The Latest: After delay, 361 Taiwanese fly back from Wuhan
The Latest on the coronavirus outbreak sweeping the globe:
Planes carrying 361 Taiwanese who had been stranded in China’s virus epicenter have returned them to the island.
The two charter flights landed late Tuesday and early Wednesday after weeks of negotiations between Beijing and Taipei.
Medical personnel wearing protective gear checked the passengers before they started a 14-day quarantine.
Many countries and territories evacuated their citizens from the city of Wuhan after China closed off the surrounding region and halted all public and commercial transportation as a virus containment measure.
But Taiwanese were caught in cross-strait politics since China claims the democratically governed island as its own territory and refuses to recognize Taiwan’s legal authority. One flight brought Taiwanese back to the island in early February before disputes delayed others.
Taiwan’s Health Minister, Chen Shih-chung, said both sides had been “extremely concerned” with making the flights happen.
Stringent checks and contact tracing have helped Taiwan keep its coronavirus caseload to just 47 among its 23 million people, with one death.
Turkey has announced its first case of the new coronavirus.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said early Wednesday the case was a male patient who had returned from Europe. He would not provide more details on the patient, or say which country he had traveled to, citing the patient’s right to privacy.
Koca said the patient was isolated and his family members and other people who had come into contact with him had been quarantined.
“An early diagnosis was made. If there is an infection in the country, it is very limited,” the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted him as saying. “The coronavirus is not stronger than the measures we will take.”
More than half the countries in the world now have confirmed cases of the coronavirus, which for most people causes mild illness. In European countries, Italy is the hardest hit with more than 10,000 cases. France, Spain and Germany have more than 1,000 each. The outbreak has also grown in the Middle East, with Iran the hardest hit at more than 8,000 cases.
The Associated Press has learned Washington state’s governor will ban gatherings and events of more than 250 people in virtually the entire Seattle metro area to try to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
Gov. Jay Inslee has scheduled a news conference in Seattle for late Wednesday morning. The person who spoke about the decision late Tuesday was involved in the planning of the decision but spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The person said the ban would apply to King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, which are home to almost 4 million people. The person said the order would not prohibit the operation of workplaces and is not expected to include school closures.
Santa Clara County in California, home to San Jose and Silicon Valley, on Monday had banned all gatherings of 1,000 people or more.
At least 24 people have died in Washington state from COVID-19, most in the Seattle metro area. There are more than 260 confirmed cases in the state, most in the three counties that would be affected by Inslee’s new order.
The first plane carrying passengers from a cruise ship hit by the new virus has arrived in Texas to take them to a quarantine facility.
The masked passengers who deplaned late Tuesday were being whisked to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. Another plane was expected later.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 380 Grand Princess passengers are expected to be quarantined at the base.
The ship docked Monday in Oakland with about 3,500 passengers and crew, including at least 21 who tested positive for the virus. Authorities said foreign passengers would be flown home, while Americans would be quarantined at military bases in California, Texas and Georgia.
Lackland previously housed more than 230 people evacuated from Wuhan, China, or another cruise ship, the Diamond Princess. Most of that group has been released, though 11 who caught the virus were isolated.
South Korea is reporting a cluster of new viral infections at a Seoul insurance company.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday reported 242 new cases of coronavirus infection from 24 hours ago, bringing its total to 7,755.
Of the new cases, 131 were in Daegu, South Korea’s worst-hit city. But 52 new cases were in the capital, Seoul, where dozens of call-center workers for an insurance company tested positive, raising concerns about a further spread. The country has 60 virus deaths.
China’s outbreak of the new coronavirus continues to subside with about three-fourths of people once infected now free of the illness.
The health ministry Wednesday reported 24 new cases over the past 24 hours, along with 22 more deaths. That brings China’s totals to 80,778 cases and 3,158 deaths since the outbreak began in December.
Nationwide, 16,145 people remain in treatment and 61,475 have been declared free of the virus and released. Nine of the new cases were reported outside Hubei province.
The virus that causes the COVID-19 illness has spread around the world, with Italy and Iran accounting for most illnesses and deaths outside of China.
The outbreak was slow to reach Latin America and the Caribbean, but 100 cases have now been confirmed there. Panama’s government confirmed the first death there and canceled classes and sports and cultural events in the capital.
Panama went from one confirmed case Monday in a recently arrived traveler to eight cases Tuesday in what may be a local outbreak.
Health Minister Rosario Turner says the dead man was a school director and two other teachers at the school have tested positive.
The head of the U.N. weather agency says China’s improved air quality during the coronavirus outbreak demonstrates the impact of human emissions but adds “this is not good news because people are dying.”
World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas at a U.N. briefing Tuesday showed satellite pictures of the much cleaner air quality over China on Jan. 30, 2020, compared to January 2019.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed both the virus and climate change were serious problems that must be defeated. But he said the virus is expected to be temporary while climate change will remain for decades and requires constant action.
He was responding to a question on the possibility the virus epidemic could cut greenhouse gas emissions this year, with decreased energy use, planes grounded and international trade squeezed, and the effect on climate change as soon as the economy bounces back.
Guterres stressed: “We will not fight climate change with a virus.” He said the attention given to fighting COVID-19 “does not distract us from the need to defeat climate change,” inequality and all the other problems the world is facing.
A British health minister has the new coronavirus — the first UK lawmaker to be diagnosed with the disease.
Nadine Dorries, a junior minister in the Department of Health, said she is self-isolating as she recovers.
The Times of London reported that Dorries first showed symptoms on Friday and had since worked in Parliament, held meetings with constituents and attended an International Women’s Day reception with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Britain has confirmed 373 cases of COVID-19, and six deaths.
The Coachella music festival in Southern California has been postponed amid virus concerns.
The festival is organized by concert promoter Goldenvoice, which released a statement Tuesday saying it will be rescheduled for two weekends in October.
Rage Against the Machine, Travis Scott and Frank Ocean had been scheduled to headline the April festival, which attracts tens of thousands to the desert community of Indio, California, and the nearby cities of Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage.
The festival is held over two weekends has a reputation for eye-popping performances, including Beyoncé’s 2018 set that became the Netflix film “Homecoming,” and the 2012 debut of a “hologram” of late rapper Tupac Shakur. This year’s festival was set to reunite Rage Against the Machine -- which performed at the first Coachella festival in 1999.
Goldenvoice also puts on the country music festival Stagecoach in Indio. This year’s Stagecoach will move from April 24-26 to Oct. 23-25. The festival’s headliners are Thomas Rhett, Carrie Underwood and Eric Church.
Two people infected with COVID-19 have died in California.
Authorities in Washington state have reported two new coronavirus deaths, bringing the total there to at least 24.
A statement Tuesday from Public Health – Seattle & King County also said officials are working with 10 long-term care facilities where residents or employees have tested positive for COVID-19. The new deaths reported were a woman in her 80s, a resident of a nursing and rehabilitation center in Issaquah, Washington, who died Sunday and a man in his 80s, a resident of a Seattle senior center, who died Monday.
Of the deaths in Washington state at least 19 have been tied to another nursing home, the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington.
The virus has infected more than 800 people in the U.S. and killed at least 29. New Jersey reported its first coronavirus death Tuesday.
This item has been corrected to reflect that at least 29 have died in the U.S., not 30.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she talked to other top leaders of EU member states and the European Commission at a video conference Tuesday evening and explained what her country is doing to contain the spread of the virus and also how the government is financially supporting companies that have been especially hard hit by the outbreak.
She stressed that a coordinated fight against the outbreak among the Europeans is of big significance as well as an international effort to find and develop vaccines against the virus.
A written statement said that the other leaders also stressed that European cooperation in the battle against the coronavirus was much needed.
Fearing a significant increase of the number of COVID-19 cases, Albanian authorities on Tuesday took rigid measures closing all centers where people may gather.
Albania has had 10 COVID-19 cases so far, all resulting from two people visiting Italy. All flights and ferries to and from Italy have been suspended but those for commercial purposes.
People gatherings are prohibited. Social assisting centers will limit the staff while cultural and entertaining centers, gyms and pools will close. Many public employees will work from home. Football league matches will be held without fans.
All discos, pubs, gyms and other people gathering centers will be closed until April 3 while bars and restaurants should keep tables 2 meters apart.
All schools have been shut down for two weeks.
El Salvador’s government says Guatemalans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans will no longer be able to enter the country without a passport due to fears of the new coronavirus, despite an agreement by four Central American nations allowing their citizens free transit.
There have been no confirmed coronavirus cases in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras or Nicaragua.
El Salvador President Nayib Bukele said via Twitter that the decision was spurred by Salvadorans trying to avoid government quarantines by flying into Guatemala from overseas and then traveling overland to El Salvador, where they would not have to show their passports.
The president said foreigners coming from seven countries with a high number of new coronavirus cases will not be admitted. The countries are Spain, Italy, France, Germany, China, South Korea and Iran. Salvadorans coming from those countries are subjected to a 30-day quarantine. As of Sunday, El Salvador had placed 90 people in quarantine who had arrived from the restricted countries. None had tested positive.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has announced new policies to support workers impacted by the new coronavirus and new rules for long-term care centers, including placing limits on visitors and screening workers for symptoms.
At a news conference Tuesday, Inslee said the state is preparing for many more cases than have been reported, potentially tens of thousands, based on estimates of the spread of the disease.
The state has the worst outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S, with 160 cases and at least 22 deaths. Nineteen of those deaths are linked to the Life Care Center, a nursing home in Kirkland.
He says it’s very disturbing that “the number of people who are infected will double in five to eight days. Inslee said the state is still considering banning large gatherings like sporting events.
The governor said the state will require that long-term care facilities limit residents to one adult visitor per day unless residents are near death. Visitors would have to wear protective clothing.
The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.