Coronavirus Live Updates: World Reaches ‘Decisive Point’ in Outbreak Fight, W.H.O. Says

European and Asian markets tumbled on Friday, following Wall Street’s plunge on Thursday as investors became even more concerned about the potential harm to worldwide economic growth from the spread of the newly emerged coronavirus.

Stock markets in Britain, Germany and France fell more than 3 percent in early trading on Friday. They nearly matched a 4.4 percent nose dive in the S&P 500 index on Thursday, which was the worst day for American shares since 2011.

Futures markets indicated Wall Street would open lower on Friday morning, too.

Investment bank economists issued increasingly glum predictions of how much the coronavirus outbreak would hurt economies around the world. Four dozen countries have already confirmed infections.

“The more countries that are faced with fighting a pandemic, the wider the potential for economic disruption and potential for increased recessionary risks,” said Tai Hui, the chief market strategist for Asia at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, in a research note on Friday.

The declines in Europe followed another grim day of trading in Asia. The Japanese stock market fell 3.7 percent while the stock markets in Australia and South Korea each declined 3.3 percent.

In greater China, the Shanghai market dropped 3.7 percent and the Hong Kong market was down 2.5 percent.

The steady global march of the new coronavirus outbreak transformed into a fierce gallop over the past 48 hours, more than a dozen countries recorded their first confirmed cases and the world’s leading health official warned of a coming pandemic.

“This virus has pandemic potential,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization on Thursday. “We are actually in a very delicate situation in which the outbreak can go in any direction based on how we handle it.”

The warning came hours before the first cases were confirmed on Friday in Belarus, New Zealand and Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa.

More than 83,000 people in at least 53 countries have been infected. More new cases have been recently reported outside China, where the outbreak began in December, than within in the country. China enforced a lock down of 700 million people to control the spread of the virus.

  • Updated Feb. 26, 2020

    • What is a coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crownlike spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The C.D.C. has warned older and at-risk travelers to avoid Japan, Italy and Iran. The agency also has advised against all nonessential travel to South Korea and China.
    • Where has the virus spread?
      The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has sickened more than 80,000 people in at least 33 countries, including Italy, Iran and South Korea.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is probably transmitted through sneezes, coughs and contaminated surfaces. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have been working with officials in China, where growth has slowed. But this week, as confirmed cases spiked on two continents, experts warned that the world was not ready for a major outbreak.

Japan closed its schools for at least a month. Iran canceled Friday Prayers in major cities. Saudi Arabia barred pilgrims from its holiest sites.

“This is not a time for fear,” Dr. Tedros said. But markets panicked anyway.

Global markets looked set to tumble for a seventh consecutive day on Friday, after the S&P 500 fell 4.4 percent on Thursday, the worst single-day slide for the benchmark since August 2011.

As new cases emerged in countries as diverse as Nigeria and Norway, the bulk of the infections outside China centered on three hot spots — South Korea, Iran and Italy.

Dr. Tedros called the moment a “decisive point” in combatting the epidemic. “This is a time for taking action to prevent infection and save lives now.”

A dog that was owned by a Hong Kong resident infected with the coronavirus tested “weak positive” for the pathogen, the city’s government said Friday, but experts cautioned that further tests were needed to confirm if the animal had actually contracted the virus.

The authorities found remnants of the virus in the dog, who was removed from its owner’s apartment on Wednesday, but said dog did not have any “relevant” symptoms.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said it would conduct additional tests to determine if the initial findings were the result of “environmental contamination” rather than an infection.

Ben Cowling, a professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong, said the result could indicate that the dog “licked a contaminated surface and the virus was picked up as contamination, not infection.”

The dog was taken by the authorities and put in quarantine. The government said it would be reunited with its owners if it conclusively tested negative for the virus that causes the respiratory disease Covid-19.

The new coronavirus is believed to have started in mammals, likely bats, before jumping species to humans. Since the start of the outbreak, some have feared that pet cats and dogs were at risk for infection, but the authorities have not yet determined if those animals can catch or transmit the virus to people.

In Hong Kong and mainland China, where surgical masks are a coveted commodity, protective pet owners have recently been seen putting masks and makeshift facial coverings on their cats and dogs.

The medical journal The Lancet has retracted an appeal for international help for Chinese medical workers after the article’s two authors said it was not a first-hand account.

The letter published earlier this week on the journal’s website claimed to speak on behalf of a group of professional nurses who traveled to Wuhan to work in hospitals treating patients with the coronavirus.

But The Lancet said in a statement dated Wednesday that it had been contacted by the two authors, Yingchun Zeng and Yan Zhen. The Lancet said it was told that the account they described was not based on their own experience and “they wished to withdraw the piece.”

The Lancet declined to further explain the retraction.

The letter was striking for its direct challenge to the official narrative in state media that the situation in Wuhan was improving. It described the physical and mental toll of the work and detailed a severe shortage of protective equipment.

“We are asking nurses and medical staff from countries around the world to come to China now, to help us in this battle,” the letter read. “In addition to the physical exhaustion, we are also suffering psychologically. While we are professional nurses, we are also human.”

Detailed information about the situation in Wuhan and hospitals across China is hard to come by. China’s censorship machine has tightened its grip on social media accounts of nurses fainting and doctors complaining of limited resources. In Hubei Province, the heart of the epidemic, nurses and doctors have pleaded for more masks. Many have since been directed by local authorities not to speak to the media.

Federal government health workers were not given proper medical training or protective gear when they were sent to assist Americans who had been quarantined for possible exposure to the coronavirus, according to a whistle-blower complaint.

Staff members entered quarantine areas at Travis Air Force Base and March Air Reserve Base in California, interacted with the people who were in isolation and then moved freely around and off the bases, the complaint said.

The whistle-blower, described as a senior leader at the Department of Health and Human Services, said at least one worker stayed in a nearby hotel and left California on a commercial flight.

Many of the health workers were unaware of the need to test their temperatures three times a day, the person said. The complaint was submitted to the Office of the Special Counsel, and a portion was obtained by The New York Times.

The employees were not given training in safety protocols until five days after they were ordered into quarantined areas, including a hangar where evacuees from coronavirus hot zones in China and elsewhere were being received, the whistle-blower said.

The first U.S. case of coronavirus infection in a patient with no known risk factors — travel to a hot zone or contact with another person known to be infected — emerged this week near Travis Air Force Base.

In a statement on Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged the complaint, saying, “We take all whistle-blower complaints very seriously.”

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