Coronavirus Updates: As Virus Spreads Globally, Governments Shift Focus to Containment

Coronavirus Updates: As Virus Spreads Globally, Governments Shift Focus to Containment

With the threat of a full-scale pandemic growing by the day, governments around the world shifted their focus on Tuesday to devising plans to contain the spread of the new coronavirus rather than to stamp it out, and to do so without causing widespread social disruption and economic upheaval.

In the United States, where there are now more than 100 confirmed cases in 15 states and six deaths linked to the virus, the Trump administration sought to project an image of control even as concerns emerged about early missteps, including defective diagnostic kits and highly restrictive rules for administering the tests, both of which may have contributed to the early spread of the virus.

Officials promised to speed up delivery of testing kits, saying that they hoped to distribute more than a million by the end of the week.

In New York, where a 39-year-old health care worker tested positive for the virus after going to the hospital with mild respiratory symptoms, health officials said they would no longer need to send tests to the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta but could perform tests in labs locally, speeding up the process.

As the number of global infections surged past 90,000, financial policymakers from the world’s seven largest economies, known as the Group of 7, were planning to discuss on Tuesday ways to limit the economic fallout.

President Trump, in an early morning post on Twitter, called for a “big” interest rate cut “to make up for China’s coronavirus situation and slowdown.”

China, where the virus first emerged, reported 125 confirmed new infections on Tuesday, the lowest such total since January, as the infections there continued to dwindle.

But the epidemic showed little signs of waning elsewhere.

Iran remained a source of concern in the Middle East, with nearby Bahrain and Kuwait reporting dozens of new cases tied to the Iranian outbreak.

Tehran has confirmed more than 2,300 cases but public health experts have expressed concern that the authorities are understating the true breadth of the epidemic there.

Just three weeks ago, South Korea had only a handful of cases. Now there are nearly 5,000, demonstrating how quickly the virus can spread.

And officials in Italy saw the number of new cases push past 2,000 on Tuesday, even as the government sought to restore some sense of normality in Milan, the city closest to the hardest hit areas in the country’s north.

While museums in Milan were permitted to reopen, visitors were asked to stand about three feet apart.

Major cities across China have announced new travel restrictions on people who have recently visited countries where coronavirus infections are on the rise.

On Tuesday, the authorities in Shanghai said that all travelers entering the city who had visited countries with significant outbreaks within the last two weeks must undergo a 14-day quarantine at home or at an approved isolation center. Officials in Guangdong Province announced similar measures, the state news media reported on Tuesday.

And a city official in Beijing announced on Tuesday that all arrivals into the capital from countries struggling with outbreaks — including Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea — would be subject to a 14-day quarantine.

At least 13 people in China were found to be infected with the coronavirus after returning from countries such as Iran and Italy, two places that have seen some of the most severe outbreaks outside of Asia in recent days, according to the authorities.

A 31-year-old Chinese woman had worked in a restaurant in the Italian city of Bergamo before returning home to Qingtian County, in the southeastern province of Zhejiang, where she tested positive for the virus. Seven more people who worked at the same restaurant in Bergamo were later found to be infected after they returned to Zhejiang, the local authorities said.

In recent days, county officials in Qingtian have urged overseas residents to reconsider any plans to return home, citing the challenges they could pose to China’s efforts to control the epidemic.

The coronavirus killed three more residents of a nursing care facility near Seattle on Monday, raising the death toll in the area to six. And as the number of new cases rose nationwide, officials around the United States raced to assess the risk to schools, medical centers and businesses.

All of the U.S. fatalities have been in Washington State, where leaders in the Seattle area said that they intend to open isolation centers. Four of those killed were residents of the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland, a Seattle suburb, that has become the focal point of fears that the virus may have been spreading for weeks undetected.

In Oregon, dozens of personnel at Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro have been placed on paid furlough after coming in contact with coronavirus patients there. They have been asked to remain in self isolation at home for 14 days, officials with Kaiser Permanente said.

The number of cases nationwide climbed to 100, and infected patients have been treated in 14 states.

The new cases included a woman in Manhattan who contracted the virus while traveling in Iran, and a Florida man with no known contact with affected countries or people. After that man and another person tested positive, Florida declared a public health emergency.

The Trump administration said on Monday that nearly a million tests could be administered for the coronavirus in the United States by the end of this week, a significant escalation of screening as the American death toll reached six and U.S. infections topped 100.

Private companies and academic laboratories have been pulled in to develop and validate their own coronavirus tests, a move to get around a government bottleneck after a halting start and to widen the range and number of Americans screened for the virus, Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said Monday at a White House briefing.

The testing expansion comes as the world moves in a more coordinated fashion to confront the virus and its threat to health and the global economy. The Group of 7 industrialized nations is expected to hold an emergency call on Tuesday to synchronize a multinational effort to stimulate economic growth, the first such effort since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago.

More than 500 Hong Kong residents stranded in Hubei Province for more than a month will be repatriated on charter flights in the coming days, Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s top official, announced on Tuesday.

Those scheduled for repatriation include pregnant women, people requiring medical treatment or surgery, and 11 students scheduled to take university entrance exams, said Patrick Nip, the secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs.

The evacuation comes after weeks of planning and mounting pressure from lawmakers. The Hong Kong government had previously cited public health risks and logistical challenges, as well as inadequate quarantine facilities, as a reason for not acting sooner.

“We do not feel that we have delayed the return of Hong Kong people stranded in Hubei,” Mrs. Lam said. “As you are aware, even up to this point, Hubei Province, particularly the city of Wuhan, is still under a very challenging situation,” she added, referring to the region at the center of the outbreak in China.

The evacuated residents will be quarantined at a converted public housing estate in the New Territories district of Fo Tan.

President Trump spoke about his efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus in the United States during a rally on Monday evening in Charlotte, N.C.:

My administration is also taking the most aggressive action in modern history to protect Americans from the coronavirus. You know about this whole thing, horrible. Including sweeping travel restrictions. Today, we met with the big great pharmaceutical companies, and they’re really working hard and they’re working smart, and we had some — we had a great meeting today with a lot of the great companies and they could have vaccines I think relatively soon.

And they’re going to have something that makes you better, and that’s going to actually take place we think even sooner. So it’s — a lot of good things are happening. But we have strong borders and really are tough, and early actions have really been proven to be 100 percent right. We went out, we’re doing everything in our power to keep the sick and infected people from coming into our country. We’re working on that very hard.

He later added:

My job is to protect the health of American patients and Americans first. Washington Democrats are trying to politicize the coronavirus, denigrating the noble work of our public health professionals, but honestly not so much anymore. Everyone appreciates — these are the greatest professionals in the world at what they do.

And continued:

We’re going to reduce the severity of what’s happening. The duration of the virus, we discussed all of these things, we will bring these therapies to market as rapidly as possible. And I have to say with a thriving economy, the way it is, and the most advanced health system on Earth, America is so resilient, we know what we’re doing. We have the greatest people on Earth, the greatest health system on Earth.

Mr. Esper’s directive, delivered last week during a video teleconference call with combatant commanders around the world, is the latest iteration of Mr. Trump’s efforts to manage public fears over the disease, even as it continues to spread around the world.

Mr. Trump has said that Democrats and the news media are stoking fear about the disease, even calling their concerns a “hoax” during one rally last week.

The president has since tempered his words.

Mr. Esper told commanders deployed overseas that they should check in before making decisions related to protecting their troops.

In one exchange during last Wednesday’s video teleconference, Gen. Robert B. Abrams, the commander of American forces in South Korea, where more than 4,000 coronavirus cases have been detected, discussed his options to protect American military personnel against the virus, according to one American official briefed on the call.

In response, Mr. Esper said that he wanted advance notice before General Abrams or any other commander made decisions related to protecting their troops.

Reporting was contributed by Marc Santora, Noah Weiland, Emily Cochrane, Eric Schmitt, Helene Cooper, Roni Caryn Rabin, Russell Goldman, Paul Mozur, Raymond Zhong, Aaron Krolik, Claire Fu and Elaine Yu.