China battles coronavirus outbreak: All the latest updates

Deadly coronavirus believed to have originated in a Wuhan food market continues to spread sparking global concern.

China and countries around the world are scrambling to contain the spread of a new coronavirus that has killed 81 people and infected more than 2,700.

More than 56 million people in almost 20 Chinese cities – including Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province where the virus originated – have been under a strict lockdown, introduced amid fears the transmission rate will balloon as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel during Lunar New Year celebrations.

Health authorities around the globe are taking action to prevent a pandemic as more countries report cases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledged the respiratory illness is an emergency in China but said it was too early to declare the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.

Coronavirus death toll jumps to 81 (2:26)

Here are the latest updates:

Monday, January 27

UK asks those from Wuhan to isolate themselves

Anyone who has returned to Britain from Wuhan in China in the last two weeks should self-isolate and stay indoors, the UK’s health minister said.

As of 14:00 GMT on Monday, Britain had tested 73 people for the Wuhan coronavirus but has not had any confirmed cases.

“We are … asking anyone in the UK who has returned from Wuhan in the last 14 days to self-isolate, to stay indoors and avoid contact with other people,” Matt Hancock said.

“Public Health England officials are continuing to trace people who have arrived in the UK from Wuhan. Having eliminated those who we know have since left the country, there are 1,460 people we’re seeking to locate.”

Beijing city reports first coronavirus death

China’s capital Beijing reported its first death caused by the new coronavirus, state television station CCTV said.

The victim was a 50-year-old man who visited the central city of Wuhan on January 8 and developed a fever after returning to Beijing seven days later, the city’s health commission said.

He went to a hospital on January 21 and died on Monday of respiratory failure, the commission said.

It was not immediately clear if the death was included in the total. All the deaths occurred in China.

Sri Lanka confirms first case of coronavirus

Sri Lanka confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the South Asian island nation.

“A Chinese lady, who is in her 40s, arrived on the 19th as a tourist and fell ill on the 25th and was confirmed as having the coronavirus following a test on Monday,” said Sudath Samaraweera, chief epidemiologist with Sri Lanka’s health ministry.

The woman was suffering from a fever when she was admitted on Saturday to the Infectious Disease Hospital, a state-run facility that treats people suffering from potentially deadly infectious diseases.

US State Department warns against visiting China

The US State Department warned against visiting China and said Americans should not travel to the Hubei province, given the city of Wuhan is ground zero for the deadly coronavirus.

The department already ordered the departure of all non-emergency US personnel and family members from the province and said the “US government has limited ability to provide emergency services” to its citizens there.

It said travellers should be prepared for the Chinese government to put travel restrictions in place “with little or no advance notice”.

Trump: US, China in close contact on outbreak

US President Donald Trump said the United States and China were in close contact over the deadly coronavirus outbreak, which has infected thousands in more than 10 countries and killed at least 81.

“We are in very close communication with China concerning the virus. Very few cases reported in USA, but strongly on watch. We have offered China and President Xi any help that is necessary. Our experts are extraordinary!” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.

Trump offered China “any help that is necessary”.

US stocks follow global markets lower over virus concerns

US stocks tumbled following a sell-off in markets in Europe and Japan after China announced a sharp rise in cases of a deadly new virus that threatens to crimp global economic growth.

Every major US index gave up a significant amount of their gains for January and bond yields moved lower as investors headed for safer holdings. Airlines, resorts and other companies that rely on travel and tourism suffered steep losses. Gold prices rose.

Investors are in a “sell first, ask questions later situation”, said Alec Young, managing director of global markets research at FTSE Russell.

WHO corrects China virus global risk level to ‘high’

The World Health Organization on Monday admitted an error in its assessment of the global risk of a deadly virus in China, saying it was “high” and not “moderate”.

The Geneva-based UN health agency said in a situation report published late Sunday that the risk was “very high in China, high at the regional level and high at the global level.”

In a footnote, the WHO explained it stated “incorrectly” in its previous reports on Thursday, Friday and Saturday that the global risk was “moderate”.

The correction of the global risk assessment does not mean an international health emergency has been declared.

Wuhan mayor willing to resign if it helps contain virus

The mayor of the Chinese city where a deadly virus broke out said he would be willing to resign if it helps the government contain its spread.

Coronavirus outbreak: Lessons from SARS virus help China’s response

Mayor Zhou Xianwang told state broadcaster CCTV both he and Wuhan’s Communist Party secretary are willing to take responsibility for closing off the city, including being removed from office.

As the virus spread through China and overseas, transportation links to the city were cut last week to prevent more people from leaving.

Zhou also responded to allegations that the city was slow to disclose information in the early days of the outbreak, saying local governments are restricted from releasing information about infectious diseases without authorisation.

He told state broadcaster CCTV the city’s management of the crisis was “not good enough” – rare public self-criticism for a Chinese official. 

Canada reports 2nd ‘presumptive’ case

The wife of a man hospitalised in Toronto with a suspected Chinese coronavirus infection has herself contracted the virus, making her Canada’s second “presumptive” case of the contagious disease.

The province of Ontario announced on Saturday that Canada’s first suspected case involved a man in his 50s who had been in Wuhan. He arrived in Toronto on January 22.

His wife, who made the same trip with him, also is believed to have contracted the virus and has been placed in isolation, David Williams, the province’s state medical officer, said in a statement.

Cambodia confirms first case

Cambodia has confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the country, Health Minister Mam Bunheng said.

The patient is a Chinese man who came with his family from the central Chinese city of Wuhan to the coastal city of Sihanoukville earlier this month, he said. 

Mam Bunheng said the patient left Wuhan on January 23 and developed a fever on January 25.
The patient is now stable, he added.

“People who return from Wuhan city, Hubei province of the People’s Republic of China must regularly check their health and if they have fever symptoms, cough, running nose … please hurry to seek medical treatment at public health centres,” he said. 

Taiwan to inspect travellers to enforce mask export ban

Taiwan will inspect people leaving the island to ensure they are not breaking a temporary ban on exporting face masks but people carrying them for personal use will be exempted, Taiwan’s customs administration said in a statement.

“Customs will judge the reasonable number for personal use according to the circumstances of the number of accompanying people, the number of travel days, and the tourist area”.

Last week, Taiwan’s government announced a month-long ban on the export of specialist masks, saying it had to look after the needs of its own people first.

Dutch government evaluating options for Wuhan evacuation: ANP

The Dutch government is evaluating options for evacuating 20 Dutch citizens from Wuhan, press agency ANP reported.

The Dutch foreign ministry has yet to comment.

China’s coronavirus: All you need to know in 500 words

Catch up with the fast-moving story here.

Iraq working to evacuate students from Wuhan: foreign ministry

Iraqi embassy officials in China are working with Chinese authorities to provide services to and evacuate Iraqi students from Wuhan.

“Everyone is awaiting approval for the Iraqis to leave the city,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed al-Sahaf said in a press release.

He added “through continuous monitoring” the embassy had not recorded any case of the virus in the students.

China to build hospital in 6 days to treat coronavirus patients (1:00)

UAE: Impact of virus on oil demand should not be ‘exaggerated’

The United Arab Emirates’ Minister of Energy said the oil market should not overreact to the possible impact of the outbreak on demand.

Suhail al-Mazrouei said he was confident in the ability of China and the international community to bring the current outbreak under control.

Face mask shortage in China boosts sales in Seoul

A shortage of face masks in many Chinese cities has prompted tourists to stock up while abroad.

In the South Korean capital, queues formed outside pharmacies as some of the tens of thousands of Chinese tourists thought to be spending the Lunar New Year holiday in South Korea waited to buy masks.

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Seoul, said “a steady stream of [Chinese] visitors have been snapping up literally armfulls of face masks, filling up the bags and in some instances, the cases that they’re going to be returning to China with at the end of their holiday”. 

Number of infected people likely much higher: HK public health expert

A senior public health expert in Hong Kong said the real number of people infected by the new coronavirus is likely close to 25,000 – significantly higher than the 2,744 cases confirmed by China’s National Health Commission.

Gabriel Leung, the head of the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong told a press briefing that his team’s research indicated that there were likely around 44,000 cases in the incubation stage in Wuhan, adding that the rate of infection will double every six to seven days.

“This is based on computer modeling, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to happen but he said it is a forecast, a sort of worst-case scenario,” Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown, reporting from Hong Kong said.

Germany mulling evacuating citizens from Hubei: German FM

Germany is considering evacuating its citizens from Hubei, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

“We are now also considering a possible evacuation of all Germans who are willing to leave,” Maas told a news conference, adding that a team from the German embassy in Beijing would arrive in Wuhan on Monday to help Germans there.

Maas said Germans should avoid all travel to China that was not absolutely necessary.

WHO chief arrives in Beijing 

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has arrived in Beijing for talks on the outbreak, the health organisation’s office in Beijing confirmed.

He is scheduled to meet representatives of government agencies and other experts who are involved in the crisis management efforts.

Coronavirus timeline

UK offers to help citizens to leave Hubei province

The United Kingdom has offered to help its citizens leave Hubei province, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said.

“We are working to make available an option for British nationals to leave Hubei province,” a statement on the FCO’s China advice page read.

FCO statement on coronavirus

Spain to repatriate its citizens from Wuhan

The Spanish government is working with China and the European Union to repatriate Spanish nationals from Wuhan, Spain’s Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said.

“We’re working … with our consulate in Beijing, and officials in China and the European Union to repatriate around 20 Spaniards in Wuhan, Hubei, the epicentre of the coronavirus. We will continue to update on any advances,” she wrote on Twitter. 

Russia tour operators stop selling China tours

Russian tour operators have stopped selling tours to China due to the coronavirus outbreak and are only bringing Russian tourists back, Dmitry Gorin, vice president of the Association of Russian Tour Operators told Reuters news agency.

“The tours are not being sold because there is a safety threat,” he said, adding that the move followed recommendations from Russia’s tourism watchdog.

Malaysia imposes temporary ban on visitors from Hubei

Malaysia has imposed a temporary ban on Chinese visitors from Wuhan and the wider Hubei province in a bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The government decided to impose the measure with immediate effect following the rising death toll in China, according to a statement from the Malaysian prime minister’s office, which added that the ban would be lifted once the situation returned to normal.

Malaysia has reported four confirmed cases of the deadly virus.

Read more about which countries have confirmed cases here.

Saudi Arabia watching oil market closely amid outbreak

Saudi Arabia‘s energy minister said the country is closely monitoring developments in global oil markets resulting from “gloomy expectations” regarding the possible impact of the coronavirus on the Chinese and global economy, as well as on the oil market’s fundamentals.

OPEC and its allies can respond to any impact on the stability of the oil market if needed, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said.

Read more about the impact of the outbreak on oil prices here.


South Korea confirms fourth case

South Korea has confirmed its fourth case of the virus in a 55-year-old South Korean man who returned from Wuhan on January 20 and tested positive for the virus.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control (KCDC) said the man was placed in quarantine on Sunday and that health authorities are in the process of tracking his movements since returning and the people he may have contacted.

Read more about which countries have confirmed cases here

Mongolia closes China border, shuts schools

Mongolia has closed its border crossing with China to cars and pedestrians and shut schools in an effort to halt the spread of the deadly virus.

“Pedestrians and cars are prohibited to cross the Chinese border,” said Vice Prime Minister Enkhtuvishin Ulziisaikhan said on Sunday, adding that schools and universities would stay closed until March 2, along with other public places.

“Public events are also prohibited. Public events mean conferences, any public gathering such as sports, entertainment or travel and competitions,” he said.

Macau to deny entry to Hubei visitors unless they prove virus-free

Macau has said it will deny entry to visitors from China’s Hubei province or those who visited the province 14 days prior to arrival unless they can provide documentation showing they are not infected.

Macau’s government has also said it is banning anyone who had been to Hubei province within 14 days of arrival in the island from the premises of the city’s casinos.

Five cases have been reported in the gambling hub, which is hugely popular with mainland tourists.

Macau casino
Macau, a gambling hub, is a popular destination for mainland tourists [File: Jason Lee/Reuters]

China allots nearly $9bn to contain spread

China’s finance ministry and National Health Commission have extended the 60.33 billion yuan ($8.74bn) to help contain the spreading virus, according to a statement on the ministry’s website.

Oil prices and Asian shares fall as virus fears stalk financial markets

Oil prices and Asian shares skidded lower as concerns grew over the potential impact of the virus outbreak, with safe-haven assets such as the Japanese yen and US Treasury notes in greater demand.

The price of Brent crude oil fell below $60 per barrel for the first time since October, as Asian stocks fell in line with their Wall Street counterparts.

Read the full story here.

China’s Hainan province announces first coronavirus death

China’s southern province of Hainan has confirmed that an 80-year-old woman died after being infected with the coronavirus, its first fatality in the outbreak, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Australia confirms fifth coronavirus case

Australia has confirmed its fifth case of coronavirus, with health officials saying the patient was a 21-year-old woman who was on the last flight out of Wuhan to Sydney before the travel ban was imposed.

The woman travelled on a direct flight to Sydney from Wuhan and developed symptoms within 24 hours and went to an emergency department, New South Wales Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant told reporters.
“The patient was immediately put into isolation,” Chant said.

Officials were tracing “a couple of very low-level contacts” related to the woman, Chant said.

Read more about which countries have confirmed cases of the virus here.

China virus
China has deployed the military to the sealed-off city of Wuhan as it attempts to stop the deadly virus from spreading [Cheng Min/Xinhua via AP Photo]

WHO chief travelling to Beijing

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is travelling to Beijing to meet government officials and those dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

He said he wants to “understand the latest developments and strengthen our partnership with China in providing further protection against the outbreak.”

Japan to arrange charter flight to evacuate citizens from Wuhan

Japan is expected to arrange a charter flight as early as Tuesday for any of its citizens who wish to return from Wuhan, Kyodo news agency reported, citing a senior ruling party official.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference earlier on Monday the government was working with Chinese authorities to make arrangements for all Japanese nationals wishing to return from Wuhan, including on charter flights.

Chinese premier visits city at epicentre of virus

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has visited Wuhan where he was expected to meet patients as well as frontline medical teams.

Pictured on social media wearing a mask and blue plastic scrubs, Li was in the city to “investigate and guide” ongoing efforts to control the virus, China’s State Council said on its official social media account.

The premier heads a working group that was set up to tackle the outbreak.

Holiday extended to February 2

China will extend the Lunar New Year holidays to February 2, to strengthen the prevention and control of the new coronavirus, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

The holidays had been due to end on January 30.

Schools that are currently on a term break will also extend their holidays, but the specific dates will be announced by the Ministry of Education, CCTV said.

Popular hotpot restaurant closes stores across China

The popular Haidilao chain of hotpot restaurants will close all its outlets across China from January 26 – 31 to contain the spread of the virus.

Chian Haidilao
Haidilao is closing its restaurants across China as the country tries to curb the spread of a new coronavirus that originated in Wuhan [File: Jason Lee/Reuters]

Haidilao has restaurants in 118 cities in mainland China.

Death toll rises to 80 with more than 2,700 infected

China has said that the death toll from a deadly outbreak of coronavirus jumped to 80 as the hard-hit province of Hubei announced 24 new fatalities, while total confirmed cases nationwide rose sharply to 2,744.

Read updates from Sunday, January 26 here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies