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COVID-19 updates: Germany facing a 'coronavirus epidemic'

February 26, 2020

The coronavirus epidemic has triggered several warnings from officials about an impending pandemic. Follow DW for the latest updates across the globe as public health authorities struggle to contain the virus.

The door of a German hospital where a doctor was found to be infected with coronavirus
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Meissner
  • Germany's health minister says the country is facing a "coronavirus epidemic"
  • Brazil confirms the first infection in South America
  • France reports the first death of a French citizen 
  • The death toll in China has jumped to more than 2,700 people. More than 80,000 people have contracted the virus around the globe.

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

Wednesday has came and gone so we've moved our live updates to a new page. Click here for the latest on the coronavirus outbreak.

22:32 The Chairman of US Senate Appropriations Committee, Richard Shelby, said that Congress should provide the Trump administration with the necessary funds to tackle coronavirus.

"Let's do not shortchange ... Let's do not try to low-ball it and be penny-wise and pound-foolish," he said in an interview with Fox News channel.   

22:23 US tech giant Microsoft announced on Wednesday that it would not meet its sales forecast due to the coronavirus epidemic with lower sales of Windows software and Surface devices.  

"Although we see strong Windows demand in line with our expectations, the supply chain is returning to normal operations at a slower pace than anticipated," Microsoft said in a statement.

21:38 Romania's health minister has confirmed the country's first case of coronavirus, in a man in the western county of Gorj. "The man had been in direct contact with an Italian citizen who travelled to Romania earlier this month," Health Minister Victor Costache told reporters. "He is in a good condition and will be transferred to a Bucharest infectious hospital."

21:11 Bahrain discovered seven new coronavirus cases, raising the total number in the country to 33.

20:47 Mexican authorities have revoked permission for the cruise ship MSC Meraviglia to disembark in the city of Cozumel over coronavirus fears. 

20:31 A regional train traveling between the German cities of Frankfurt and Saarbrücken was stalled for two hours after a passenger announced to train personnel that he was experiencing coronavirus symptoms.

The man had recently been on a business trip in Italy, though not in either of the regions that are currently fighting an outbreak. A spokesperson for the health ministry in the Rhineland-Palatinate said the man had been hospitalized and that by Thursday it will be clear whether he has been infected.

20:25 Iraq has banned all public gatherings and barred travelers from Kuwait and Bahrain from entering the country. Iraqis have also been banned from traveling to or from a total of nine countries. 

20:10 Norway announces the country's first case of coronavirus, the third known infection in Scandinavia.

Two cases had previously been reported in Sweden while Denmark has thus far been spared. 

19:53 Pope Francis sent prayers to healthcare workers and people suffering from coronavirus at the traditional Ash Wednesday mass at the Vatican in Rome this evening. 

"I want to again express my closeness to those suffering from the coronavirus and the health care workers who are treating them, as well as the civil authorities and all those who are working to help patients and stop the contagion," Francis said at the service, which marks the beginning of the Lent, the season leading up to Easter in the Christian calendar. 

Many churches in Italy cancelled Ash Wednesday services after clusters of cases emerged in two northern regions of the country. 

19:15 Israel's health ministry has urged its citizens to reconsider all non-essential travel as coronavirus emerges.

In a statement, the ministry asked the public "to reconsider the necessity of flights abroad in general, beyond the required isolation upon return from specific countries."

"The assessment is that there is a high probability the disease has already spread to other regions of Europe and many other places in the world," it said.

18:40 Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has spoken with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte about the coronavirus outbreak. 

"We will continue to work closely with Italy and Germany to link the warning chains even more closely and to take all necessary measures to protect the population as much as possible," Kurz wrote on Twitter.

18:25 Georgia has reported its first case of coronavirus, the first known infection in the South Caucuses. 

18:23 The US military has told the country's congress that it may need additional funding to fight the spread of coronavirus within its ranks. A US solider in South Korea has been diagnosed with the infection. 

Earlier on Wednesday, senior US lawmakers called for a spending package that would provide $8.5 billion (€7.8 billion) in funding to fight the deadly disease on a local, state, and federal level.

President Trump is expected to make a comment on the state of outbreak later today. 

18:16 A German soldier in the Rhineland Palatinate has been diagnosed with coronavirus, Germany's military has confirmed. It is the first case in the southwestern German state. 

18:05 An advocacy group for ethnic Uighurs says quarantine measures in China have resulted in widespread hunger in the Muslim-majority region of Xinjiang. The group Uighur Human Rights Project also expressed concern over the disease spreading to the internationally condemned camps where the Chinese government is holding over a million Uighurs

17:38 A 32-year-old in the German state of Baden Württemberg, who had traveled from Italy was found to be infected with coronavirus. He did not have any connection to the other three patients in the state.

17:32 The Vatican announced that catacombs across Italy have been closed due to the outbreak. The Vatican cited moisture and poor ventilation underground that could pose a danger to visitors' health. 

17:03 Over 700 people are on day two of a 14-day quarantine in a four-star hotel on Tenerife, the largest of Spain's Canary Islands, after several Italian guests tested positive for coronavirus. 

An employee wears a protective mask as he talks with guests inside a hotel on lockdown after a coronavirus case was identified among the people staying there.
An employee wears a protective mask as he talks with customers inside a hotel on lockdown after a coronavirus case was identified among the guests.Image: Reuters/C. Betts

16:59 Russia is suspending flights to and from South Korea starting March 1 to prevent the spread of the infection. 

16:54 Pakistan confirms its first two cases of coronavirus.

16:45 Germany is facing "the beginning of a coronavirus epidemic," said German Health Minister Jens Spahn.

The infection chains can no longer be tracked, he said. "Unfortunately, the situation has changed in the last few hours. That has to be said, unfortunately."

16:36 The German Olympic Sports Association (DOSB) has updated its analysis of the coronavirus risk. The international sports agency is now discouraging athletes and trainers from traveling to Italy and South Korea, building on an earlier recommendation to avoid travel to China.

Cancelling training and competitions in these regions is reasonable, the association said. Athletes returning from these countries to Germany are encouraged to get tested for coronavirus and to remain at home in self-imposed quarantine for 14 days after their return. 

16:15 One of the coronavirus cases detected today in Germany is a senior doctor at a hospital in Baden-Württemberg. The man reportedly had contact with other senior doctors at the same hospital over the weekend. About a dozen doctors have been tested for the virus and removed from the hospital's duty roster. 

16:09 The French city of Nice has preemptively cancelled its planned Carnival celebration due to fears of a coronavirus outbreak. 

16:04 The Vietnam Grand Prix, a Formula One motor race, scheduled for March may be cancelled if the spread of coronavirus is not brought under control soon, a government official has said. 

15:55 North Macedonia's health ministry has confirmed the country's first case of coronavirus.

15:42 The US State Department has issued a travel advisory for Italy, telling US citizens to "exercise increased caution" due to the coronavirus outbreak there. 

The department also issued an advisory for Mongolia, urging US citizens to reconsider plans to travel to the country that shares a border with mainland China. 

DW's Seema Gupta in Rome on the coronavirus in Italy:

Here in Rome, the region of Lazio,… they're setting up triage [pre-screening] tents outside the hospital. The same goes for Tuscany and some other regions in Italy. All to make sure they contain the spread of any possible people coming in with the virus, that it doesn't enter the hospital, that people are checked out before they actually enter the premise.

15:00 Brazil says there are 20 suspected cases of coronavirus in the country. 

14:56 Lebanon has confirmed its second case of coronavirus. 

14:43 A second case of the virus has been confirmed in the German state of Baden-Württemberg.

14:35 Brazil has confirmed its first case of coronavirus, the first known infection in South America. A Sao Paulo hospital identified the virus in a 61-year-old man who had recently been to Italy. 

14:25 Here's a recap of coronavirus figures related to the areas most affected by the outbreak.

  • People infected globally - over 80,000
  • Infections on mainland China - 78,064 diagnosed cases, including 2,715 deaths
  • In South Korea - 1,261 cases, 11 deaths
  • In Japan - 884 cases, 7 deaths
  • In Italy - 323 cases, 11 deaths
  • In Iran - 139 cases, 19 deaths

13:59 Japan has reported two more coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the national death toll to seven. 

One of the fatalities was a man in his 80s, who had tested positive for the infection and died of pneumonia. He had not traveled to China recently and does not appear to have had contact with infected individuals. 

Four of the Japanese deaths were former passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which had been placed in quarantine in a port off Japan for several weeks. 

13:53 US President Donald Trump said he will hold a news conference later on Wednesday to discuss the coronavirus threat. 

13:50 The condition of German patient who was said to be in critical condition has remained stable overnight, the director of the hospital where he is being treated has said. 

Overall, he is doing better, director of the Uni-Klinik Hospital in Düsseldorf Professor Dieter Häussinger said at a press conference on Wednesday. 

13:40 French authorities have said that two of the three coronavirus cases detected in France overnight were exhibited in people who had not been in regions known to be contaminated with the virus. 

13:35 The UK will begin randomly testing flu patients at 11 hospitals and 100 general medical offices for the new coronavirus. 

There are currently 13 known cases in the UK. 

"The testing will tell us whether there's evidence of infection more widespread than we think there is. We don't think there is at the moment," the medical director of Public Health England, a British public health agency, Paul Cosford told the BBC. 

13:33 The president of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy spoke with DW about the potential for the virus to disrupt global and European production chains.  

13:30 French authorities said an emergency crisis center has been set up in a northern region of the country affected by coronavirus. 

12:41 The number of new cases reported on Tuesday outside of China was more than those inside of China for the first time since the COV-19 outbreak began, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organization announced in Geneva.

12:22 The French man who died in a Paris hospital overnight has been identified as a 60-year-old teacher from the town of Crepy-en-Valois. He is not believed to have traveled to any area identified with coronavirus.

12:10 Schools and kindergartens will remain closed in the German district of Heinsberg until Monday. The man remained in critical condition in a Düsseldorf hospital, with the Deutsche Presse-Agentur reporting that he also spent time in a Cologne hospital.

German broadcaster WDR also reported that the patient's wife, a kindergarten teacher, had been diagnosed with the virus.

11:55 There are mounting worries in South Korea that there may be cases of coronavirus among a "cult-like" Christian group called Shincheonji church based near Daegu, where many of the cases have been reported.

DW's Frank Smith in Seoul on coronavirus in South Korea

There are now 284 new cases here in South Korea, with a total of 1261. That is up from just 51 last week and now we have 12 deaths reported here in the country.

The outbreak is centered around Daegu in that sort of "church-like cult," Shincheonji. Shincheonji's official name is the Church of Jesus Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony.

The 88-year-old leader Lee Man-Hee claims to be the second coming of of Jesus. New recruits to the group often spend their entire lives neglecting their family and neglecting their work in order to join.

COVID-19 in South Korea

11:35 A man in his 80s has died in Tokyo, Japan's third fatality.

11:20 Italy confirmed their twelfth death of coronavirus. Italy now has over 370 confirmed cases.

11:15 Greece confirmed its first case of coronavirus, the health ministry confirmed on Wednesday. The patient was a 38-year-old woman who had recently traveled to northern Italy.

10:08 The death toll in Iran has risen to 19, with 139 cases reported.

Read more: Coronavirus hits heart of Italy's economy

09:15 France reports the first death of a French citizen. There are 17 cases in total in France and this is the second death on French soil.

08:35 German airliner Lufthansa said they will freeze hiring and cut costs over coronavirus.

"To counteract the economic impact of the coronavirus of the early stage," a spokesperson for the group, which also owns carriers Austrian and Swiss, said in a statement. "All new hires... will be reassessed, suspended or deferred."

08:15 A Chinese national who contracted coronavirus has been charged by Singaporean authorities for allegedly giving false information about his whereabouts.

The Wuhan resident and his wife may have lied to Singaporean authorities about their location, which could have affected contact tracing.

Read more: Coronavirus: How can I prepare for a pandemic?

DW's Seema Gupta in Rome on the coronavirus in Italy:

"I think Italians are concerned about the impact this is going to have. And not just in terms of their health and security but also the economic impact if the borders are closed and life or movement as usual cannot continue. But the prime minister is very keen to stress that we cannot succumb to panic."

07:15 The elected district commissioner of the Heinsberg district made an announcement on Facebook, advising people not to leave their homes unless necessary.

"Avoid crowds if possible," Stephan Pusch announced. The patient in the Düsseldorf hospital remains in critical condition.

06:50 A Chinese official has admitted that "excessive enforcement, simplistic enforcement, crude enforcement" was used by some local officials in their enforcement of the quarantine, Reuters news agency reported.

The vice minister of China's public security bureau, Du Hangwei, said that the anti-virus measures had been effective, but had been excessive.

06:25 The number of coronavirus cases in Thailand has reached 40, with three new cases reported.

Read more: Coronavirus: How can I prepare for a pandemic?

06:20 German public transport in the district of Heinsberg in North Rhine-Westphalia, where a coronavirus case has been reported, will not be affected on Wednesday, a spokesman has announced. Schools and kindergartens in the district will remain closed.

06:05 A spokesman for the Japanese government confirmed that the International Olympic Committee is not planning to cancel the Tokyo Summer Olympics despite the threat of coronavirus.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked organizers of large cultural or sporting events to cancel them over the next two weeks.

"The next two weeks are crucial for Japan to prevent the spread of the outbreak," Abe said.

Read more: Opinion: Coronavirus pandemic is on our doorstep

05:54 The Philippines announced a travel ban on people coming from infected regions of South Korea, while in El Salvador travelers from Italy and South Korea have been banned from entering the country.

05:27 Australia will close schools and cancel sporting events if there is an uncontained coronavirus outbreak, Minister for Health Greg Hunt said on Wednesday. Australia has had 23 cases of coronavirus.

Infografik Coronavirus: Ways to protect yourself and others EN

04:51 Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told parliament that 45 people who were allowed to disembark from the Diamond Princess cruise ship have developed symptoms despite having tested negative for the virus.

The WHO says the incubation period — the time from when one is infected to the moment they show symptoms — can last up to 14 days.

04:30 Tokyo's Yomiuri Giants baseball team are planning to play two preseason games in an empty stadium due to coronavirus concerns.

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

04:13 Kuwait temporarily banned foreign ships from departing to or arriving from South Korea, Italy, China and Japan, among others, citing the coronavirus epidemic.

Oil carriers, however, were exempt from the ban.

Read more: Africa has been spared so far from coronavirus. Why?

03:55 A Chinese justice ministry leader said prison authorities have failed to enact appropriate disease control efforts, effectively leading to hundreds of infections.

"The transmission of the disease truly reflects some gaps in our management of prisons and in our prevention and epidemic control work," said Xiong Xuanguo, who serves as deputy minister of China's justice ministry.

02:35 Brazil's health ministry said a Sao Paulo resident is undergoing tests after returning from a trip to Lombardy, Italy. If the tests prove positive, it would make the 61-year-old the man the first case of coronavirus in South America.

02:18 The Hong Kong government said the outbreak of coronavirus in the city could further drag on economic sentiment and tourism, which has taken a hit due to anti-government protests last year.

Read more: Opinion: Coronavirus pandemic is on our doorstep

02:06 Education authorities in the Japanese prefecture of Hokkaido are seeking to close all public elementary and junior high schools starting on Thursday.

The northern island has reported the highest number of cases outside of Tokyo.

01:38 Kuwait announced two new cases of coronavirus, bringing its total to 11. The health ministry said infections had occurred in people returning from Iran.

Read more: World must prepare for potential COVID-19 pandemic says WHO

01:16 The US military said a soldier based in South Korea has tested positive for coronavirus, making him the first to contract the virus within the US armed forces.

12:52 Schools in the German district of Heinsberg will remain closed on Wednesday. A man from the area is in critical condition after contracting the virus. He is receiving treatment at an intensive care unit.

"The patient's wife is also being treated as an in-patient with symptoms of a viral disease," said a statement from the North Rhine-Westphalia health ministry. "Her condition is currently stable. The diagnosis on whether she has also been infected with the virus is still pending."

01:44 China reported 406 new confirmed cases of coronavirus. The mainland death toll has reached 2,715, according to Chinese authorities.

01:08 South Korea reported 169 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number to more than 1,100. South Korea is considered the worst-hit country after China.

12:58 Air Canada said it would continue to suspend flights to and from the Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai until early April due to the coronavirus epidemic.

12:42 El Salvador has announced plans to bar entry to foreign nationals arriving from Italy and South Korea.

According to President Nayib Bukele, the Salvadoran nationals — including diplomats — will have to spend 30 days in quarantine if they arrive from one of these two countries.

12:30 Japanese ad agency Dentsu Group's shares dropped 2% over fears that the Olympic Games scheduled to take place in Tokyo this summer could be canceled due to the coronavirus epidemic.

Asian, European and US stock markets have continued a downward turn over fears of the economic impact of the outbreak.

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Curbing the coronavirus

kp,ed,ls/rg (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa, epd)