South Korea Reports 123 New Coronavirus Cases; Italy Declares State Of Emergency: Virus Updates

Summary:

  • South Korea reports 123 new cases, 1 new death
  • Italy announces 79 cases, declares "national emergency"; Nothern Italy put on lockdown.
  • Japan cases triple in a week to 121
  • Japan confirms "seriously ill" patient in Tokyo
  • Hubei reports daily numbers
  • Chinese scientists find virus in urine
  • Experts propose 27 day quarantine, say 14 days likely not long enough
  • Cases outside China go exponential
  • 32 UK and European citizens arrive back in UK on evac flight
  • Outbreak reported in South Korean psychiatric ward
  • WHO team visits Wuhan; will give Monday press conference
  • Iran reports 10 new cases, deaths climb to 6
  • San Diego says 200 under 'medical observation'
  • Young woman infected five relatives without ever showing symptoms
  • South Korea cases surge 8-fold in 4 days to 433; country reports third death

* * *

Update (2105ET): China's National Health Commission has reported 18 new cases of Covid-19 and one new death outside of Hubei province. 

* * *

Update (2040ET): South Korea has finally released its numbers for Saturday. Authorities recorded an additional death, bringing the total to four, and another 123 confirmed cases, bringing the total to 556.

Weekend futures took a dive on the news, dropping 40 points. Another 6,039 cases are being tested.

  • S.KOREA REPORTS 123 ADDITIONAL CORONAVIRUS CASES, BRINGING TOTAL TO 556 - YONHAP
  • FOURTH S.KOREAN CORONAVIRUS PATIENT DIES - KOREA'S CDC
  • S.KOREA REPORTS 123 ADDITIONAL CORONAVIRUS CASES, BRINGING TOTAL TO 556 - YONHAP

Here's a breakdown of the new data:

  • 123 new cases, 1 new death
  • 75 new cases linked to church
  • 48 others with unknown link
  • Total: 556 cases, 4 deaths
  •  6,039 people being tested

That's a more than ten-fold increase in cases in a week...

* * *

Update (1940ET): Health officials from two South Korean provinces have reported a total of 28 new cases ahead of a national update, according to BNO.

* * *

Update (1920ET): NHK reports another case of a "seriously ill" patient in Tokyo. The man allegedly traveled to Indonesia - one of the few countries in the region that hasn't confirmed a single case - while he was sick.

* * *

Update (1820ET): Officials in Hubei have reported their latest figures on the outbreak, with the number of new cases doubling compared to yesterday (630 on Saturday new cases vs. 366 on Friday), while the number of confirmed deaths dipped (96 vs 106). 

Perhaps officials figured they could only fudge the number of new cases by so much since the WHO team was in Wuhan on Saturday. Who knows. But it's notable that cases doubled, the latest sign that China's policy of quarantine and containment doesn't seem to be working. At this point, whatever the numbers coming out of China, they almost are no longer relevant, since nobody believes them anyway.

  • CHINA'S HUBEI PROVINCE, EPICENTRE OF CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK, REPORTS 630 NEW CASES ON FEB 22 VS 366 ON FEB 21
  • CHINA'S HUBEI PROVINCE, EPICENTRE OF CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK, REPORTS 96 NEW DEATHS ON FEB 22 VS 106 ON FEB 21
  • DEATH TOLL FROM CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK IN CHINA'S HUBEI AT 2,346 AS OF END-FEB 22

And here's just one more reason why: In a video recently posted to twitter, a doctor from a hospital in Hunan confirms that he counted 50 new patients the other day and submitted those numbers to health officials. In turn, they included only 1 case in the official count.

Mainstream American news organizations including the Washington Post are now questioning China's numbers, as we noted earlier.

Meanwhile, it looks like Italian health officials have confirmed 3 new cases, bringing the total to 79.

* * *

Update (1730ET): The first offshore coronavirus cluster was the Diamond Offshore cruise ship, where it now appears hundreds of infected passengers mingled with healthy tourists (and it now appears that Japan lied that it had tested passengers) with many returning to their country of origin now that the quarantine has been broken; the second cluster and third clusters are South Korea and Japan; the former has seen cases doubling every day for the past four, hitting 433 on Saturday in an exponential increase in new cases (see chart below), while Japan is said to have hundreds of cases as well.

And while the recent surge in Iranian cases has put much of the middle east on notice over the possibility that the embargo-crippled nation may have emerged as a middle eastern hub of Coronavirus cases, the latest confirmed offshore cluster to emerge IS Italy, where late on Saturday prime minister Conte announced that a total of 76 cases have been confirmed in 5 regions, declaring the Coronavirus situation a "National Emergency." The Prime Minister also said that Italy has implemented a law decree to fight the coronavirus, and is committed to limiting the spread of the Coronavirus.

And while Conte said that Italy won't ask for a suspension of the Shengen pact (yet) which allows customs-free travel across Europe, but will adopt a decree to support the economy in certain areas, Italy's Ansa reported that virtually all of Northern Italy is being put on lockdown and that all schools and universities in the affected areas to be closed until the end of the month.

  • NORTHERN ITALY WHERE CORONAVIRUS CASES REPORTED ON LOCKDOWN - ANSA NEWS
  • ITALY TO BAN TRAVEL FROM CERTAIN VIRUS AFFECTED AREAS: CONTE
  • ALL SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES IN AFFECTED AREAS TO BE CLOSED UNTIL THE END OF THE MONTH, SCHOOL TRIPS ABROAD ALSO CANCELLED - ANSA NEWS

Elsewhere, as the global pandemic spreads, Israel's Ministry of Health said that it expected soon to close borders for non-residents.

Meanwhile, on Saturday afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised its alert level for travel in Japan to Level 2. That level warns of “sustained community transmission” and calls for “precautions for high-risk travelers,” such as those with chronic medical conditions.

Though Japan has reported only one death - amid nearly 80,000 cases and almost 2,400 deaths worldwide - it has a relatively large number of cases, 121, largely due to the spread of the virus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship which it facilitated.

To summarize, Iran, Italy and South Korea reported new deaths Saturday. In total, there are some 77,000 cases worldwide, with over 2,300 deaths, almost all in China, but that imbalance is set to shift dramatically in the coming days.

* * *

Update (1330ET): News reports claim that roughly half of the latest batch of confirmed cases in South Korea which doubled the country's total confirmed came from a hospital near Daegu in Cheongdo County, where 11 cases were confirmed. 109 of those infected found to be in the psychiatric ward, either as patients or staff, according to the director of the South Korean CDCP. Nine of them were doctors.

The Blue House has asked South Korean citizens to avoid group activities and assemblies, and recommended that events be replaced with online gatherings. If its guidelines aren't followed voluntarily, the government warned that it would resort to "strict measures" to contain the outbreak if its guidelines aren't followed by the public.

Medical workers carried a patient infected with coronavirus to a hospital in Chuncheon, South Korea on Saturday.

In yet another sign of Japan's shortcomings when attempting to contain the virus, an officer who worked at an airport quarantine in northern Japan has reportedly tested positive for the virus.

Britain's Foreign Officer confirmed Saturday that 32 British and European citizens had landed back in the UK, and would soon be quarantined. 

In Italy, the government has confirmed the first case in Milan, a city of 1.8 million that's a center of Italian industry and fashion. 

Iran has reported another death, bringing its total to 6.

The latest total for Japan puts cases at 738, including some passengers and crew from the "Diamond Princess" as the number of confirmed cases ex-China continues to climb.

Just looking at new cases from the top 7 infected countries is alarming:

* * *

Update (1100ET): Italian health officials have confirmed nearly two dozen more cases across Lombardy and Veneto, according to Bloomberg.

The Lombardy region has 39 coronavirus cases with another 12 cases in the Veneto, regional officials said in a press conference Saturday in Milan. Most of the cases are in the Codogno area, 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Milan. A woman who was found dead in her home subsequently tested positive, the health secretary said. Earlier, three tourists in Rome were diagnosed with the virus.

* * *

When WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros was asked on Thursday whether the COVID-19 virus was at a tipping point, he replied that the window to stop the outbreak from growing exponentially worse was rapidly closing.

Though by Friday night, it certainly seemed like that window had slammed shut. In South Korea, cases went exponential, soaring by 70% in one day.

Overnight, the country reported another rash of confirmed cases, bringing the total to 433, with 352 in Daegu, presumably members of the cult-like church where a 'super-spreader' worshipped. That marks an eight-fold increase in cases in just four days for South Korea, as the AP reported.

SK also reported its third death, a man in his 40s who was found dead in his apartment and posthumously tested.

South Korean health officials warned they could soon see a rash of deaths as several patients are in serious condition. Virus patients with signs of pneumonia or other serious conditions at the Cheongdo hospital were transferred elsewhere as 17 of them are in critical condition, according to SK Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told reporters.

The country has followed China in imposing quarantines (everyone is too terrified to go outside anyway) and they're hoping to prevent a national outbreak, despite a few cases in Seoul that weren't immediately traceable to an obvious source, which is sort of discouraging.

"Although we are beginning to see some more cases nationwide, infections are still sporadic outside of the special management zone of Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province," Kim said during a briefing. He called for maintaining strong border controls to prevent infections from China and elsewhere from entering South Korea.

In Italy, a seemingly minor outbreak went exponential. By day's end, Italian health authorities had confirmed their first virus-related fatality, and 12 towns in Lombardy were under strict quarantine orders with residents huddling terrified inside their homes, a tableau that has become all too familiar by now. Another fatality followed overnight, as a couple more towns joined in the lockdown. This marked Italy as the first European country to see its own nationals succumb to the virus, according to Euronews.

Across Italy, there are 32 cases in Codogno, Lombardy, and seven in Veneto, according to the AFP and Sky Italia television. Many of the new cases represented the first infections in Italy acquired through secondary contagion.

In Iran, 10 more cases, and one more death, were recorded overnight. That brings the total number of confirmed cases to 28, including cases in Qom and Tehran. So far, five Iranians have died.

As we await more information out of China, CNBC's Eunice Yoon reports that the team would hold a press briefing on Monday at 6 am ET.

Meanwhile, as we noted yesterday, the team has arrived in Wuhan, where it's gathering information and observing the situation on the ground.

The team has already been to three Chinese provinces, Beijing, Sichuan and Guangdong, but are only now just visiting the city at the heart of the outbreak. Dr. Tedros confirmed the trip during public comments on Saturday, where he once again shared some familiar words.

"We have to take advantage of the window of opportunity we have, to attack the virus outbreak with a sense of urgency," Dr. Tedros told the leaders, who had gathered for an emergency meeting on the response to the coronavirus in the continent.

President Xi said Saturday that the situation in Wuhan remains 'grim and complex' - which means the WHO team should be in for an eye-opening experience.

As of Saturday morning in the US, 1,200 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed outside China. More than 200 cases have been confirmed in South Korea, more than 30 in Italy, roughly a dozen in Iran, and one in Egypt, the first to be confirmed in Africa. China has reported over 76,000 cases, including over 2,300 deaths.

Confirmed cases in Japan rose to 121 on Saturday, having more than tripled in a week.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that health officials and the cruise line are continuing to test crew members aboard the Diamond Princess. So far, 74 crew have been confirmed to have the virus, but they have been included in the toll already.

SCMP

So far, China has reported only 397 new cases Saturday, as the rate of increase continued to decline, but another 109 have died. And even the Washington Post acknowledges that there is a "great deal of skepticism" about China's numbers, according to a new case study seen by Reuters.

Cases where patients didn't show signs of infection for longer than two weeks have prompted some epidemiologists to suggest a 27 day quarantine period instead of just a 14 day. Also on Saturday scientists in China revealed that they had discovered a strain of the virus in a patient's urine, raising new and uncomfortable questions about the virus's ability to spread through sewer systems.

There have also been several new indications that the virus's incubation period might be longer than the 14 days currently believed. A woman in Wuhan with no symptoms infected five relatives without every showing signs of infection.

In the US, health officials are scrambling to contain the fallout from the evacuation of 300 Americans from the 'Diamond Princess'. It appears that the decision to transport 14 infected passengers along with the rest of the group was a disaster. Dozens of others appear to have been infected either during the trip, or shortly before.

But in San Diego, officials announced that they're monitoring some 200 cases, none of which had anything to do with the ship.

After confirmed US cases more than doubled to 34 on Friday, officials in San Diego on Saturday confirmed that more than 200 people are currently being monitored over virus concerns, according to ABC News 10.

Officials said everyone being monitored had either come in contact with one of the three confirmed cases, or others under suspicion. Health officials didn't exactly offer specific details.

They're among more than 300 people who have been, or are being, 'monitored' by the county.

The 204 people under county supervision include those deemed at risk of having been exposed to the virus due to close contact with confirmed cases or because of travel to China in the past 14 days, the county said.

Those individuals are monitoring their health under the supervision of county health officials.

So far, 338 people in all have been monitored by the county, with 134 people completing their time under supervision.

Health officials say the CDC is conducting screening for those landing at one of 11 U.S. airports from China. From there, if a patient shows no symptoms they are self-quarantined at home for self-monitoring with public health supervision.

Keep in mind: These individuals aren't being held in isolation or a mandatory quarantine. Instead, they've been asked to self-quarantine, and immediately report any suspicious symptoms.

San Diego has had two confirmed cases of coronavirus, or COVID-19, among the evacuees who were flown out of Wuhan a few weeks ago. One patient has since recovered from the virus and has been released. The second patient is still receiving care. A third patient, reportedly a child, is still awaiting test results, but has been said to be showing symptoms.

When they extended a coronavirus-related emergency declaration for another 30 days, officials said there were no signs the virus was spreading around San Diego. But it never hurts to be cautious.

Before we go, we wanted to remind readers of a chart we first shared a couple of days ago:

Terrifying indeed.