Coronavirus updates: South Korea reports big jump in cases, virus spreading in Chinese prisons

As the total number of COVID-19 cases reaches 76,000 globally, here is the latest news on Feb 21.

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By NBC News

Two more deaths, and new cases in Iran

South Korean city declared 'special management zone' following spread from church

Total number of infections stands over 76,000 globally

Last healthy travelers to leave stricken cruise ship Diamond Princess in Japan

• China reports spike in coronavirus cases in prisons

• China says earliest coronavirus vaccine to be submitted for trials late April


Diamond Princess evacuees to get experimental coronavirus treatment

A group of coronavirus patients in Nebraska are expected to be part of a clinical trial for an antiviral called remdesivir. Originally developed for possible treatment for Ebola, the drug has previously shown promise in treating other coronaviruses, such as SARS.

"We just started a protocol to test this in the people that we've evacuated from the Diamond Princess ship," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told NBC News.

Other clinical trials of remdesivir are ongoing in China to test its effects on both severe and mild cases of the disease, Fauci added.

Currently, there are no specific medications proven to treat the illness.

Fauci also said that while his team is actively working to start clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine, it wouldn't be available for at least another year. — Erika Edwards

Six cases of coronavirus in Italy's Lombardy region

Six Italians have tested positive for the coronavirus in the northern Italian region of Lombardy, a local official said on Friday in the first known cases of local transmission in Italy of the potentially deadly illness.

“We have got six cases of coronavirus,” Lombardy councillor Giulio Gallera told a news conference, adding that hundreds of people who had been in contact with the patients were now being tested to see if they had been infected.

The first person confirmed to have contracted the virus was believed to have fallen ill after meeting a friend who had recently returned from China. Residents of the northern towns of Codogno and Castiglione d’Adda were being urged to stay at home as medical tests continued. — Reuters

Amazon says it will pull products that claim to cure coronavirus

Amazon has told sellers it will remove listings from its e-commerce platform that make false claims about their ability to cure or kill the coronavirus, according to an email obtained by CNBC.

The coronavirus outbreak has drawn global reaction and attention, which has led to attempts to take advantage of fear in a variety of ways including email phishing attempts. A variety of products have also sprung up claiming to offer some sort of remedy.

At this point, there is no proven effective treatment to stop the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization.

Amazon recently met with the WHO to discuss efforts to stop misinformation about the coronavirus. — Jason Abbruzzese

Ukrainian police detained 24 over quarantine clashes

Novi Sanzhary, a village in central Ukraine’s Poltava region, is calmer Friday after clashes the day before over evacuees brought from coronavirus-stricken Wuhan, China, according to media reports and a statement from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Poltava region police said 24 people were detained yesterday, 23 of whom have been released, after local residents resisted a government plan to quarantine 45 Ukrainians and 27 foreign citizens at a facility, despite assurances from authorities that none were carriers of the virus.

In Thursday's clashes, nine police officers were injured and five are still in the hospital, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, while 200 law enforcement officers are patrolling the facility around the clock.

In order to “reassure” local residents, Minister of Health Zoryana Skaletska announced on her Facebook page that she will spend the next 14 days in quarantine with the people evacuated from Wuhan to the town of Novi Sanzhary.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk put in an appearance in the town, and said that he talked to people in quarantine and made sure they have everything needed. “The facility is under the care and supervision of infectious disease physicians. The situation is under the complete control of the government,” he said.

In a session in Parliament Friday, he said: “The events that took place yesterday, in my opinion, are the result of an information war, which continues in our country both from the inside and from the outside. I expect that the provocations will continue.” — Oksana Parafeniuk

Two more deaths in Iran, as 13 new cases are confirmed

Kianoush Jahanpour, a spokesperson for the Iranian Health Ministry, confirmed 13 new cases of coronavirus in Iran in a tweet on Friday. Two more people died Friday, bringing the total numbers of virus-related deaths in Iran to four.

Seven new cases were confirmed in the city of Qom, four in the country's capital, Tehran, and two in Gilan province. The total number of cases in Iran now stands at 18. — Amin Khodadadi

South Korea declares 'special management zone' following spread from church

The mayor of the South Korean city of Daegu said it was facing an “unprecedented crisis” after a series of coronavirus infections were linked to a single church service, as worries mounted in the country.

The number of cases of coronavirus in South Korea has doubled in 24 hours, reaching 204.

As the government works to prevent the spread of the virus, events have been canceled or delayed, and some facilities are being closed down until further notice.

The total number of COVID-19 cases stemming from “patient 31” in the city of 2.5 million people — which is two hours south of the capital, Seoul — comes to 58, and of the total 42 made contact at the church.

Another 15 were infected at the local hospital, and one has died, according to a briefing from Korea’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

A South Korean health official sprays disinfectant in front of a hospital where a total of 16 infections have now been identified with the coronavirus, near the southeastern city of Daegu on Feb. 21.Yonhap / AFP - Getty Images

The Shincheonji Church of Jesus — whose leader claims he is an angel of Jesus — has become the biggest cluster of viral infections in South Korea, where a surge in new cases has raised fears that the outbreak is getting out of control.

Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin on Thursday urged the city’s 2.5 million people to stay home and wear masks even indoors if possible.

Little is known about the woman known as “patient 31" except that she is in her early 60s, had no recent record of overseas travel and was diagnosed with pneumonia last weekend. — Stella Kim

Total number of infections stands over 76,000 globally

More than 76,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus worldwide, and at least 2,200 people have died as of Friday. The vast majority of the deaths are in mainland China.

In Hubei province — the epicenter of the virus outbreak — the number of new confirmed cases in the province was revised from 411 to 631, and the total number of confirmed cases was revised from 62,442 to 62,662 as of Friday. — Dawn Liu

Japan to let off last healthy cruise travelers

Japan's health minister said the last cruise ship passengers who tested negative for a new virus will leave the Diamond Princess on Friday after a much-criticized quarantine of the vessel ended.

The ship docked at Yokohama has the most COVID-19 cases outside of China, with 634 cases from the ship confirmed as of Friday. Two former passengers have died.

A mask-clad passenger heads for a temperature check after disembarking from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, in quarantine due to fears of coronavirus, at Daikoku pier cruise terminal in Yokohama on Feb. 21.Philip Fong / AFP - Getty Images

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told a news conference the mass disembarkation into Japan of passengers from the ship is set to end Friday, while dozens of foreign passengers are flying back to their home countries on flights chartered by their governments.

This will leave roughly 1,000 passengers who tested negative but shared a room with a COVID-19 positive passenger, as well as the ship’s crew. They will be transported to a government facility to be quarantined and monitored for symptoms in isolation starting on Saturday.

Japan's government has been questioned over its decision to keep people quarantined on the ship, given the tight quarters and the difficulty of isolating sick people from the healthy. Arata Yamamoto and the Associated Press

More than 500 cases reported in Chinese prisons

Hundreds of new coronavirus cases in China on Friday traced back to four prisons on the mainland, including two in Hubei, the center of the outbreak.

In Hubei, the Wuhan Women’s prison has 230 cases, and the Shayang Hanjin prison reported 41 on Friday.

Rencheng Jail in eastern China’s Shandong province has also confirmed 207 cases of the virus.

The Shandong government said that a prison guard at the jail started showing symptoms in early February. All 2,077 people held or working at the prison were given the nucleic acid test and, as of Thursday, 200 prisoners and seven prison officers had tested positive for the virus.

In Zhejiang province, 34 prisoners have been infected at Shilifeng jail. The provincial government said these were imported cases from Wuhan, and two prison officials had been removed from their roles. — Dawn Liu

China says earliest coronavirus vaccine to be submitted for trials late April

The earliest vaccine for the coronavirus that has killed more than 2,000 in China alone will be submitted for clinical trials around late April, Vice Science and Technology Minister Xu Nanping said on Friday. — Reuters

Santa Clara patient fully recovered

As of Thursday, the patient with the first confirmed case of novel coronavirus in Santa Clara County has fully recovered and been released from isolation.

He was isolated at home and monitored by public health staff for the duration of his isolation. The second case remains in isolation.

The Public Health Department continues to work closely with health care providers, hospitals and its partners to address novel coronavirus. Currently, there is no evidence that novel coronavirus is circulating in Santa Clara County and risk remains low. — Todd Miyazawa