Sunday, March 29, 2020

U.S. raises South Korea travel advisory to highest level as coronavirus cases surge globally

Feb 25. 2020
File Photo : Coronavirus infected patient in South Korea /The Korea Herald/ANN
File Photo : Coronavirus infected patient in South Korea /The Korea Herald/ANN
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By The Washington Post · · NATIONAL, WORLD

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised its travel advisory for South Korea to its highest level after the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country surged past 800.

The Level 3 warning means Americans should avoid all nonessential travel to South Korea, which has the highest concentration of coronavirus infections outside China. South Korean officials say 893 people have tested positive for the novel virus. 

In the United States, an additional 18 people tested positive for the coronavirus, the CDC said Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed U.S. cases to 53.

The White House late Monday asked Congress for $1.8 billion in emergency spending to respond to the coronavirus.

The request includes $1.25 billion in new funding for the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the ability to transfer an additional $535 million set aside to fight Ebola and use it for the coronavirus response instead.

A federal judge on Monday directed the City of Costa Mesa, California, and state and federal officials to work together this week to resolve questions the city has raised about bringing quarantined people to a closed mental health facility in the city.

Judge Josephine Staton issued a temporary restraining order last week to prevent state and federal officials from transferring people exposed to the virus and now being kept at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California.

Staton ordered all the parties back to her courtroom Monday, March 2.

"When decisions are made in a hurry, mistakes are made," the judge said.

She cautioned that the city, and county, if it joins the effort, do not have veto power over the state and federal government's decision to set up a quarantine station at the old mental health facility for, at least initially, about 10 people who have been exposed to but not developed the virus.

Even as cases tick upward globally, the World Health Organization declined to declare the outbreak a pandemic Monday, saying the rapidly spreading disease has "pandemic potential" but does not yet require that designation.

China's leaders also postponed the biggest event on their political calendar, the National People's Congress, as the country's battle against the virus disrupts the ruling Communist Party's agenda and hammers the domestic economy.

In a speech to party officials Sunday, President Xi Jinping warned that the outbreak was a "crisis" that would inevitably jolt the country's economic development, but he pledged that the disruption would be temporary and manageable.

Beijing also abruptly backtracked on an earlier announcement that it would relax travel restrictions on the coronavirus-hit city of Wuhan, amplifying concerns about the government response to the outbreak.

Meanwhile, the epidemic is surging around the world. Four days ago, Italy had only confirmed three cases. As of Monday, it had the largest known outbreak outside Asia.

Official figures released Tuesday showed that there had been 508 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 71 new deaths from the outbreak in China by the end of Monday, bringing the total confirmed cases to 77,658, with a cumulative death toll of 2,663. 

The CDC's Level 3 travel warning means Americans should avoid all nonessential travel to South Korea, which has the highest concentration of coronavirus infections outside China.

The agency is instructing people who must travel to talk to their doctors first and avoid contact with sick people once they arrive, saying there is limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas. 

China, where the outbreak originated, is the only other country with a Level 3 travel warning. 

Another 18 people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus, all of them passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, the CDC said Monday.

The new infections doubled the number of confirmed cases from the cruise ship to 36. 

President Donald Trump on Monday voiced optimism about the global response to the coronavirus epidemic, even as financial markets plunged and new disease clusters ballooned on multiple continents. 

"The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries," the president said in an afternoon tweet. 

The CDC and the WHO "have been working hard and very smart," he wrote. "Stock Market starting to look very good to me!"

Trump's comments came at the end of a catastrophic day for global markets that highlighted the outbreak's widening economic toll. The Dow Jones industrial average plummeted more than 1,000 points, or 3.5%, and the Nasdaq index fell by more than 3.7% as factories around the world grappled with shortfalls in parts and labor.


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