Health and Science

Coronavirus: Iran's deputy health minister positive for COVID-19, South Korea to launch mass testing

Key Points
  • China's National Health Commission reported 508 new confirmed cases and 71 new deaths, as of Feb. 24.
  • South Korea has confirmed an additional 84 cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections nationwide to 977.
  • Twelve people died and 61 have been infected with the coronavirus in Iran, Tehran's health ministry said.
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All times below are in Beijing time.

8:35 pm: Austria, Croatia confirm first cases of coronavirus amid fears of Italy spillover

Austria and Croatia have both confirmed their first cases of the coronavirus, amid heightened fears an outbreak in Italy could spread to other European countries.

A spokesperson from Austria's health authority said the first two cases of the coronavirus had been confirmed on Tuesday, Reuters reported. They were thought to have contracted the flu-like virus in Italy's Lombardy region.

Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said the country had also confirmed its first case of the coronavirus. The patient was said to be hospitalized in the capital city of Zagreb.

Europe's biggest outbreak of COVID-19 is in Italy, with more than 220 cases reported in the country. — Meredith

7:45 pm: Iran's deputy health minister tests positive for coronavirus

Iran's deputy health minister has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a report from the semi-official ILNA news agency.

It comes shortly after a spokesperson for the Islamic Republic's health ministry said Tuesday that 95 people had been infected with the coronavirus, with 16 deaths nationwide. (See 6:35 p.m. update).

Iran has recorded the highest number of deaths from the coronavirus outside of China. — Meredith

A man wears a respiratory mask after deaths and new confirmed cases revealed from the coronavirus in Qom, Iran on February 25, 2020.
Stringer | Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

7:30 pm: Chinese city announces 14-day quarantine in free hotels for travelers from Japan, South Korea

The eastern city of Weihai has announced that all travelers, both Chinese and foreign nationals, returning from Japan and South Korea will need to stay in hotels for a 14-day quarantine.

Accommodation will be free.

The move comes amid intensifying concerns on China's social media platform Weibo over a growing number of coronavirus cases in South Korea.

The measures, effective Tuesday, are meant "to minimize the chance of cross-infection" according to a CNBC translation of the Chinese-language announcement.

Weihai, located in Shandong province, is about a two-hour flight from Seoul. — Wu

6:55 pm: WHO says countries must be prepared for coronavirus 'literally knocking at the door'

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned countries around the world must be ready for the fast-spreading coronavirus to be "literally knocking at the door."

Speaking in Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday, WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier reportedly said that while many countries had so-called "pandemic plans" on standby, the United Nations health agency does not plan to make a "big announcement."

It comes amid intensifying concern about the coronavirus outbreak, with the deadly virus spreading to more than two dozen countries in recent weeks.

As of Tuesday, China's National Health Commission reported 77,658 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 2,663 deaths nationwide. — Meredith

A man communicates with a customer through the door of a market in Dongsi Subdistrict on February 24, 2020 in Beijing, China.
Betsy Joles | Getty Images

6:35 pm: Iran urges people to stay at home as coronavirus death toll climbs to 16

Iran's health ministry reportedly urged citizens to stay at home on Tuesday, following a sharp uptick of confirmed coronavirus cases nationwide.

Kianoush Jahanpour, a spokesperson for the Islamic Republic's health ministry, said via state television that 95 people had been infected with the coronavirus, with 16 deaths nationwide.

Iran has recorded the highest number of deaths from coronavirus outside of China.

Several countries have suspended flights to Iran in a bid to prevent the outbreak, while some neighboring countries have closed their borders. — Meredith

5:40 pm: Canary Islands hotel reportedly under lockdown after tourist tests positive for coronavirus

Hundreds of staff and tourists staying at a hotel in Spain's Canary Islands were reportedly put under lockdown on Tuesday, El Pais newspaper reported.

It comes after one person that had stayed at the establishment was later found to have tested positive for the coronavirus.

A spokesperson for the Canary Island's health department told Reuters on Tuesday that health checks were underway for those who had contact with the patient — thought to be Spain's third case of COVID-19.

As of Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) had identified two cases of the coronavirus in Spain. — Meredith

5:15 pm: National Chinese authorities emphasize travel restrictions on Hubei

China's National Health Commission has taken a firm stand on maintaining travel restrictions for Hubei province, the center of the coronavirus outbreak.

It comes shortly after confusion about a loosening in regulations for the capital city of Wuhan. On Monday, Wuhan city initially announced it would start loosening a city-wide lockdown that started on Jan. 23 in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading.

A few hours later, city authorities canceled the policy, saying it didn't receive approval from unnamed "primary leaders."

The city accounts for the majority of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths. The number of new confirmed virus cases outside Hubei province fell into the single digits on Monday, according to official data. — Wu

4:50 pm: South Korea confirms 84 further cases of coronavirus, total exceeds 970

South Korea has confirmed an additional 84 cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections nationwide to 977.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that more than half of the new cases came from the southeastern city of Daegu.

It also reported two more additional deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 10.

Earlier on Tuesday, the South Korean government reportedly said it plans to test potentially more than 200,000 members of a church at the epicenter of the country's coronavirus outbreak. — Meredith

4:35 pm: Iraq bans travelers from 7 countries in bid to prevent coronavirus outbreak

Iraq's health ministry has reportedly extended an entry ban on all travelers from China and Iran in order to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Similar travel bans have been extended for those coming directly or indirectly from Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Italy and Singapore, Reuters reported, citing a statement from Iraq's health ministry on Tuesday.

Iraqi citizens have been advised not to travel the virus-hit nations, although it is thought that Iraqi nationals, diplomats and official delegations are exempt from the travel restrictions.

As of Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) had identified cases of the coronavirus in five countries across the Eastern Mediterranean region: Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. — Meredith

4:20 pm: Kuwait confirms three more coronavirus cases, brings total number to 8

Kuwait's state news agency KUNA reported on Tuesday that three more people had been infected with the coronavirus, raising the total number in the country to eight.

The three new cases were all people who had returned from Iran.

All of them are in a stable condition and under quarantine, KUNA reported. — Meredith

4:15 pm: Saudi energy minister says OPEC hasn't run out of ideas, as oil prices slump amid virus fears

OPEC and its allied oil-producing nations are still working well together and still have options to try to rebalance global crude markets, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said Tuesday.

"We did not run out of ideas, we haven't lost our phones and there are always good ways of communicating through conference calls and technology is very helpful," he said, speaking to reporters at the ICCUS conference in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

His comments came amid speculation that there is tension in the alliance, known as OPEC+, over whether to cut oil production further next week.

Prices continue to be weighed on by ample supply and falling demand and, lately, fears surrounding the coronavirus and its impact on the global economy. — Ellyatt

Confident in partnership of OPEC+, Saudi energy minister says

3:50 pm: Resumption of work only 30% for China's smaller businesses, official says

The smaller the company, the lower the level of resumption of work, Shu Zhaohui, second inspector of the Department of Industrial Policy and Regulations at the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said at a press conference Tuesday.

Medium and small-sized enterprises have only resumed work at a rate of about 30%, he said, according to a CNBC translation of his Mandarin-language remarks.

Shu noted these smaller companies are the focal point of authorities' efforts. — Cheng

3:40 pm: Guangdong says students will resume studies online from March 2

Guangdong province's education department said Tuesday that primary and secondary school students are to resume their studies online on March 2, and that students are not to return to schools.

The statement added that colleges and vocational schools will follow the same policy in March.

Kindergartens and special education schools will not hold online courses, and students are not to return to schools, the announcement said. — Cheng

2:45 pm: Japan urges companies to put in place telecommuting, staggered shifts

The Japanese government on Tuesday urged companies to recommend that employees work from home, or go on staggered shifts, as they seek to stop the spread of the virus, said Reuters, citing a plan approved at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

The country currently has 159 cases, and another 691 cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked south of Tokyo.

1:55 pm: Hong Kong extends school closures till mid April

Hong Kong will again extend school closures — till April 20 at the earliest, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said at a press conference.

That would apply for classes at kindergartens, elementary and secondary schools. However, the high school public examinations will still go ahead as scheduled starting March 27. — Vivian Kam

12:55 pm: Korean Air cabin crew member tests positive

A cabin crew member of Korean Air has tested positive for the coronavirus, the South Korean airline said on Tuesday, according to Reuters. That has caused the airline to shut its office near the Incheon International Airport at the city's capital Seoul.

Details of the routes and flights where the crew member were on were not immediately available, the report said.

Employees stand in front of a Boeing Co. 787-9 Dreamliner passenger aircraft operated by Korean Air Lines Co.
SeongJoon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

12:35 pm: Singapore Airlines freezes hiring

Singapore Airlines has frozen hiring for all ground positions, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, it said in a statement.

The flag carrier added it will implement any additional measures needed, but "will not do anything that compromises the SIA Group's long-term competitiveness."

12:30 pm: South Korea to test all members of church at center of virus outbreak

The South Korean government says it plans to test potentially more than 200,000 members of a church at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, according to Reuters, citing the prime minister's office.

The leader of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus agreed to provide authorities with the names of all its members in South Korea, which has been estimated to be around 215,000 people, according to the report. More than half of Covid-19 cases in the country have been traced back to the church. — Audrey Cher

People are wearing masks at Myeongdong on February 20, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea.
Jong-Hyun Kim |Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

12:00 pm: Japan health minister says too early to talk about cancelling Olympics

Japanese health minister Katsunobu Kato said it was still too early to talk about the cancellation of the Tokyo Summer Olympics set to begin on July 24, according to Reuters.

A London mayoral candidate said that London was ready to host the games if needed, amid increasing uncertainty over whether the Olympics in Japan should be rescheduled or cancelled entirely, due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country. — Audrey Cher

11:50 am: China says air transport won't resume in Hubei other than emergency travel

The Civil Aviation Administration of China said Tuesday on its website that other than emergency travel, air transportation will not resume in Hubei and other areas severely affected by the virus.

Work will resume bit by bit in other areas, and air passenger transport will gradually return to normal, the statement said. — Evelyn Cheng

11:00 am: Trump administration asks for $2.5 billion to tackle coronavirus

The Trump administration submitted a budget request for $2.5 billion to Congress towards the coronavirus effort, the White House said Monday, according to a Reuters report.

More than $1 billion of that budget would be allocated for the development of a vaccine, the White House said, according to the report.

10:20 am: China fully bans trade and consumption of illegal wildlife

China will immediately and fully ban illegal wildlife trade, as the fight against the new coronavirus outbreak continues, according to Chinese state-owned news agency Xinhua.

The decision to ban wildlife trade and "eliminate the bad habits of eating wild animals" was made by the National People's Congress Standing Committee, which said the full ban was done to carry out instructions by Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to the report.

This picture taken on January 15, 2020 shows a butcher selling yak meat at a market in Beijing.

COVID-19, the name of the new coronavirus, was thought to have passed from animals to humans. However, the South China Morning Post reported that Chinese scientists are now saying the virus did not originate in a Wuhan seafood market. At that market, live animals were sold, and the first case in China was reported to have links to that market.

9:40 am: US CDC raises travel advisory alert for South Korea

The U.S. CDC raised its alert level for travel to South Korea, citing the outbreak there. (see 9:13 a.m. update)

It raised its travel advisory for South Korea to Level 3, which means that Americans should avoid non-essential travel to South Korea, saying there is "widespread community transmission."

9:13 am: South Korea reports 60 new cases, one additional death

South Korea reported a jump of 60 new cases, bringing the country's total to 893 infected, according to the country's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday morning.

It reported one additional death, bringing the total number of fatalities to 8.

The country raised its alert level to the maximum on Sunday. Its Level 4 alert allows the government to lock down cities and take other powerful measures to contain the disease's outbreak.

8:45 am: China reports 508 new cases, 71 additional deaths

China's National Health Commission reported 508 new confirmed cases and 71 new deaths, as of Feb. 24.

In Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak, there were 499 new cases, and 68 additional deaths as of Feb. 24.

That brings the country's total to 77,658 confirmed cases, and 2,663 deaths.

8:30 am: Japan stocks plunge around 4%

Japan's Nikkei 225 plunged 3.97% in early trade as it returned from a holiday, following a selloff in U.S. stocks overnight. The Topix index also declined 3.92%.

Shares in Australia also fell sharply, with the S&P/ASX 200 dropping 1.75%, after declining 2% earlier.

7:55 am: US and South Korea consider reducing training

The U.S. and South Korea are considering a move to reduce military training due to risks from the virus outbreak, the defense ministers from both countries said Monday, according to Reuters.

"I'm sure that we will remain fully ready to deal with any threats that we will face together," U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at a news briefing, as he stood with his South Korean counterpart at the Pentagon.

7:45 am: Asia stocks set to drop after Wall Street sells off

Shares in Australia dropped more than 2% in early trade. Japan's markets which open at 8 a.m. are also set to decline sharply as it returns from a holiday on Monday. That follows an overnight plunge on Wall Street amid fears of the economic hit that could result from the ongoing coronavirus outbreak that is spreading beyond China. — Huang

All times below are in Eastern time.

4:35 pm: Dow plunges 1,000 points on outbreak fears, worst day in two years

Stocks fell sharply as the number of cases outside China surged, stoking fears of a prolonged global economic slowdown. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 1,031.61 points lower, or 3.56%, at 27,960.80. The S&P 500 slid 3.35% to 3,225.89 while the Nasdaq Composite closed 3.71% lower at 9,221.28. It was the Dow's biggest point and percentage-point drop since February 2018. The Dow also gave up its gains for 2020 and is now down 2% for the year. The S&P 500 also had its worst day in two years and wiped out its year-to-date gain as well. —Imbert, Huang

12:50 pm: Iran confirms 12 deaths

Twelve people have died and 61 have been infected with the coronavirus in Iran, Tehran's health ministry said. However, a member of parliament said 50 people had died in the city of Qom, 75 miles south of the capital Tehran, alone in the past two weeks from the coronavirus. Meanwhile more than 10,000 drug addicts have been quarantined in treatment centers in Tehran province to guard against the coronavirus, state-run IRNA news agency reported, citing a local official.

9:51 am: Seventh death reported in Italy

A seventh person has died in the coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy, news agency ANSA said, while the number of confirmed cases rose to more than 220 in the country. ANSA said the latest person to die was an 80-year-old man who had been taken to hospital last week in Lodi after suffering a heart attack. Doctors believe he caught the virus there from another patient. —Reuters

Read CNBC's coverage from the U.S. overnight: WHO calls Iran and Italy cases 'deeply concerning,' Goldman cuts GDP forecast

— CNBC's Vivian Kam, Audrey Cher, Evelyn Cheng, Eustance Huang, Berkeley Lovelace Jr. and William Feuer contributed to this report.