Health and Science

France sees second coronavirus death; Greece confirms first case

Key Points
  • Europe continues to report a slew of coronavirus cases with France seeing its second death and Italy reporting its 12th death. Greece has also confirmed its first coronavirus case
  • Cruise operator Royal Caribbean says it has cancelled 30 cruises in Southeast Asia due to the outbreak, Reuters reported. It has also modified several itineraries in the region.
  • The coronavirus outbreak that's shuttered commerce across China will likely become a global pandemic, a top U.S. health official said, adding that it's just a matter of time before the outbreak starts spreading in the U.S.
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Public health experts watch South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy close for coronavirus

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All times below are in Beijing time.

7.08 pm: France reports second death from coronavirus, Greece confirms first case and Italy says children among infected

Europe continues to report a slew of coronavirus cases with France seeing its second death and Italy reporting its 12th death. Greece has also confirmed its first coronavirus case, a 38-year-old Greek woman who had traveled from an area of northern Italy, according to Sotiris Tsiodras, a representative of the Ministry of Health, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, Italy has now reported that four children in the country have also contracted the flu-like illness.

Medical staff from the IHU (Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire) Mediterranee Infection Institute are at work in the laboratory to analyse samples on the possible presence of the COVID-19 on 26 February 26, 2020 in Marseille.
GERARD JULIEN Gerard Julien | AFP | Getty Images

6.24 pm: Another Chinese city to test all travelers for coronavirus

As South Korea and Japan report more cases of coronavirus, another Chinese city near the eastern Asian countries is stepping up restrictions on travelers.

A major city in Shandong province, Yantai, announced all travelers from abroad who arrive in the city will receive free nucleic acid tests for the virus. This move follows an earlier announcement from Weihai, another city in the province, that travelers from Japan and South Korea will be put in hotels for a 14-day free quarantine.

South Korea and Japan are the two countries closest to China's northeastern provinces and Jiaodong Peninsula. Shandong's Qingdao, Weihai and Yantai are home to hundreds of Korean companies and the majority of these Korean investors are from Seoul, Gyeonggi-do, Incheon and Bushan, according to public data. – Lilian Wu

5.29 pm: As China ramps up for Winter Olympics, virus keeps skiers away

In Hebei province, a major location for China's Winter Olympics in 2022 , ice and snow sports venues reported a drop of 2.78 million visits from 2019, according to Peng Weiyong, deputy director of the economic department of the General Administration of Sport. For the 2018-2019 season, Hebei province reported 10 million trips to its ice and snow sports venues.

Peng noted that more than 770 ski resorts have been built nationwide, and most have been closed since Jan. 24 due to the coronavirus. The closures also come amid historically high snowfall in the region. Peng was speaking at a press conference on Wednesday. — Evelyn Cheng

5.14 pm: Beijing to quarantine people if they visited countries impacted by coronavirus

Beijing will quarantine people for 14 days if they have been to countries seriously hit by the coronavirus, the city's health commission spokesman Gao Xiaojun told a press briefing on Wednesday, Reuters reported. The quarantines will take place at home or in groups.

4.53 pm: European auto giant PSA says coronavirus is a 'big risk for the whole industry'

Groupe PSA Chairman Carlos Tavares has said the spread of the coronavirus from Asia to Europe is a challenge for the carmaker, currently working on a merger with Italy's Fiat Chrysler.

"It's clear this is a big risk for the whole industry," Tavares said. "Our situation so far is good, we have been keeping our plants running … we are of course very focused on fixing all the logistic issues, all the supply issues that everybody is facing."

4.40 pm: Italy's prime minister calls for calm as coronavirus spikes

Italy's prime minister has called for calm as the coronavirus spreads to other parts of the country, while lockdowns, closures and "fake news" provokes panic among the public.

As of Wednesday morning, there were 325 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 11 deaths in Italy. Infections are now being seen beyond the original epicenter in the north, with cases now confirmed in Tuscany, Le Marche, Emilia Romagna, Alto Adige, Piedmont, Liguria, Lazio and Sicily, far south of the capital in Rome. - Holly Ellyatt

3:30 pm: Asia stocks tumble by the close

Shares in mainland China led losses among major Asia Pacific markets on Wednesday, as investors withdrew amid concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

By the market close, the Shenzhen component dropped 3.02%, while the Shenzhen composite fell 2.705%, and the Shanghai composite shed 0.83%.

South Korean stocks also fell as coronavirus cases in the country surpassed 1,100 by Wednesday. The Kospi index dropped 1.28% by the close. — Eustance Huang

2.20 pm: Countries start to impose bans on travelers from South Korea

A few countries have started to impose bans on travelers coming from South Korea's regions most affected by the virus outbreak.

Japan's government has begun working to bar foreign nationals from the southern areas of South Korea from entering its country, according to a report from public broadcaster NHK on Wednesday.

The Philippines on Wednesday said they have barred travelers from South Korea's North Gyeongsang province from entering its country, while Vietnam also said it has banned tourists from virus-hit areas of South Korea, according to Reuters reports.

On Tuesday, Singapore said it would ban all visitors who have recently traveled to Daegu, a city in South Korea where many cases have been reported.

1:50 pm: Singapore's largest mall operator warns about business impact

Singapore's CapitaLand warned about the short-term business impact from the virus, saying it was hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. The retail landlord, Singapore's largest, has a sizeable operation in China. That includes four malls in Wuhan that are currently closed due to regulation. Most of its malls in the rest of China remain operational.

Group CFO Andrew Lim told CNBC's "Squawk Box" that the company expects results for the current quarter to be affected and there may be some spill over into the second quarter ending June 2020. "China and Singapore are our two largest markets," he said, adding that since the virus outbreak in both countries was detected relatively early, there's a possibility that both markets may recover from the situation before other nations.

If business conditions return to normal by the end of the year, the impact would be similar to how it had been during the SARS outbreak, or severe acute respiratory syndrome — sharp, but short change in business sentiment followed by a speedy recovery, Lim said. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

1:30 pm: United Arab Emirates to do a 'complete surveillance' of travelers

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has instructed authorities to undertake "a complete surveillance of all people entering the country," Reuters reported, citing an official from the UAE National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority.

The official said the UAE, which has 13 cases, is "well prepared and equipped for the worst case scenarios," according to the report. Neighboring Iran has reported 16 coronavirus deaths — the most outside China, and over 90 cases.

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Middle East economies may be hurt by 'substantial' exposure to China

12:00 pm: Hong Kong sets aside $15 billion to support economy amid virus outbreak

The Hong Kong government has announced 120 billion Hong Kong dollars ($15.4 billion) worth of measures to support its economy, which has been dragged down by pro-democracy protests and the new coronavirus outbreak.

Those measures include low-interest loans for small- and medium-sized businesses, tax reductions and a cash payout of 10,000 Hong Kong dollars ($1,283) to residents aged 18 and above.

"Since January 2020, Hong Kong has come under the threat posed by the novel coronavirus outbreak, which further dealt a blow to the economy. We must take decisive measures to tackle the situation," said Paul Chan, Hong Kong's financial secretary. — Yen Nee Lee

11:05 am: Customers at supermarkets in Beijing must keep a distance from each other

Supermarkets in Beijing must keep customers at least 2 square meters (roughly 4 ft. by 5 ft.) apart from each other, the Beijing Municipal Commerce Bureau said in an online statement Wednesday.

The announcement was made in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus, and told stores to use "smart, rapid and automatic sensing equipment" to improve the efficiency of evaluating body temperatures, and prevent crowding, according to a CNBC translation of the Chinese-language text. — Evelyn Cheng

10:11 am: US soldier stationed in South Korea tests positive

A U.S. soldier stationed at Camp Carroll in South Korea has tested positive for the new coronavirus — marking the first time an American service member has been infected, according to the United States Forces Korea (USFK).

Camp Carroll is around 22 km (13 miles) away from the South Korean city of Daegu, where a large number of infections in South Korea has been reported. The soldier also visited Camp Walker, which is around 4 km from Daegu.

The 23-year-old soldier is currently in self-quarantine at his off-base residence, the USFK said. It added that contact tracing is currently underway. — Weizhen Tan and Christine Wang

U.S. Marine soldiers from 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, Battalion landing team deployed from Okinawa, Japan, participate in the U.S. and South Korean Marines joint landing operation at Pohang seashore on March 29, 2012 in Pohang, South Korea. 
Chung Sung-Jun | Getty Images News | Getty Images

9:55 am: China's health care system under pressure

Wuhan, Hubei province's capital city, accounts for 60% of mainland China's total confirmed cases and about 77% of the deaths.

Even though local authorities have rushed to build new hospitals, first-hand reports still describe inadequate hospital beds and medical care.

Amid the sheer number of cases, many locals say it's difficult to get medical care. Many coronavirus patients' families have turned to the public for help, with some even turning to social media.

9:45 am: China reports 406 new cases, 52 additional deaths

China's National Health Commission reported 406 new confirmed cases, and an additional 52 deaths, as of Feb. 25.

Of the new cases, 401 were in Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak. The additional deaths are all in Hubei.

The country's total is now 78,064 confirmed cases, and 2,715 deaths.

9:07 am: South Korea reports a jump of 169 new cases, 1 additional death

South Korea reported a jump of 169 new cases, bringing the country's total to 1,146 infected, according to the country's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday morning.

It reported one additional death, bringing the total number of fatalities to 11.

Of the new cases, 134 were from Daegu, the country's fourth-largest city. So far, more than half of coronavirus cases in the country have been traced back to Daegu's Shincheonji Church of Jesus, where the government is set to conduct testing on around an estimated 215,000 people.

The U.S. CDC this week raised its alert level for travel to South Korea, citing the outbreak there.

8:45 am: Iran now has the highest coronavirus death toll outside of China, threatening the wider Middle East

Iran's health ministry on Tuesday confirmed 15 deaths from the coronavirus, the most fatalities of any country outside of China, where the deadly illness originated. Iran also said there are 95 current cases.

The majority of Iran's cases have been linked to Qom, a major religious destination for Shiite pilgrims 85 miles south of Tehran, Iranian's health ministry spokesman said on state television Tuesday.

The virus's rapid spread in Iran signals a greater risk to the wider region. And Iran's links to the rest of the Middle East through travel by religious pilgrims and workers — as well as its dire economic situation — make it particularly ill-prepared to handle the intensifying outbreak, regional experts say. — Natasha Turak

8:15 am: Asia stocks tumble

Asia stocks fell in early trading, as Wall Street saw another rout overnight.

Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 1.07% in early trade after dropping more than 3% on Tuesday. The Topix index also saw a 1.07% decline. South Korea's Kospi tumbled 1.79% while the Kosdaq dropped 1.62%.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 was down 1.74%. — Eustance Huang

8:00 am: Royal Caribbean cancels 30 cruises

Cruise operator Royal Caribbean says it has cancelled 30 cruises in Southeast Asia due to the outbreak, Reuters reported.

It has also modified several itineraries in the region and estimated the cancellations would lead to an impact of 90 cents per share in 2020, according to the report.

7:45 am: Japanese stocks set to tumble again

Markets in Japan were set to tumble at the open again as Wall Street saw another plunge overnight on virus fears. The Nikkei 225 had closed down more than 3% on Tuesday.

Australian shares dropped around 1.8% in early trade.

All times below are in Eastern time.

4:40 pm: Dow loses more than 800 points as stocks plunge for a second day

The stock rout continued as diving bond yields raised more concern that the global economy is slowing significantly because of the spreading coronavirus. The 10-year Treasury yield hit a record low as the Dow Jones Industrial Average added to Monday's 1,000-point drop. Comments from health officials warning of a possible outbreak in the U.S. also spooked investors, causing a turnaround in stocks which had opened the day higher.

The Dow dropped 879.44 points, or 3.1%, to 27,081.36 after being up more than 180 points at one point shortly after the open. The S&P 500 slid 3% to 3,128.21 while the Nasdaq Composite fell 2.8% to 8,965.61. Monday's session was the market's worst in two years. The S&P 500 posted back-to-back declines of at least 3% for the first time since November 2008 during the financial crisis, according to Bespoke Investment Group.

3:52 pm: US health officials say human trials on coronavirus vaccine to start in 6 weeks

Human trials testing a potential vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus are expected to begin in six weeks, U.S. health officials announced Tuesday. "We are on time at least and maybe even a little bit better," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, told reporters at a press conference. "Hopefully, no further glitches."

The White House reportedly asked Congress on Monday for $1.25 billion in additional funding to bolster its coronavirus response, including money to develop a vaccine and therapeutics to treat the virus. The National Institutes of Health has been working with biotech company Moderna to develop a vaccine using the current strain of the coronavirus. —Lovelace

3:49 pm: US health officials say coronavirus will likely cause a global pandemic

The coronavirus outbreak that's shuttered commerce across China will likely become a global pandemic, a top U.S. health official said, adding that it's just a matter of time before the outbreak starts spreading in the U.S. "Current global circumstances suggest it's likely this virus will cause a pandemic," Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told reporters at a news briefing.

"It's not so much a question of if this will happen any more, but rather more a question of when this will happen and how many people in this country will become infected and how many of those will develop severe or more complicated disease," she added.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar added: "We can't hermetically seal off the United States." Azar confirmed four new cases of the virus from repatriated cruise ship passengers, bringing the total in the U.S. to 57.

Read CNBC's coverage from the U.S. overnight: CDC outlines pandemic planning as fears send stocks plunging for second day

— CNBC's Evelyn Cheng, Christine Wang, Eustance Huang, Berkeley Lovelace Jr. and William Feuer contributed to this report.