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Brazil confirms first coronavirus case in Latin America

The 61-year-old patient had recently spent two weeks in the virus-hit Lombardy region of Italy.


Staff wear masks as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus at Sao Paulo International Airport in Brazil (Andre Penner/AP)

Staff wear masks as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus at Sao Paulo International Airport in Brazil (Andre Penner/AP)

Staff wear masks as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus at Sao Paulo International Airport in Brazil (Andre Penner/AP)

A 61-year-old Brazilian man who travelled to Italy this month has become Latin America’s first confirmed case of coronavirus.

The Brazilian health ministry said the man had spent two weeks in northern Italy’s Lombardy region on a work trip, where he contracted the contagious virus.

Authorities had already said on Tuesday that a first laboratory test for Covid-19 had a positive result, and were waiting for a second test to confirm.

Brazil’s Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said: “We will now see how this virus behaves in a tropical country in the middle of summer, how its behaviour pattern will be.”

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A worker disinfects a public bus against coronavirus in Tehran (AP)

According to the Health Ministry, the man began to show symptoms compatible with the illness, such as a dry cough, throat pain and flu symptoms.

He is now said to be in a stable condition and in isolation at home in Sao Paulo.

Brazil’s national health agency Anvisa has been working to map all contact the man had with other people in hospital, at home, and on the plane returning to Brazil. It has requested the flight manifest to investigate other possible cases.

Lombardy is the epicentre of the outbreak in Italy, and there have been hundreds of confirmed cases there as well as several deaths.

Meanwhile in South Korea, coronavirus cases have jumped again, and the US military confirmed its first case among American soldiers based in the country.

Most of the new cases are connected to the south-eastern city of Daegu, with a growing illness cluster.

South Korea’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said 216 of the 284 new cases were in Daegu, where the government has been mobilising public health services to contain the spread of the outbreak, and in neighbouring towns.

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The US military said the 23-year-old soldier was in self-quarantine at his off-base residence. He had been based in Camp Carroll in a town near Daegu, and visited both Carroll and nearby Camp Walker in recent days.

Virus prevention measures in South Korea
Workers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant at a bus garage in Seoul (AP)

South Korea now has 1,261 confirmed infections of the virus and 11 fatalities from the Covid-19 illness it causes.

The national government has been channelling medical personnel, protective suits and other supplies to Daegu, and there are concerns the local hospitals are being overwhelmed and fatigued doctors are becoming vulnerable to infections.

“This week will be critical in the fight to combat the illness,” Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun said at a meeting in Daegu City Hall to discuss quarantine efforts.

Philippines virus outbreak
A Catholic devotee wears a mask as she has ash sprinkled on her head during Ash Wednesday rites in Manila (AP)

The number of cases were expected to rise as health workers finish testing hundreds of members of the Daegu branch of a church that has the country’s biggest cluster of infections.

The Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which mainstream Christian organisations describe as a cult, provided a list of 212,000 members nationwide to government authorities who plan to widen the screening.

Vice health minister Kim Gang-lip said authorities plan to find and test churchgoers exhibiting symptoms first.

South Korea’s virus patients also include a 25-year-old cabin crew member of Korean Air, the country’s biggest airline, who worked on a flight that departed from Israel and arrived in South Korea on February 16, officials said. The flight also carried a group of tourists, of which 30 have tested positive.

China, by far, still has the most cases and deaths from the illness, though its daily increase in cases has slowed recently.

The outbreak in Italy
MP Maria Teresa Baldini wears a sanitary mask during a session in the Italian parliament (AP)

Chinese officials reported another 406 cases and 52 additional deaths, all of them in hard-hit Hubei province and all but 10 in the epicentre of the city of Wuhan.

China has recorded 2,715 deaths from Covid-19 and 78,064 confirmed cases of the virus on the mainland since the illness emerged in December.

The country has put Wuhan and nearby cities under virtual quarantine for weeks, halting nearly all movement except for disease prevention, health care and supplying necessities.

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