Where did the new coronavirus come from? Past outbreaks provide hints.
As scientists and public health officials around the world scramble to contain the deadly coronavirus outbreak, some researchers are also racing to solve the enduring mystery of where the newly identified virus came from.
The coronavirus, which first sickened people in China in December, is thought to have passed from animals to humans, like many similar pathogens, but nothing has been confirmed yet by any peer-reviewed scientific research, global public health agency or academic expert. Beyond that, little is known about its origin.
Although finding the source wouldn't necessarily help scientists develop vaccines or other direct treatments, it could provide crucial pieces of information on how it emerged and evolved. And scientists are using lessons learned from previous outbreaks to know how to approach this one.
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Green Day cancels upcoming Asia tour
Green Day has canceled scheduled tour dates in Asia due to the coronavirus epidemic. The band's Hella Mega tour would have taken them throughout the continent in March — and in countries with confirmed cases of the virus — starting in Singapore and stopping in Bangkok, Manila, Taipei, Hong Kong, Seoul, Osaka and Tokyo.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees — who released their 13th studio album "Father of All ..." on Feb. 7 — released a statement which reads: "We have unfortunately made the difficult decision to postpone our upcoming shows in Asia due to the health + travel concerns with coronavirus. We know it sucks, as we were looking forward to seeing you all, but hold on to your tickets we'll be announcing the new dates very soon."
It is unclear if Green Day will continue with the European leg of their tour, which would kick off in Moscow in May.
There's no Plan B for Olympics
TOKYO — Tokyo has no Plan B for this year's Summer Olympics despite alarm over the spread of the coronavirus in Japan and elsewhere with under five months before the event, a senior official said on Friday.
"There will not be one bit of change in holding the Games as planned," Katsura Enyo, deputy director general of the Tokyo 2020 Preparation Bureau at the city government, told Reuters.
Having prepared for years and invested some $12 billion, Japan is eager to quell fears the Games might be called off, postponed or moved to a different location due to the virus.
Though on the decline in China where it originated, the flu-like disease is moving fast around the world, including more than 200 cases and five deaths in Japan.
In a telephone interview, Enyo said organizers were "facing up to" the coronavirus - but it would not derail the July 24-Aug. 9 event. "We are not even thinking of when or in what contingency we might decide things. There is no thought of change at all in my mind," she said.
Coronavirus deaths hit 2,788 in mainland China
China's Health Commission on Friday reported 44 new deaths from coronavirus, compared with 29 deaths the day earlier, bringing the total number of deaths on the mainland to 2,788.
Forty-one of these deaths were in Hubei province, the epidemic's epicenter.
Officials reported 327 new confirmed cases for a total 78,882.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong reported 93 new cases and two deaths.
Hong Kong finds coronavirus in pet dog samples
Hong Kong authorities said on Friday they quarantined a pet dog of a coronavirus patient after its nasal and oral samples tested "weak positive" for the virus, though they added they did not yet have evidence that it can be transmitted to pets.
The dog did not have any symptoms.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said it will conduct further tests to confirm if the dog had been infected with the virus or if the samples were only the result of environmental contamination.
"At present, the AFCD does not have evidence that pet animals can be infected ... or can be a source of infection to people," it said in a statement.
The dog will be put under quarantine for two weeks.
The World Health Organisation website says so far there has been no evidence that companion pets can be infected with the coronavirus.
WHO says coronavirus outbreak 'getting bigger' after Nigeria reports first case
Coronavirus outbreak is "getting bigger," the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday after Nigeria confirmed sub-Saharan Africa's first case, reiterating its warning that the virus could reach most "if not all countries."
WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a Geneva news briefing that it was looking into reports of some people getting re-infected, which would include reviewing how were tests taken, adding: "But in general a person who had coronavirus infection would be immune at least for a while."
Coronavirus crash wipes $5 trillion off world stocks
Coronavirus panic sent world share markets crashing again on Friday, compounding their worst week since the 2008 global financial crisis and bringing the wipeout in value terms to $5 trillion.
The rout showed no signs of slowing as Europe's main markets slumped 2-3 percent early on and the ongoing dive for safety sent yields on U.S. government bonds, seen as probably the securest asset in the world, to fresh record lows.
Hopes that the epidemic that started in China would be over in months, and that economic activity would quickly return to normal have been shattered this week as the number of international cases have spiraled.
Bets are now that the Federal Reserve will cut U.S. interest rates as soon as next month and other major central banks will follow to try and nurse economies through the troubles and stave off a global recession.
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Tokyo Disneyland theme parks closed
The two Disney-branded theme parks in Tokyo are to close for two weeks as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, the operator said on Friday.
"Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea have decided to proceed with an extraordinary closure from Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, through Sunday, Mar. 15," the operator said in a statement posted to its Japanese website. "The reopening date is scheduled for March 16 (Monday), but we will contact closely with the relevant administrative organs and will inform you again."
BTS calls off South Korean concerts because of outbreak
SEOUL, South Korea — K-pop superstar group BTS has canceled a series of planned concerts in Seoul in April over concerns about a soaring viral outbreak in South Korea, its management agency announced Friday.
“We regret to announce that the BTS MAP OF THE SOUL TOUR ... has been cancelled," the Seoul-based Big Hit Entertainment said in a statement.
It said the COVID-19 "outbreak has made it impossible at this time to predict the scale of the outbreak during the dates of the concert in April.”
The seven-member boy band was scheduled to perform April 11-12 and April 18-19 at Seoul’s Olympic Stadium. The concerts would have involved a number of global production companies and a large number of foreigners among its expert crew, with more than 200,000 concertgoers expected, according to the agency.
South Korean media described the concerts as the inaugural Seoul leg of BTS's new world tour.
“We must take into consideration the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of guests as well as our artists and the dire impact a last-minute cancellation may have on guests from overseas, production companies and staff,” the agency said.
It said it has determined it is "unavoidable that the concert must be cancelled without further delay.”
The agency said its decision was also meant to support the South Korean government’s push to restrict massive public events.
The coronavirus that causes the new illness has infected more than 2,000 people and killed 13 others in South Korea in the largest outbreak outside mainland China.
BTS has a large international following and was the first K-pop act to debut atop the Billboard Album chart in 2018 with “Love Yourself: Tear.”
The latest coronavirus numbers
As of now: 83,000-plus confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 2,857 deaths reported. There are now more than 40 countries with confirmed cases, up from 30 a week ago.
Of the new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, 327 were reported in mainland China and 969 were reported in the rest of the world. Also in the last 24 hours, 3,622 people in mainland China recovered from the virus, according to China's National Health Commission.