, of infection history — are ongoing, because we need to understand how these infections are possible. We need to understand how they come about and if there is a link — or if there is no link, where these infections come from."

12:00 Two more people have died in Italy, bringing the death count to 14 with 528 cases reported so far.

DW heard from an Italian family in the so-called red zone.

11:25 EU officials have agreed that refusing border crossing within the Schengen area for those who show coronavirus symptoms is "not appropriate." The group of experts warned that this could even facilitate the spread of disease.

The Schengen area is made up of those EU countries that do not enforce border controls.

Schengen area within the EU
Schengen area within the EU

11:05 The number of deaths in Iran has jumped to 26. This is the highest number of deaths outside China.

10:17 Japan will close all public schools from Monday for several weeks in the wake of the ongoing outbreak.

10:12 French President Emmanuel Macron has said "an epidemic is on the way," echoing the words of German Health Minister Jens Spahn.

10:01 Here's a reminder that the WHO warned earlier of an "infodemic," with misinformation about coronavirus being widely spread online.

09:47 "The coronavirus epidemic has set off a disturbing wave of prejudice against people of Chinese and East Asian ethnicity," UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet has told a session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

"I call on member states to do their utmost to combat this and other forms of discrimination," she said.

09:43 Switzerland has confirmed three new cases, bringing the total number in the European country to four.

Read more: Coronavirus exposes the divide between China's rich and poor

09:37 A football match in the town of Wegberg-Beeck in North Rhine-Westphalia will be canceled this weekend. It is not far from the Heinsberg district where a couple were diagnosed with the virus on Wednesday.

09:25 "Don't just go to the doctor — call them first, give them your symptoms and then discuss whether it makes sense to travel to them or be quarantined at home," said Lothar Wieler, President of the Robert Koch Institute, a German federal health agency.

He stressed that the most important thing people can do to prevent infection is regular hand-washing and quarantining themselves if they have symptoms.

Ways to protect yourself from coronavirus
Ways to protect yourself from coronavirus

09:20 Two more cases have been reported in the UK, bringing the total number of cases to 15.

09:00 Here's a round-up of the coronavirus situation in Europe on Thursday:

  • Italy is the worst affected, with 447 cases and 12 deaths.
  • New cases have been reported in Estonia and Denmark, and a second case in Switzerland.
  • As of Wednesday, 21 COVID-19 cases have been reported in Germany, half in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, while authorities try to find those who may have made contact with patients. Visitors of a carnival parade near the Dutch border may be at risk.

08:45 South Korea reported 505 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, raising the number of cases to 1,766. This is its largest daily increase.

08:40 Iraq reported its sixth case of COVID-19.

08:00 We have been referring to coronavirus as such, but here's a reminder that the term designated by the WHO is COVID-19. The COVID-19 strain is caused by a member of the coronavirus family. It is closely related to the SARS and MERS viruses, both of which have caused major outbreaks in the past.

Read more: Investors flee from controversial pandemic bonds with coronavirus set to trigger payout

African importers shun China

07:50 Kuwait has confirmed 43 infections, according to state media. All cases relate to people who had been in Iran.

07:42 The Chinese city of Shenzhen is preparing to outlaw the eating of dogs and cats.

This comes as the country clamps down on the wildlife trade that scientists suspect led to the outbreak.

07:35 Iran's state-run IRNA news agency confirmed that 22 are now dead, with 141 confirmed cases.

06:40 A woman in Japan who contracted coronavirus and then "recovered" has tested positive for a second time, officials have now confirmed.

At least 186 people in Japan have so far contracted the virus. This is the first time someone has been re-diagnosed with the virus.

06:20 Estonia reported its first case of coronavirus, according to Reuters. Russian media reported the patient is a citizen of Iran.

05:50 With 21 reported cases in Germany, all eyes are now on its most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia where a couple tested positive with coronavirus on Wednesday. Authorities are now calling for people who attended certain Carnival parades to get tested.

05:45 Denmark has confirmed its first case of coronavirus, Reuters reports. The man had recently returned from a ski holiday in northern Italy.

05:20 Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned that there is every sign a global pandemic is on the way.

"And as a result, we have agreed today and initiated the ... coronavirus emergency response plan," he said at a news conference. Australia will extend a ban on foreigners arriving from China.

05:00 Asian shares fell again on Thursday after Trump announced a step-up in the response to coronavirus. Japan's Nikkei was the biggest loser, shedding over 2% by the middle of the day's trade, while losses were more modest elsewhere. China even recorded a slight rise amid news of a smaller number of daily coronavirus-related deaths.

04:45 A Japanese woman has tested positive for coronavirus a second time just weeks after initial recovery, the first known such case in the country. 

04:30 The German Badminton Open which was scheduled to take place in Mülheim an der Ruhr, just north of Düsseldorfnext week has been canceled. 

04:26 The 29 new deaths that China reported today are the lowest daily tally in nearly a month. 

04:11 Here is a recap of WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus' most recent briefing on fighting the virus. He said all countries should make protecting health workers a primacy. He also talked about involving communities. 

"We must engage communities to protect people who are most at risk of severe disease, particularly the elderly and people with underlying health conditions," Ghebreyesus said. 

He mentioned protecting vulnerable countries as the third priority, while also calling for "concrete actions according to eight pillars." These are:

  • Country-level coordination, planning and monitoring
  • Risk communication and community engagement
  • Surveillance, rapid response teams and case investigation
  • Points of entry
  • National laboratories
  • Infection prevention and control
  • Case management 
  • Operational support and logistics

03:15 China on Wednesday summoned a United States Embassy representative to make "stern representations" after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced its move to expel three journalists from the Wall Street Journal last week.

The two countries have been trading barbs for days after the paper published an opinion piece titled "China is the real sick man of Asia" that criticized the country's response to the coronavirus outbreak. One of the three expelled journalists, Chao Deng, was left stranded in the airport, unable to enter the US due to its travel restrictions. No longer allowed to report, she was limited to sharing her colleagues' work on social media.

Medical workers in protective suits attend to novel coronavirus patients at the intensive care unit (ICU) of a designated hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 6, 2020.
The expelled journalist Chao Deng had been reporting from Wuhan, where the outbreak originatedImage: Reuters/China Daily

02:45  New cases are being reported across Europe. Here is a round-up of the epidemic in the continent:

  • Italy continues to be the worst affected with 12 deaths and 400 infections.
  • In France, two people have died so far, with 18 reported cases.
  • Britain has registered 13 cases since the outbreak began.
  • Spain reported 12 cases, 10 of these have been recorded since Monday.
  • Greece reported its first case of infection on Wednesday, along with Norway, North Macedonia, Romania and Georgia. 

02:00 South Korea reported 334 new cases, taking the total to 1,595. Daegu remained the worst-hit major city. However, there are signs of the virus spreading further. 55 cases have been reported in Seoul so far and 58 cases in Busan. 

01:50 The United States State Department has also raised the alert level for South Korea and has asked American travelers to "reconsider traveling".

01:42 United States and South Korea have postponed joint military exercises, having previously planned to scale them back. 

01:38 China reported 433 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday. The country's new death toll stands at 2,774 people.

01:30 Here's an update of the situation in Germany. So far, there are 21 reported cases in four states, with 13 patients cured. No one has died. Fourteen of the cases were in Bavaria, and were among the first anywhere outside China, related to the auto parts supplier Webasto and a visiting Chinese colleague. On Wednesday, Germany's Health Minister Jens Spahn set up a crisis team and said that the country was "at the beginning of an epidemic." 

01:00 A crew member of Korean Air who was on flights to Los Angeles has tested positive.

00:32 Saudi Arabia has suspended entry for pilgrims wanting to visit Mecca. 

00:20 119 Indians, along with five people from Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Africa and Peru, land in Delhi from Tokyo, after a quarantine period of over 20 days on the coronavirus-hit Japanese cruise ship Diamond Princess, Indian Foreign Minister Dr. S Jaishankar said on Twitter.

00:05 Trump also appointed Vice President Mike Pence as head of a task force which will respond to the coronavirus outbreak. "Mike is going to be in charge and Mike will report back to me," Trump said. 

23:58 Trump said he would boost the funds to deal with coronavirus to "whatever's appropriate," mentioning the ongoing debate in Congress on how much to spend. The White House request for $2.5 billion (€2.3 billion) has already been approved, although leading Democrats including Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer had said it was insufficient. 

23:47 Trump went on to talk about the 15 US citizens currently identified as having the virus. "Of the 15 people, eight of them have returned to their homes until fully recovered, one is in the hospital, one is fully recovered and one is, we think, in pretty good shape." That last patient was in the process of leaving the hospital and heading home. 

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a document as he gives a news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 26, 2020.
Trump said some reporting of the outbreak was excessive, repeatedly referring to flu fatality rates as a comparisonImage: Reuters/C. Baria

23:44 "Because of all we have done, the risk to the American people remains very low," he said. "We are ready to adapt and we are ready to do whatever we have to as the disease spreads, if it spreads"

23:42 "The number one priority from our standpoint is the health and safety of the American people," says Trump. 

23:40 US President Donald Trump starts addressing media on coronavirus.

23:36 US carrier Delta Air Lines is reducing its flights to South Korea while Hawaiian Airlines will stop them entirely. 

23:32 Bahrain has suspended flights to and from Iraq and Lebanon, as the number of cases in the tiny country reaches 26.

23:30  The President of Italy's northern region of Lombardy, Attilio Fontana, has announced he would self-quarantine after one of his staff members tested positive.

23:20 With Iran reporting 19 deaths and 139 infections, neighboring states Afghanistan and Pakistan have swung into action to mitigate a potential health crisis. Islamabad has closed its official border crossings and Kabul has suspended all travel to Iran. Pakistan on Wednesday confirmed its first two cases of coronavirus.

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

kp,ed,dvv/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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