China battles coronavirus outbreak: All the latest updates

Death toll from new coronavirus rises to 41 in China, government says, as more countries confirm cases.

China has stepped up its response to new coronavirus outbreak that has killed 42 people and infected at least 1,372 in the mainland, ordering nationwide measures to detect the virus at transport terminals.

Beijing has also expanded travel restrictions, affecting the movement of 56 million people in more than a dozen cities, amid fears that the transmission rate will accelerate as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel for the Lunar New Year.

Health authorities around the world are taking action to prevent a global pandemic as the virus continues to spread, with cases reported in Australia, France, the United States and seven Asia countries besides China.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has acknowledged that the respiratory illness, which has been traced to the city of Wuhan, is an emergency in China but the organisation said it is too early to declare it a global health emergency.

This blog is now closed. Read all the latest updates from Sunday, January 26 here.

Saturday, January 25

Death toll rises to 42

As of 8 PM local time (12:00 GMT) the death toll of the coronavirus in China had risen to 42, authorities reported, with 1,372 confirmed cases in the country. 

Studies: Current transmission rate makes coronavirus difficult to contain

Each person infected with the coronavirus is passing the disease on to between two and three other people on average at current transmission rates, according to two separate scientific analyses of the outbreak.

Whether the outbreak will continue to spread at this rate depends on how effective control measures are, scientists from Imperial College London and Britain’s Lancaster University, who conducted the studies, said. Transmission would have to be halted in at least 60 percent of cases to contain the virus, they said. 

Malaysia records fourth case of coronavirus

Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said the latest case was a 40-year-old man from Wuhan, China, who was part of a tour group that travelled by bus to the southern state of Johor from Singapore on Wednesday.

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The man had suffered from fever the next day and sought treatment at a hospital in Johor. Tests by Malaysia’s Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre confirmed he was suffering from the coronavirus, Noor Hisham said.

Three other cases have been confirmed in Malaysia, all relatives of a 66-year-old man who had been diagnosed with the virus in Singapore.

China’s ride-hailing service Didi to halt inter-city services to and from Beijing 

China’s ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing said it will halt inter-city services to and from the capital Beijing from January 26, amid efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

The virus, first identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has killed 41 and infected nearly 1,400 globally.

Coronavirus patients arrived in France without symptoms

Two of the three people who have been diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus arrived in France without showing symptoms, doctors at a Paris hospital said on Saturday.

On Friday, France confirmed the first three cases of the virus in Europe – all Chinese nationals – with two patients hospitalised in Paris and the other in Bordeaux. The two patients in Paris are a Chinese couple who arrived in France on January 18, but did not show symptoms until January 19 and 23, underlining the limits of screening passengers arriving from China in airports across the world.

A traveller wears a mask after arriving in Canada on a direct flight from China. [File: Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters]

Beijing confirms 1,372 cases of coronavirus

There are 1,372 confirmed cases of coronavirus in China as of 6pm local time (10:00 GMT), CCTV, the state broadcaster, reported 

Beijing to suspend domestic, overseas Chinese group tours

China will suspend domestic and overseas Chinese group tours, state media reported on Saturday, as the government ramps up efforts to contain the coronavirus.

Starting on Monday, all overseas group tour services, including hotel and plane ticket bookings, from Chinese travel agencies will be suspended, according to CCTV. Domestic tour groups were suspended from Friday, it said.

EU to hold meeting on Monday to discuss outbreak

European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides called a meeting of European Union state health representatives on Monday to discuss response options to the spread of the new coronavirus.

“We stand ready to act and step up our response if needed,” she tweeted, adding that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is “in the process of updating its risk assessment”.

French citizens to be bused of out Wuhan: Report

French officials are planning to evacuate French citizens from Wuhan to travel by bus to Changsha, a city in neighbouring Hunan province, according to the South China Morning Post.

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“The consulate general, in collaboration with local authorities, plans to set up a bus service to allow French nationals … and their Chinese and foreign spouses and children to travel from Wuhan to Changsha,” said an email seen by the newspaper.

The email, sent by the French consulate, also asked anyone who received it to pass the notice on to other French nationals. It was not clear who received the email or when the planned evacuation would take place.

Beijing to halt all interprovincial shuttle buses from January 26

China’s capital city, Beijing, will stop all interprovincial shuttle buses from January 26 in an attempt to curb the coronavirus outbreak, local media reported.

The reports did not say when bus services will be resumed.

Analysis: HK declares ’emergency’ but what does it mean?

Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown, reporting from Hong Kong, breaks down the significance of Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s announcement that the outbreak of the new coronavirus is now an “emergency” for Hong Kong.

Some KFC, Pizza Hut stores in Wuhan close

Yum China Holdings Inc has said it has temporarily closed some of its KFC and Pizza Hut branches in Wuhan in response to the outbreak.

“We will continue to evaluate the need for additional actions and preventive health measures,” Yum China said in an emailed statement. 

US to evacuate all citizens from Wuhan: WSJ

The United States is arranging a charter flight on Sunday to bring its citizens and diplomats back from Wuhan, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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The plane, with about 230 people, will carry diplomats from the US consulate as well as US citizens and their families, the newspaper reported, citing a person familiar with the operation.

Washington was given approval for the operation from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government agencies following negotiations in recent days, the paper said, adding that the US also plans to temporarily close its Wuhan consulate.

Chinese president holds Politburo meeting 

China’s President Xi Jinping has held a politburo meeting on measures to fight the outbreak of the coronavirus, state television reported.

The Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China is a group of 25 people who oversee the party. 

Xi reportedly described the outbreak as a ‘grave situation’ [File: Jason Lee/Reuters]

“Faced with the grave situation of an accelerating spread of the new coronavirus… it is necessary to strengthen the centralised and unified leadership of the Party Central Committee,” Xi told the meeting, according to state news agency Xinhua.

The report said resources and experts will be concentrated at designated hospitals for treatment of severe cases, with no treatment delayed due to cost, and supplies of materials to Hubei and Wuhan to be guaranteed.

“As long as we have steadfast confidence, work together, scientific prevention and cures, and precise policies, we will definitely be able to win the battle,” Xi told a meeting, according the Xinhua.

Daily life in Wuhan at a standstill: Resident 

Matt McCoy, a US citizen and resident in Wuhan has told Al Jazeera that daily life in the city has come to a halt.

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“Everybody only goes outside to go to the market to get their food then they go back inside. Everybody wears a mask, everybody stays clean and everybody’s watching everything. The streets are empty,” he said.

“There’s not a sense of panic, there’s just a sense of unease and everybody wants to see this through,” McCoy said. 

Window of opportunity for containment closing: Expert

One of Hong Kong’s leading microbiologists has said the window of opportunity for containing the new coronavirus is closing.

The scientist – who was at the forefront of efforts to contain the 2003 SARS outbreak – told Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown in Hong Kong that the virus has an attack rate of 83 percent and urged everyone going out in public in the semi-autonomous territory to wear a face mask.

“He says the next few days are going to be absolutely crucial. He says the window of opportunity to try and contain this is getting smaller and smaller,” Brown relayed.

Doubts over effectiveness of Hong Kong measures

Hong Kong introduced a heap of measures to combat the spread of the new coronavirus but doubts are being raised over their efficacy.

Under the measures, announced by Chief Executive Carrie Lam earlier on Saturday, all visitors coming from mainland China will be required to complete public health declarations.

“People providing false information will be fined up to $650,” Al Jazeera’s Brown, reporting from Hong Kong said.

“Of course, for this to work, it’s going to have to rely on the honesty of people filling in those forms to really state where they’ve been in China, especially if they’ve been in Wuhan.”

Muted mood in Beijing over Lunar New Year

Metro carriages are being disinfected every hour in the Chinese capital in an attempt to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

The Forbidden City is one of many tourist attractions now closed to prevent the spread of the disease [Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]

Cinemas and tourist attractions including the Forbidden City and a section of the Great Wall have been closed.

Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler, reporting from Beijing, said parks – usually packed with people celebrating the Lunar New Year – were nearly empty amid concerns over transmission. 

Hubei province to ensure medium-to-long term materials reserves: Local paper

Hubei province will ensure supplies of emergency materials and medium-to-long terms reserves, a government-backed newspaper reported, citing a provincial party leader. 

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Wuhan to build second designated hospital: State media

Wuhan city will build a second dedicated hospital to treat patients of the new coronavirus, the People’s Daily reported.

Construction of the hospital, designed to have 1,300 beds, is scheduled to be completed in half a month.

Work has begun on the first dedicated hospital and is due to be finished by February 3.

Hong Kong declares outbreak an ’emergency’

Hong Kong’s leader declared the outbreak as an “emergency” – the city’s highest warning tier – as authorities ramped up measures aimed at reducing the risk of further infections spreading.

Carrie Lam made the announcement at a press conference, adding that all official celebrations of the Lunar New Year would be cancelled.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam raised the warning to its highest tier [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

Al Jazeera’s Brown, reporting from Hong Kong, said four task forces were being set up in the semi-autonomous territory to work to contain the crisis and that all visitors from mainland China would have to sign health declaration forms.

“A lot of people are saying this is what she [Lam] should have done several weeks ago when the scale of this crisis started to become apparent,” Brown said, adding that the New Year holidays would be extended until February 17.

China’s Sanya city closes all tourist sites

China’s Sanya city in the southern island province of Hainan has closed all tourist sites in the city to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, the city government said.

Sanya is one of the favourite tourist destinations during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, which lasts until January 30.

Earlier on Saturday, Hainan capital Haikou city said it would start a 14-day centralised medical observation for tourists from Hubei province. 

Australia confirms three more cases

Australia confirmed three more cases of the new coronavirus, bringing the total in the country to four.

New South Wales State Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant told a news conference that three men who had recently returned to Sydney from China have tested positive for the virus and were in isolation in local hospitals.

Earlier on Saturday, a man in Melbourne was confirmed as Australia’s first case. He is also being treated in isolation. 

Find the full list of countries with confirmed cases here.

Wuhan city to ban non-essential vehicles in centre 

The government of Wuhan city said it would ban non-essential vehicles in the centre from January 26 to contain the new coronavirus outbreak, China’s largest newspaper, the People’s Daily, said.

Medical supplies dwindling in Wuhan: Provincial official

The new coronavirus outbreak remains severe and medical supplies are very tight in Wuhan city, an official from Hubei province said.

The official appealed for more medical supplies, such as masks and protective suits, from both domestic and overseas providers. 

 

As of January 24, Hubei has received public donations of more than 1.2 million masks and 30 million yuan ($4.35m), the official said.

On Friday, a video purportedly filmed in Wuhan’s Red Cross Hospital appeared to show dead bodies covered with sheets lying in a corridor as health professionals attempted to treat large numbers of people lining the corridor.

Japan confirms third case

Japan confirmed a third case of infection by the new coronavirus, the health ministry said.

The latest case was confirmed in a woman in her 30s who lives in Wuhan. She arrived in Japan on January 18, the ministry said.

Find the full list of countries with confirmed cases here.

Qatar begins screening passengers at major airport

All travellers coming from China are screened for the new coronavirus at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, a statement from the country’s health ministry said. 

Thermal scanning and a makeshift clinic have been set up at the major transport hub, which almost three million people pass through each month, along with information boards.

More than three million passengers pass through Doha’s Hamad International Airport each month

A message posted on the airport’s website assured passengers that Qatari health authorities are “in close contact” with the WHO and following guidelines.

China orders nationwide detection measures on flights, trains, buses

China ordered nationwide measures to identify and immediately isolate suspected cases of the new coronavirus on trains, aeroplanes and buses. 

Inspection stations will be set up and passengers with suspected pneumonia must be “immediately transported” to a medical centre, the National Health Commission said in a statement.

The isolation of suspected cases must be followed by disinfection of the train, plane or bus.

The measures apply across all transportation routes as well as customs and border inspections, said the order, which applies across all provinces and regions.

China locks down more cities, restricting movement of 56 million people

Five more Chinese cities announced travel restrictions to help contain the spread of the new coronavirus, limiting the movement of 56 million people.

The rules include closing public transport links and access to highways in cities, authorities said.

More than a dozen cities have introduced restrictions, including cancelling Lunar New Year events and closing public spaces. 

Doctor at hospital in China’s Hubei province dies from coronavirus – state media 

A doctor at a hospital in China’s Hubei province died from the virus, China Global Television Network reported in a social media post.

Liang Wudong, a doctor at Hubei Xinhua Hospital who had been at the front line of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan city, died from the virus aged 62, it said.

It is unclear if his death is counted as among the 41 confirmed fatalities as of Saturday.

Malaysia confirms three cases of coronavirus infection 

Malaysia‘s health ministry announced that three people have been infected with the new coronavirus.

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said the three individuals infected were Chinese nationals and related to a 66-year-old man who was confirmed by Singapore health authorities to have tested positive for the virus.

Malaysian health officers were deployed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on Tuesday, as authorities increased measure against coronavirus [Mohd Rasfan/AFP]

The infected individuals were a 65-year-old woman, who is the wife of the man detected with the virus in Singapore, and their two grandsons, aged 11 and two, Dzulkefly said. 

The three have been admitted to Sungai Buloh hospital in Kuala Lumpur for treatment and were considered to be in stable conditions.

Find the full list of countries with confirmed cases here.

China deploys 450 military medical staff to Wuhan

China deployed 450 military medical staff to Wuhan, according to state media.

The medics who arrived on military aircraft late on Friday, include doctors with experience combating SARS or Ebola and will be dispatched to hospitals that are reportedly short on beds due to a crush of infected patients and worried locals. 

Starbucks shuts shops, suspends delivery in China’s Hubei 

Starbucks closed all shops and suspended delivery services in China’s Hubei province for the week-long Lunar New Year holiday.

Starbucks said on Saturday that the move was prompted by “health concerns” for its customers and employees, according to a post on China’s social media site Weibo.

Shanghai shuts down all cinemas during Lunar New Year: report 

Shanghai shut down all cinemas during the Lunar New Year holidays, which last until January 30, the Liberation Daily said on its online channel.

The viral outbreak already prompted seven Chinese films that were set to premiere during the country’s Lunar New Year holiday to postpone screenings, forgoing what is usually the best week of the year at the Chinese box office.

Australia’s first coronavirus case confirmed in Victoria 

Australian authorities confirmed the country’s first case of a new virus as thousands of people worldwide are treated for the deadly infection.

In a news conference in Melbourne, Victoria’s state Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said a Chinese man aged in his 50s who last week returned from China had contracted the newly identified coronavirus.

Find the full list of countries with confirmed cases here.

China’s city of Haikou to start centralised observation for all tourists from Hubei 

The Chinese government announced on Saturday that the southern city of Haikou will begin a 14-day centralised medical observation for all tourists from Hubei province, the centre of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

The government said that the order will start at noon, local time, on Saturday, January 25.

Earlier on Saturday, Beijing announced that the death toll from the outbreak had reached 41, with confirmed cases increasing to 1,287.

Read updates from Friday, January 24 here.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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