China coronavirus outbreak: All the latest updates

Hong Kong shuts border crossings with mainland China, as more countries impose travel restrictions amid rising toll.

Protective measures have been stepped up in China to try to curb the spread of the virus [China Daily/Reuters]
Protective measures have been stepped up in China to try to curb the spread of the virus [China Daily/Reuters]

The death toll in China from the deadly coronavirus outbreak that originated in the central city of Wuhan, rose to at least 361 on Monday, as the Philippines became the first country outside China to confirm a death from the infection.

The National Health Commission said there were 57 new fatalities on Sunday, all but one of them in Hubei, which has been effectively sealed off from the rest of the country for more than a week.

The total number of people infected with the virus rose to 17,205 across the country, after 2,829 new cases were reported.

Other countries have rushed to evacuate their citizens from Hubei province and its capital city, Wuhan, while many have also imposed extraordinary travel restrictions on travellers to and from China.

About 150 cases have been reported in two dozen other countries.

Here are the latest updates:

Monday, February 3

US defends ‘aggressive’ coronavirus measure

The United States said a ban on travellers from China meant to contain the coronavirus outbreak was based on the best science, adding there would be more evacuations of Americans.

It came as the number of confirmed US cases rose to 11, including the second confirmed person-to-person transmission inside the country, this one involving a patient in California.

China has accused the US of spreading “panic” by banning the entry of foreign nationals who had travelled to the country over the past two weeks and announcing quarantine measures for US citizens.

Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, defended the “aggressive” measure.

She said: “We have the opportunity to slow it down before it gets into the United States.”

Shanghai stocks plunge on coronavirus fears 

Chinese equities plunged almost 8 percent as nervous traders returned from their extended Lunar New Year break, hit by fears that the coronavirus could hammer the country’s economy.

The steep losses led another selloff across Asia following a painful week for global markets.

Hugo Boss temporarily closing some stores in China 

German fashion house Hugo Boss is temporarily closing some of its stores in China due to the coronavirus outbreak, a spokeswoman said, adding that stores that were still open had reduced their trading hours.

She did not give details about the length of the closures. She said it was too early to comment on the economic impact.

Duterte calls on citizens to stop stirring anti-Chinese xenophobia

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte urged his citizens to stop stirring up anti-Chinese xenophobia related to the outbreak of a coronavirus.

“China has been kind to us, we can only also show the same favour to them. Stop this xenophobia thing,” Duterte said at a news conference after meeting with agencies on the coronavirus, which claimed its first fatality in the Philippines on Saturday.

In the Philippine capital, Adamson University asked all of its Chinese students to observe a 14-day self-quarantine as a precaution.

Criticism of that decision led the university to extend the quarantine to all students and staff who had travelled to areas where the virus was prevalent.

Duterte: “China has been kind to us, we can only also show the same favour to them.” [Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters]

Lufthansa extends China flight ban

Germany’s flagship carrier Lufthansa said it was suspending all flights to and from mainland China for longer than initially announced.

The Lufthansa group last week said it was halting its China flights until February 9, including those run by subsidiaries Swiss and Austrian Airlines.

In an updated statement, the group said it was now halting flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai until February 29.

The group says flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai will be halted until February 28 [Ralph Orlowski/Reuters]

Number of confirmed cases increases

The World Health Organization director-general announced that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased to 17,238.  

China says good communication with Taiwan on coronavirus 

China told the World Health Organization (WHO) it had shared full information on the novel coronavirus with authorities in Taiwan, where there have been 10 confirmed cases, and that channels of communication across the straits were “unblocked”.

The Beijing government is sincere in resolving Taiwan’s concerns on the virus and “measures taken are positive”, China’s delegate Li Song told the WHO’s executive board in Geneva.

But Li denounced what he called Taiwan’s authorities’ “lies and excuses” related to its inability to attend WHO meetings, where the island regarded by Beijing as a renegade province is represented by the mainland – under WHO rules.

Earlier, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that China was using “the right strategy” to combat the virus, but did not refer to the Taiwan controversy. “It is time (for the world) to prepare based on the opportunity created now, which is low spread or slow spread” abroad,” Tedros said. 

Scientists say virus may have come from bats

Chinese scientists said they had more evidence that the new coronavirus that recently emerged in China likely originated in bats.

In two papers published in the journal Nature, scientists reported that genome sequences from several patients in Wuhan show the virus is closely related to the viruses that cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.

In one study, Shi Zhen-Li and colleagues at the Wuhan Institute of Virology reported that genome sequences from seven patients were 96 percent identical to a bat coronavirus.

Saudi Arabia mulls large oil cuts: WSJ

Saudi Arabia is looking to cut short-term oil production in response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China, the world’s largest oil importer, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing OPEC officials.

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A meeting of representatives of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the measures, the US newspaper said.

Two OPEC sources also told Reuters news agency that the cartel was considering cutting their oil output by a further 500,000 barrels per day due to the impact on oil demand from the coronavirus.   

WHO combats virus misinformation

The World Health Organization said it was working around the clock with internet and social media giants to combat widespread misinformation surrounding the deadly novel coronavirus outbreak.

“We have worked with Google to make sure people searching for information about coronavirus see WHO information at the top of their search results,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in his opening remarks to the UN health agency’s executive board meeting in Geneva.

“Social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Tencent and TikTok have also taken steps to limit the spread of misinformation,” he added. 

Read more about the myths around the outbreak. 

 

Cruise ships to ban recent China visitors: Global body

Cruise lines worldwide will deny boarding to passengers and crew who have recently travelled to China, a global industry body said.

In a statement, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said its members were taking extra precautions to prevent an outbreak of the virus on board cruise ships, where infections can spread rapidly.

“CLIA Members have suspended crew movements from mainland China and will deny boarding to any individual, whether guest or crew, who has travelled from or through mainland China within the previous 14 days,” the body’s Hamburg office said.

Chinese officials dismissed over disabled teen’s death

Chinese authorities removed two officials in Hubei province over the death of a cerebral palsy patient whose father and sole caretaker was taken into quarantine.

“The local government was not practical and realistic when carrying out work and failed to perform its duty,” the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said in a statement.

Yan Cheng, 16, was found dead on Wednesday, a week after his father, was put into quarantine for the virus.

Hong Kong suspends 10 border crossings with China

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced the suspension of 10 border crossings of 13 with mainland China in a bid to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, stopping short of calls for the entire border to be closed.

Lam had already closed some border operations, including cross-border ferries and high-speed rail services to the mainland.

She has said that closing the entire border would be “inappropriate and impractical” as well as “discriminatory”.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam arrives at a news conference at the Central Government Complex on February 3, 2020 in Hong Kong, China. [Anthony Kwan/Getty Images]

Emirates to continue flying to China 

The UAE’s long-haul carrier Emirates says it will continue flying to mainland China amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, but will fly smaller aircraft on many routes.

The airline said it would swap out its double-decker Airbus A380 for a Boeing 777 on several routes to Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.

The United Arab Emirates also instituted a new rule that any school staff or student returning to the country from China needed to spend 14 days at home before returning to class.

G7 health ministers to discuss coronavirus

Health ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) industrialised nations will discuss the new coronavirus in a teleconference call on Monday, the Italian health ministry said.

The G7 call is scheduled for 1400 GMT, the health ministry said. The G7 comprises of the United States, Canada, France, Britain, Germany, Japan and Italy. 

Russia may deport foreigners with virus: PM

Russia plans to deport foreigners diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said, as the government postponed an investment forum over the deadly infection.

“Now it’s been added to the list of especially dangerous illnesses. That will allow us to deport foreign citizens if they are diagnosed with such an illness,” Mishustin said at a televised government meeting.

He also said that an annual investment forum in Sochi that was due to take place in mid-February would be postponed.

“First and foremost we have to think about the safety and health of our citizens (and) forum participants,” Mishustin added.

Czech Republic bans direct flights to China

The Czech government banned direct flights between the Czech Republic and China due to the new coronavirus outbreak, effective on February 9, a government spokeswoman said.

Pakistani students return from China

Some 97 Pakistanis, including 40 students, arrived in the capital, Islamabad, following the resumption of flight operations to China, officials said.

Two flights of Qatar Airways and China Southern Airlines, landed at Islamabad airport a couple of hours apart on Monday morning, Zafar Mirza, the prime minister’s health affairs adviser confirmed on Twitter.

China says US spreading ‘fear’ after virus outbreak 

China accused the United States of spreading “fear” in its response to the deadly coronavirus, and not providing “any substantial assistance”. 

The US was the first nation to suggest partial withdrawal of its embassy staff, and the first to impose a travel ban on Chinese travellers, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a news briefing. 

“All it has done could only create and spread fear, which is a bad example,” Hua told reporters, adding that China hoped countries would make judgements and responses that were reasonable, calm and based on science.

“What China urgently needs at present are medical masks, protective suits and safety goggles,” she said.

China opens new coronavirus hospital

Hong Kong medics strike for China border closure

Hundreds of Hong Kong medical workers walked off their jobs, demanding the city close its border with China to reduce the coronavirus spreading, with frontline staff threatening to follow suit in the coming days.

The financial hub has 15 confirmed cases of the disease, many of them brought over from the Chinese mainland.

Medical workers strike near Queen Mary Hospital to demand the government shut the city’s border with China to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in Hong Kong, China [Anthony Kwan/Getty Images]

Russia to start evacuating citizens from Wuhan

Russia’s aerospace defence forces, part of the armed forces, will start evacuating Russian citizens from Wuhan and Hubei.

There are more than 600 Russians there, Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova has said.

Moscow has already restricted direct flights to China and the Russian Railways suspended passenger trains to the country from midnight.

US plans more flights to evacuate citizens from Hubei: Pompeo

The United States is planning “a handful more flights” to bring back US citizens from China’s Hubei province hit by the outbreak of a new coronavirus, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

“We might be bringing citizens home from other countries as well,” he told a briefing during a visit to Uzbekistan. “In addition, we might bring in some medical supplies.”

Maldives bans China travellers over virus fears, minister says

The Maldives has banned travellers arriving from China as a precautionary measure to combat the spread of coronavirus, Ali Waheed, the tourism minister for the Indian Ocean islands, said on Monday.

More than 280,000 Chinese tourists visited the luxury holiday destination in 2019, according to government data, making them the largest group of visitors from any country.

More hospital beds for coronavirus patients in Wuhan

China has designated 27 hospitals in Wuhan for the treatment of coronavirus, the state-run newspaper Global Times reported on Monday.

Previously, people who suspected they were ill with the infection could go to only seven hospitals, causing long queues and days-long waits for treatment.

It is also building two giant field hospitals with the first of them due to go into operation on Monday.

“This is a hospital we’ve been talking about the last week or so, which has been built in 10 days,” said Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler, who is in Beijing. “It will be staffed by about 1,400 army medical people, workers, personal, doctors, nurses.”

Australia evacuates citizens from Wuhan to offshore quarantine

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said 243 citizens and permanent residents were evacuated from Wuhan on Monday on a government-chartered aircraft to Christmas Island, a remote Australian territory just south of the Indonesian island of Java.

They will be kept in quarantine at a detention centre on the island that Australia has previously used to hold asylum seekers.

“We have prioritised vulnerable and isolated Australians which is reflected in the fact that 89 of the Australians on the flight are under 16 and five are under two,” Payne told reporters in Canberra.

All passengers and crew were being given masks and hand sanitiser and the crew were being told to remain on the upper deck of the plane except for when needed to man the doors.

The aircraft has medical-grade air filters, which eliminate 99 percent of particles, including viruses, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said.

“It’s a lot safer, a lot cleaner than being in a restaurant, in an office,” he said.

Vietnam confirms three more cases of coronavirus

Vietnam’s health ministry confirmed an additional three cases of the coronavirus on Monday, bringing the country’s total to eight.

The latest patients were on the same flight from Wuhan to Vietnam as those who were diagnosed on January 30.

Vietnam has declared a public health emergency over the outbreak and halted all flights to and from mainland China.

Vietnam confrimed three new cases of the coronavirus on Monday [Luong Thai Linh/EPA]

The government has also advised citizens to limit large gatherings.

Canada plans to airlift citizens from Wuhan via Hanoi

Canada said on Monday it planned to evacuate citizens from Wuhan via Vietnam and that a chartered aircraft was on the ground in Hanoi awaiting clearance from authorities in China.

Canada said all passengers would be screened before boarding and monitored throughout the flight to Trenton in Ontario, where they, the crew and diplomatic and military officials on the flight would remain in quarantine for 14 days.

“We have been working with all levels of government, public health officials and our international partners to ensure the safe return home of Canadians from Hubei Province, including staff and the flight crew,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in a statement. “Our plan is focused on ensuring the health and safety of all Canadians.”

New coronavirus a ‘stress test’ for countries

Dr Ali Khan, the Dean at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health, told Al Jazeera the outbreak was a significant test of the world’s public health systems.

“What we have available to us is good public health measures,” Dr Khan said.

“That means identifying those that are sick, getting them into the correct hospitals and making sure we do good contact tracing. This new coronavirus is a stress test of emergency preparedness of public health capabilities in countries worldwide.”

Stock and commodity markets plunge in China

Chinese stock and commodity markets fell heavily at the start of trading on Monday, the first session after an extended Lunar New Year break, as investors dumped risky assets in response to rising fears about the spread of the coronavirus.

The Shanghai Composite index opened down 8 percent at its lowest level since February 2019. If the losses are sustained, it would be the biggest daily drop since 2015.

Read more here.

China completes new hospital for virus patients

China completed building a 1,000-bed hospital for treating patients of the new coronavirus in just 10 days.

A second hospital with 1,500 beds is under construction.

A corridor between patient rooms at the Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan. The field facility was built in just 10 days [Shepherd Zhou/EPA]

British drugmaker GSK to collaborate with CEPI in coronavirus vaccine effort

British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline is collaborating with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) towards developing a vaccine for the coronavirus outbreak, according to a statement from GSK and CEPI.

GSK will make its “adjuvant platform technology” available for developing a vaccine against the virus.

The use of adjuvant allows for the production of more vaccine doses.

GSK will work with researchers funded by the CEPI with the first agreement signed with Australia’s University of Queensland, the statement added.

There is currently no vaccine available against the coronavirus but several organisations including CEPI, a public-private body based in Norway are working on developing one.

France’s Pasteur Institute foundation said on Friday it had set up a taskforce aimed at developing a vaccine against the virus in 20 months, while Germany’s research minister said she expected a vaccine to be developed within “a few months”.

China stocks brace for virus hit as markets open after extended holiday

China’s stock markets are expected to fall on Monday when they reopen after the Lunar New Year holiday that was extended because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Markets in the world’s second-biggest economy have been closed since January 24, and reopen in Shanghai at 9.30am (01:30 GMT).

The government has been marshalling its forces to contain the economic fallout.

The central bank said on Sunday it would pump 1.2 trillion yuan ($173bn) into the economy. The day before it said it would step up monetary and credit support for businesses helping the fight against the virus, such as medical companies.

“Investors will release their emotions at first and then make further decisions based on the epidemic situation and the potential stimulus measures rolled out by the government,” said Zhang Qi, an analyst with Haitong Securities.

Read updates from Sunday, February 2 here.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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