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Live updates: Fears grow of a coronavirus pandemic as markets stumble again; Japan shuts schools

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“But given the growing concerns around COVID-19, we’ve made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person component of F8 2020.” The company described the decision as “a tough call” but that they ultimately “need to prioritize the health and safety of our developer partners, employees and everyone who helps put F8 on." Earlier in February, Facebook canceled a global marketing summit planned for March 9-12 in San Francisco.The F8 event is a festive affair for Facebook, where in previous years the company has unveiled new products and features and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has spoken.Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services sent more than a dozen workers to receive the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, without proper training for infection control or appropriate protective gear, according to a whistleblower complaint.The workers did not show symptoms of infection and were not tested for the virus, according to lawyers for the whistleblower, who is a senior HHS official based in Washington who oversees workers at the Administration for Children and Families, a unit within HHS.The whistleblower is seeking federal protection because she alleges she was unfairly and improperly reassigned after raising concerns about the safety of these workers to HHS officials, including those within the office of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. The Public Health Agency is tracing the patient’s contacts to prevent further spread.Northern Ireland’s case raises Britain’s total confirmed ones to 16.Vice President Pence on Thursday said it’s “all hands on deck” after meeting with members of the coronavirus task force at the Department of Health and Human Services.The meeting was Pence’s first with the task force since President Trump named him as leader of the administration’s response to the crisis.There has been some confusion over what role HHS Secretary Alex Azar will play after Trump’s announcement Wednesday night. … This one has the capability of spreading readily from human to human,” Fauci said.California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Thursday that officials are monitoring more than 8,400 people in the state for the novel coronavirus and that 33 people in the state were confirmed to be infected.The announcement comes after California confirmed its first case of community transmission of the virus, which means it is not linked to foreign travel. Before the outbreak, the Chinese government had planned to roll back tariffs beneficial to the solar sector in March and ones for the wind industry by 2021, according to Reuters.MOSCOW — Authorities here have launched a major campaign to exterminate rats and stray animals to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, a city official announced Thursday, dismaying animal-welfare advocates and experts who say the efforts are not effective.“We are currently carrying out a large-scale complex of measures for the total elimination of rats and the capture of wild animals and strays,” said Elena Andreyeva, spokeswoman for the Moscow consumer-health watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, RIA Novosti reported.Andreyeva said the moves were part of Russia’s effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus without explaining how it would help.A Moscow animal-welfare website, Barking News, posted an article calling the practice “stupid, unscientific and just cruel.” It cited Nikolai Nikitin, a virologist, explaining that the extermination of stray cats and dogs had no practical use in coronavirus prevention.“There is no proof as of now that pets could contract the new coronavirus or subsequently transmit it to people. “We’re ready for anything.” Separately, Pence also announced Thursday afternoon that he was adding Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Surgeon General Jerome Adams and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow to the administration’s coronavirus task force.President Trump announced Wednesday night that Pence would oversee the administration’s response to the virus and earlier in the day, he announced that Ambassador Debbie Birx would serve as the White House coronavirus response coordinator.The addition of Mnuchin and Kudlow reflects the White House’s ongoing concern about how the spread of the virus has rattled financial markets due to concerns a health crisis will disrupt businesses and hurt the global economy.Dozens of staffers at a California hospital that treated the United States’ latest coronavirus case are being monitored amid fears that they could have been exposed to the virus.The patient, a Solano County woman who has no recent history of travel to areas hit by the outbreak or contact with another confirmed case, was initially admitted to NorthBay VacaValley Hospital, a 50-bed community hospital in Vacaville, Calif., with flulike symptoms, according to a person briefed on the situation. The vast majority, 42, picked up the virus while quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan.Read more here:Along with other entertainment sectors such as fashion, sports and travel, the increasingly global film market is already seeing effects from the coronavirus as it continues spreading through various countries.The latest fallout came earlier this week when a three-week shoot set in Venice for the seventh “Mission Impossible” film was put on hold after the number of confirmed cases in Italy reached into triple digits.The coronavirus has shut down much of China and its film industry, and officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and other agencies said this week it is “inevitable” that the virus would spread here in the United States.That could be potentially devastating for the American film industry, which is already suffering in China, the largest movie market outside the United States.Some film executives are already reacting. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Thursday that the U.S. government “must do more to address the spread of the deadly coronavirus in a smart, strategic, and serious way.”The statement continued, “Any emergency funding supplemental the Congress approves must be entirely new funding — not stolen from other accounts."The two Democratic leaders called for the inclusion of four provisions to the funding, including that the funds must be used solely for fighting the new coronavirus and other infectious diseases; that any vaccines must be affordable; that interest-free loans be made available to impacted small businesses; and that state and local governments be reimbursed for any costs incurred while aiding the federal coronavirus response.At her news conference Thursday, Pelosi also took aim at Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, arguing that he was “wearing his Big Pharma hat” when he said Wednesday that he could not make any promises about the affordability of a potential coronavirus vaccine.Azar testified that he could not offer any assurances about the price “because we need the private sector to invest.”At a hearing Thursday morning before the House Ways and Means Committee, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar disputed that the Trump administration was playing down the possibility that the coronavirus might spread within communities.“We say could, could, could …,” Azar said of the various statements made by health officials and President Trump, emphasizing that much remains unknown. Iran’s state-run news agency reported Thursday that authorities were banning Chinese travelers from entering the country.A cruise ship turned away from multiple ports over unsubstantiated fears of coronavirus will be allowed to dock in Mexico and its passengers may be allowed to disembark, officials said Thursday.The MSC Meraviglia has berthed at the Mexican island of Cozumel and is waiting for health officials to board and conduct customary checks, MSC Cruises said in a statement Thursday morning.On Wednesday, the company expressed dismay that authorities in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands had turned the cruise liner away, saying the ship’s medical records showed only a “single case of common seasonal flu” and that it struck a crew member whose travel history did not include territories hit by coronavirus or subjected to “international health restrictions.”“In both instances, the ship was effectively turned away simply based on fears,” MSC Cruises said.Late Wednesday, the governor of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo also said the Meraviglia ship was not authorized to dock in Cozumel and should be reviewed by health officials. Look at West Coast ports.When President Trump announced on Wednesday that Vice President Pence would lead federal efforts against the spread of the coronavirus, he said Pence was the right person for the task because of his experience.“He’s got a certain talent for this,” Trump said at a White House briefing about the virus, which has infected nearly five dozen people in the United States so far.The announcement has revived scrutiny of Pence’s record as a lawmaker and his handling of a major public health crisis during his time as governor of Indiana. Then came coronavirus.Harlan reported from Rome and Noack from Berlin.On Wednesday, as President Trump continued to downplay coronavirus risks while tapping Vice President Pence to lead the country’s containment effort, late-night hosts joined other critics to slam the president for not doing more.Trump’s announcement about Pence came as health officials confirmed the first coronavirus case in the United States that has no known link to foreign travel or contact with someone known to be infected.Late-night hosts took aim at Trump’s move, which was widely criticized on social media Wednesday as people pointed out that Indiana experienced its worst HIV outbreak in state history in 2015 while Pence was governor. And stock investors might be well served by watching them to confirm that any rally has legs.”Read more here: U.S. markets poised to extend losing streak as coronavirus grips global economyBERLIN — With an increasing number of cases detected outside China, countries around the world are moving ahead with preparations for more widespread outbreaks this week.In Canada, a top health official said Wednesday that the country is pushing ahead with preparations for such a scenario.Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Howard Njoo said Canada is considering whether “we need to start looking at canceling certain mass gatherings or public events [and] what we need to be doing with schools, students attending schools and people sick in the hospital, and so on,” according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.“So that’s all in the future,” Njoo said. One of the patients is in serious condition.Meanwhile, in France, President Emmanuel Macron faced criticism over what some critics have described as a health system weakened by a lack of sufficient public funding.Macron rejected the criticism, according to the Reuters news agency, saying, “I am counting on you, and you can count on me.”ISTANBUL — Iran’s Health Ministry on Thursday reported more than 100 new cases of the novel coronavirus, bring the number of infections in the country to 245 amid a widening outbreak.Twenty-six people have died in Iran after contracting the virus, which causes the disease known as covid-19, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said.In a news conference carried by Iranian state television, Jahanpur warned that the infection rate was rising and urged citizens to avoid public gatherings and nonessential travel. The virus first appeared in the holy city of Qom and has since spread to 20 provinces and five other countries in the region.Several Iranian officials, including influential lawmakers and the head of Iran’s counter-coronavirus task force, said they have tested positive for the virus.PARIS — Additional novel coronavirus cases were confirmed across Europe on Thursday, as authorities struggled to contain the outbreak and assuage rising public anxieties.By midday Thursday, the British government reported that two new cases had been confirmed in England, and Swiss authorities announced three new cases of the virus. Both health ministries cited ties between newly infected patients and Italy, the apparent center of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak.The British Health Ministry also said one case had a connection to Tenerife, where a luxury hotel was placed on lockdown this week after a visiting Italian doctor tested positive for the virus.Public officials across the continent have tried to swell rising panic, which is arguably spreading faster than the disease itself.Anxieties were particularly acute in France on Thursday, after two men from the Oise region north of Paris tested positive for the virus without having traveled to China, Italy or Tenerife. Seven people have died of the disease in Japan.ISTANBUL — An influential Iranian lawmaker said Thursday that he tested positive for the new coronavirus, in the latest infection to hit Iran’s political elite as the number of cases in the country rose to 141.Mojtaba Zonnour, head of the national security and foreign policy commission in parliament, released a video announcing that he has contracted the virus, which originated in China.Zonnour is a Shiite cleric and conservative politician from the holy city of Qom, where the virus first appeared in Iran. China hopes to get parts of the country not directly effected by the coronavirus outbreak to resume economic activity, in the hope of avoiding a prolonged financial impact.Experts have said the effects of the coronavirus could slash China’s growth this year, compounding a years-long slowdown and the impact of the Trump administration’s trade war.Wang Yuan contributed reporting from BeijingSaudi Arabia said Thursday that it would halt all travel to some of the holiest sites in Islam, including the holy city of Mecca and the Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Medina, due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.“Saudi Arabia renews its support for all international measures to limit the spread of this virus, and urges its citizens to exercise caution before traveling to countries experiencing coronavirus outbreaks,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Australia has got ahead at this point in time, but to stay ahead we need to now elevate our response to this next phase.”HONG KONG — Asian stocks resumed their slide on Thursday, as the spread of the novel coronavirus outbreak continued to stoke fears about the epidemic’s growing economic impact.Japan’s Nikkei index was hit worst, falling 2 percent by mid-afternoon local time, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down by 0.8 percent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 also fell 0.8 percent.Oil also took a hit, with U.S. crude futures falling below $48 a barrel as investors sought safety in gold and Treasury bonds.Despite a White House news conference from President Trump on Wednesday evening that aimed to dispel fears that an outbreak could soon grip the United States, Dow Jones futures were down by more than one percent, suggesting a rough day ahead for Wall Street ahead once markets open.TOKYO — A Japanese woman who was one of the first cases of coronavirus in the country but was released from hospital nearly four weeks ago, apparently cured, has now tested positive again for the virus, officials say.The woman, in her 40s, served as a guide on a tour bus carrying tourists from the Chinese city of Wuhan. But it does not mean it originated in China.”SEOUL — South Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Cho Sei-young had a phone call with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun on Thursday and urged the United States to refrain from “excessive measures that could unnecessarily discourage bilateral exchanges between the two countries" after the State Department urged Americans to reconsider travel to the country amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.The call, which was announced by South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, came on the same day that South Korea confirmed 334 new virus cases.South Korea’s national tally of cases now stands at 1,595, including a U.S. soldier stationed in the country. The day before, the U.S. Department of State issued a Level 3 travel advisory for South Korea — urging citizens to reconsider their need to travel to the country due to the risks.The Trump administration has suggested it may restrict travel to virus-hit countries outside China, but said it would not do so immediately.At a news conference on Wednesday, Trump responded to a question about travel restrictions on Italy and South Korea, two countries with large numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases, saying that “at the right time we may do that. Right now it’s not the right time.”He said the two countries have been “hit pretty hard” from the coronavirus.Taylor reported from Hong KongBEIJING — The Chinese government has sent a team of investigators to Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, to determine how a woman infected with the virus had been released from a prison in the city and fled to Beijing despite a mandatory travel lockdown.The team, headed by Vice Minister of Justice Liu Zhiqiang and consisting of members of the military, police, and prosecutors, will travel to Wuhan to investigate how the woman had been allowed to return to the Chinese capital while displaying fever symptoms.Ying Yong, the newly appointed Communist Party chief for Hubei province, also called for a thorough investigation into the case even if higher-level government officials are involved. However, Wuhan Women’s Prison — where Huang was alleged to be released from — said on Wednesday that it hadn’t released any inmates recently due to the latest wave of confirmed infections in jail.As of Feb. 23, Wuhan Women’s Prison had reported 279 confirmed cases among its inmates, accounting for 85 percent of prison infections across the wider Hubei province.HONG KONG — The Chinese government announced 433 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus Thursday morning local time, as well as 29 new deaths.The numbers, released daily by China’s National Health Commission, continued to show a downward trend for coronavirus in China, where a global outbreak originated in the city of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, late last year.Still, health officials have urged caution about the Chinese statistics, especially as there are lingering questions about the novel coronavirus’s incubation period and its transmissibility.According to the Chinese government, 409 of the new cases were in Hubei, which is now under tight government restrictions on movement.

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