US-South Korea military drills postponed as coronavirus spreads faster outside China
SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and South Korea postponed joint military drills on Thursday to limit the spread of coronavirus, as the number of infections outside China, the source of the outbreak, for the first time surpassed those appearing in the country.
Taiwan raised its epidemic response level to the highest as it readied a $2 billion (£1.5 billion) package to cushion the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on its export-reliant economy.
“As the international epidemic outbreak gets more serious day by day, Taiwan needs to enhance its defence against the virus,” President Tsai Ing-wen said while overseeing troops tasked with disinfection.
Taiwan has had 32 cases of the coronavirus and one death.
The virus has in recent days spread far beyond China, where it emerged late lat year, apparently in a market selling wildlife in the city of Wuhan.
Brazil confirmed Latin America’s first infection and the new disease – COVID-19 – was also detected for the first time in Pakistan, Sweden, Norway, Greece, Romania and Algeria. China reported 433 new cases on Thursday, against 406 a day earlier.
Brazil’s first case coincided with the carnival holiday, a peak time for tourism. Brazil’s stock index fell more than 7%.
South Korea reported another 334 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, pushing its total to 1,595, the most in any country other than China.
The US State Department issued a new travel warning for South Korea after the US military reported its first case of the coronavirus on Wednesday, in a 23-year-old soldier based near the South Korean city of Daegu.
The South Korean military has also reported a number of infections and confined most troops to base.
A “command post training”, usually conducted by members of the two militaries’ Combined Forces Command, will be postponed until further notice, the command said.
US health authorities reported the first possible case of community transmission in the United States involving someone who had no relevant travel history or exposure to another known patient. The United States is managing 59 cases – most of them Americans repatriated from a cruise ship in Japan.
U.S. President Donald Trump, seeking to calm U.S. stock markets which fell for the fifth day, said the United States was “very very ready” to face the virus threat.
Asked by reporters whether he was considering restricting travel to and from South Korea, Italy and other countries where infections have exploded in the past week, Trump said everything was on the table.
“At some point, depending on what happens, we may cut certain additional countries off, like we’ve had to do with China, and we hope we can open it up to China soon as possible,” Trump said in a live broadcast.