China coronavirus outbreak: All the latest updates

The World Health Organization warns against predictions that the outbreak is slowing, as UK confirms first London case.

About 3,600 people are quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship [Charly Triballeau/AFP]
About 3,600 people are quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship [Charly Triballeau/AFP]

The World Health Organization has cautioned it is “way too early” to say whether the new coroanvirus, COVID-19, might have peaked or when it might end, following a drop in the number of new cases.

The warning came shortly before the United Kingdom confirmed the first case of the coronavirus in its bustling capital, London.

The death toll in mainland China continues to climb, with 1,113 deaths and 44,653 infections reported on Wednesday. Most deaths are in Hubei province and its capital city of Wuhan, where the virus originated.

At least 25 countries have confirmed cases and several nations have evacuated their citizens from Hubei. Two deaths have been recorded outside mainland China – one in Hong Kong and one in  the Philippines .

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned the virus poses a “grave threat” to the world, with chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, saying the virus could have “more powerful consequences than any terrorist action”.

Here are the latest updates:

Wednesday, February 12

UK confirms new case, first in London

The UK has confirmed its ninth case of coronavirus, saying the latest patient – the first in London – had caught the virus while in China.

“One further patient in England has tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the total number of cases in the UK to nine,” Christ Whitty, chief medical officer for England said in a statement.

“This virus was passed on in China and the patient has now been transferred to a specialist NHS centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London.”

Read more about which countries have confirmed cases here.

Mobile World Congress cancelled

The Mobile World Congress tech conference has been cancelled after several major companies pulled out over coronavirus fears, the GSMA telecoms association said. 

“With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event,” John Hoffman, the CEO of organiser GSMA, said in a statement.

WHO says ‘way too early’ to predict end of coronavirus

The UN health agency has cautioned it is “way too early” to say whether COVID-19 might have peaked or when it might end, following a drop in the number of new cases.

“I think it’s way too early to predict the beginning, the middle or the end of this epidemic right now,” Michael Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies programme told reporters.

Pope prays for coronavirus victims

Pope Francis has prayed for victims of China’s “cruel” coronavirus.

“A prayer goes out to our Chinese brothers and sisters who are suffering from such a cruel disease,” the pontiff said during his weekly general audience at the Vatican.

“May they find the road to recovery as soon as possible,” he said.

Pope Francis has made reference to the coronavirus several times since the outbreak began [Reuters/Remo Casilli]

Spaniards repatriated from China to be discharged

All 19 Spanish citizens who were repatriated from China on January 31 will be discharged from hospital on Thursday after testing negative for the coronavirus, the government said.

They have been under quarantine in a military hospital in Madrid since being evacuated from Wuhan on a flight arranged in cooperation with the UK.

Air China cancels flights to Greece through March 18

Air China has cancelled all flights to Athens, Greece from February 17 to March 18 as a precaution to stem the coronavirus outbreak, a company official in Greece said.

Air China previously flew to Athens three times a week on Mondays, Wednesday and Saturdays.

Vodafone joins Mobile World Congress exodus

Vodafone, the world’s second largest mobile operator said it was pulling out of Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress because of the coronavirus outbreak, joining an exodus of major Europeans players.

“Vodafone has been carefully monitoring the news on the coronavirus and has noted the recent warnings from the World Health Organization,” the company said.

“After careful consideration, we have decided to withdraw from this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.”

Cambodia to allow cruise ship shunned over virus fears to dock

Cambodia has agreed to let a cruise ship that has been turned away by five countries over fears that someone on board may have the coronavirus dock and disembark its passengers, the Holland America Line said.

For nearly two weeks, the MS Westerdam, a ship of healthy passengers, had been sailing throughout Asia after being turned away by Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Guam and the Philippines.

“We will immediately begin making our way to Sihanoukville in Cambodia,” Westerdam captain Vincent Smit told passengers, according to a recording of the announcement reviewed by Reuters news agency.

Coronavirus: WHO warns of grave risk to poorer countries

OPEC says coronavirus to trim 2020 oil demand

OPEC cut its forecast for global growth in oil demand this year due to the coronavirus outbreak and said its output fell sharply in January as producers implemented a new supply-limiting pact.

In a monthly report, OPEC said 2020 demand for its crude will average 29.30 million barrels per day (bpd) 200,000 bpd less than previously thought.

Chinese president promises aid to industries hit by virus

Chinese President Xi Jinping promised tax cuts and other aid to industries hurt by the virus outbreak in a renewed effort to rein in the rising damage to China’s economy.

Xi’s announcement comes as companies face increasing losses due to the closure of factories, offices, shops and many other businesses in the most sweeping anti-disease measures ever imposed. The measures have disrupted travel and other industries.

Beijing needs to “maintain stable economic operation and social harmony,” Xi said in comments broadcast on state television.

Formula One postpones Chinese Grand Prix

Formula One organisers have postponed the Chinese Grand Prix, scheduled in Shanghai on April 19, because of the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Motorsport federation FIA said, along with Formula One, it had accepted a request from the promoter to postpone the race.

The Chinese Grand Prix was set to be the fourth race of the season [File: Aly Song/Reuters]

A potential alternative date later in the year will be looked at if the health situation improves, a statement said.

The Formula One season opens with the Australian Grand Prix on March 15. The Chinese Grand Prix was the fourth of the season following Australia, Bahrain and an inaugural race in Vietnam.

Coronavirus outbreak ‘just beginning’ outside China: Expert

The coronavirus epidemic may be peaking in China where it was first detected in the central city of Wuhan but it is just beginning in the rest of the world and likely to spread, a global expert on infectious diseases said.

The Chinese government’s senior medical adviser has said the disease is hitting a peak in China and may be over by April. He said he was basing the forecast on mathematical modelling, recent events and government action.

Dale Fisher, chair of the Global Outbreak Alert & Response Network that is coordinated by the World Health Organization, said the predicted “time course” may well occur if the virus is allowed to run free in Wuhan.

“It’s fair to say that’s really what we are seeing,” he told Reuters in an interview. “But it has spread to other places where it’s the beginning of the outbreak. In Singapore, we are at the beginning of the outbreak.”

Uzbekistan sends protective equipment to virus-hit China

Uzbekistan is sending 40 tonnes of protective suits, masks and gloves to virus-hit China, the Central Asian nation’s government said, as a fully loaded military cargo plane departed Tashkent.

The Tashkent cabinet said in a statement it was preparing a second shipment. It did not specify whether the flights were headed for the city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, Beijing, or another location in China.

Coronavirus: What do we know so far? | The Bottom Line (25:15)

Boeing sounds alarm about virus impact on aviation

Boeing issued a stark warning about the impact of the deadly coronavirus outbreak, saying there was “no question” it would hammer the aviation industry and the broader economy.

“You have several global airlines that have limited their traffic in and out of China, that’s revenue,” said Ihssane Mounir, the US plane maker’s senior vice president of commercial global sales and marketing.

“You have business trips not happening, you have cargo not going in and out. It will have an impact on the economy, it will have an impact on revenues, it will have an impact on these carriers … there’s no question about it.”

Singapore’s UOB allocates $2.1bn for companies impacted by coronavirus

Singapore lender United Overseas Bank (UOB) said it has allocated S$3 billion ($2.16bn) to companies in the city-state as relief assistance to help tide them over during the coronavirus outbreak.

“In the face of the likely economic fallout and its impact on industries and businesses, UOB sees the need to help its corporate clients, in particular the SMEs (small-and-medium enterprises), in addressing their near-term liquidity needs,” it said in a statement.

Britain’s Native Antigen Company introduces novel coronavirus antigens

British-based The Native Antigen Company said that it had introduced novel antigens to deal with the coronavirus afflicting China.

“The Native Antigen Company, one of the world’s leading suppliers of reagents that enables research into vaccines and diagnostics for emerging and endemic infectious diseases, today announced the commercial introduction of its Novel Coronavirus antigens, derived from the emerging Wuhan strain,” it said in a statement.

“These recombinant proteins offer scientists high-quality reagents to support ongoing infectious disease research, and the development of diagnostics and vaccines,” added the company.

Iran denies woman died of coronavirus infection

An Iranian woman has died of a suspected coronavirus infection, the state daily newspaper IRAN reported without citing any sources.

The 63-year-old woman died in a Tehran hospital on Monday, the newspaper said, and an investigation has been ordered into the cause of her death.

A spokesman for Iran’s Ministry of Health, Kianush Jahanpour, denied the report: “There have been no cases of coronavirus in Iran.”

Second of two coronavirus patients recovers in Russia

Russia discharged a Chinese national from hospital in the Siberian city of Chita after he recovered from a coronavirus infection, local authorities said.

He was the second of Russia’s two confirmed cases of coronavirus to recover.

The other victim, also a Chinese national, was said by authorities on Tuesday to have recovered and been released from quarantine in Siberia’s Tyumen region.

Singapore bank DBS evacuates 300 staff

Singapore’s biggest bank DBS has evacuated 300 staff from its head office as a precautionary measure following a confirmed coronavirus case at the bank, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters News Agency.

“I regret to inform you that there is one confirmed case of coronavirus at DBS Asia Central on Level 43 today,” Singapore country head, Shee Tse Koon said in the memo.

“As a precautionary measure, all 300 colleagues on Level 43 at MBFC have been evacuated and will work from home for the time being.”

Indonesia criticises Harvard study questioning lack of cases in country

Indonesia has criticised a US study questioning why the country has not recorded any cases of the coronavirus, calling the findings an insult and insisting it was on high alert.

A study by Harvard University public health researchers this week said Indonesia should have reported cases because of its air links to China and the city of Wuhan.

Indonesian Minister of Health Terawan Agus Putranto called the Harvard report “insulting” late on Tuesday and said the country had proper testing equipment.

“They can be baffled but it’s a fact” there are no cases, he told reporters in Jakarta.

“I am just telling you like it is. Hopefully there won’t be any cases and we will keep praying, but we’re being vigilant at the highest level.”

iPhone maker hopes to resume some China production at month-end

Taiwan’s Foxconn, which makes iPhones for Apple and also supplies other tech companies, hopes to resume half of its production in China by the end of the month, a source told Reuters on Wednesday.

It aims to resume 80 percent of production in China in March, the source added.

Legislators urge Southeast Asia to stop using ‘fake news’ laws in virus battle

Southeast Asian legislators have called on regional governments to stop using broadly-worded “fake news” laws against people accused of spreading misinformation about the coronavirus, urging them to invest in health messaging campaigns to educate the public on the outbreak instead.

A number of people in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia face hefty jail terms for sharing misinformation online, while Vietnam has threatened steep fines for those found guilty of sharing “fake news” about the virus.

“Across the region we are seeing a trend of ambiguously-worded laws being used to prosecute citizens,” Teddy Baguilat, a former Philippines parliamentarian who is on the board of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, said in a statement.

Thailand has used its Anti-Fake News Center to identify and charge two people for sharing false information on the virus [File: Patpicha Tanakasempipat/Reuters]

“Laws that rely on vague prohibitions, such as punishing so-called ‘fake news’, excessively restrict the right to freedom of expression and should be abolished.”

Malaysia has abolished its fake news law but is prosecuting a woman for “public mischief” over coronavirus posts under the Penal Code.

Chinese family members allowed on latest virus evacuation flight to South Korea

South Korea on Wednesday welcomed home 147 people, including 67 Chinese nationals, in its third evacuation flight from Wuhan. It was the first time Chinese spouses and immediate family members had been allowed on a Korean flight 

At least one of the passengers was showing symptoms of the virus, officials said.

On Tuesday night, the same aircraft carried 16 Chinese nationals who wished to return to their homes in Hubei province, including at least one woman who had been diagnosed with the virus but recovered, Yonhap news agency reported.

South Korea’s Asiana Airlines asks crews to take unpaid leave

South Korea’s Asiana Airlines has asked members of its cabin crew to take unpaid leave following the suspension of flights to China, a company spokesman said on Wednesday.

Asiana Airlines is currently accepting applications from cabin crew members to take an unpaid voluntary leave of absence between February 15 and 29, the spokesman said.

The airline is also considering accepting applications for unpaid leave in March.

Yonhap news agency reported earlier on Wednesday that 80 percent or more of flights between China and South Korea has been suspended or reduced due to concerns about the virus 

Japan says another 39 on quarantined cruise ship have virus

An additional 39 people on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship anchored off Yokohama have been confirmed to have the coronavirus, Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said on Wednesday.

“Out of 53 new test results, 39 people were found positive,” he told reporters. Some 174 people on the ship. which has 3,711 passengers and crew, now have the infection.

Those who remain on the ship have been asked to stay inside their cabins and are allowed only briefly onto open decks where they have to wear masks and keep a distance from each other.

Separately, one quarantine officer also tested positive, Kato said. 

Read all the updates from Tuesday, February 11 here.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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