China coronavirus death toll surges: All the latest updates

More airlines suspend flights to and from China, as countries evacuate their citizens from virus-hit Hubei province.

Wuhan, China

The death toll from China’s coronavirus outbreak has surpassed 250, the government said on Saturday, as foreign nations tightened restrictions on travellers from China in response to the rapid spread of the illness.

At least 259 people have died and 11,791 people have been infected in China by the new coronavirus, according to new figures from China’s health officials, with thousands more suspected of having the virus, according to Chinese state media.


Most of the latest fatalities are from Hubei province, the capital of which – Wuhan – is the epicentre of the outbreak, but cases of infection have been reported in with more than 20 countries around the world.

Here are the latest updates:

Saturday, February 1

Israel widens China travel ban

Israel’s Interior Ministry said it was broadening border restrictions to bar entry to anyone – except Israeli citizens – who has visited China in the past two weeks.

The ban covers air and sea ports as well as land crossings from neighbouring Jordan and Egypt.

Israelis who have been to China have been told to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms.

China: Covering the coronavirus contagion

Al Jazeera’s media analysis programme The Listening Post takes a deep dive into how organisations have covered the coronavirus outbreak – a PR nightmare for China. 

Read more here and watch the full episode below.

The Listening Post

Russia suspends visa-free tourist travel to and from China

Russia will suspend all visa-free travel for tourists to and from China to help contain the outbreak.

A bilateral visa-free regime for tourist groups agreed in 2000 will be suspended from February 2, a government decree said. 

Russia will also temporarily stop accepting and issuing documents for work visas to Chinese nationals. 

Germany confirms new case

Germany has confirmed its eighth case of coronavirus, the Bavarian Ministry of Health said in a statement

The patient is a 33-year-old man who lives in Munich and is an employee of a company where six of the people with previously confirmed cases work.

The other infected person is a child of one of the employees.

Read more about which countries have confirmed cases here.

Pentagon to provide housing support for quarantined citizens

The Pentagon has approved a request from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for assistance for housing support for 1,000 people who may need to be quarantined after arriving in the US from abroad.

In a statement, the Pentagon said that HHS has asked it to provide several facilities capable of “housing at least 250 people in individual rooms” until February 29.

The statement added that four military installations had been selected in case they were required: two in California, one in Colorado and one in Texas.

Cargo plane with 42 evacuees arrives in Turkey from Wuhan: Local media

A cargo plane has arrived in the Turkish capital, Ankara, from Wuhan, Turkish media reported.

The plane reportedly had Turkish and Georgian citizens on board, along with one Albanian.

Will evacuating foreigners from Wuhan hasten the spread of the virus?

United States confirms new case

The United States has confirmed its eighth case, the first in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) said the patient was a man who had recently traveled to Wuhan. He had been isolated since returning to the US and will continue to remain isolated, the DPH said in a statement on its website.

Cases have been previously confirmed in the US states of California, Illinois, Arizona and Washington.

Read more about which countries have confirmed cases here.

UAE confirms new case

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has confirmed its fifth case in a Chinese national who came from Wuhan, the Ministry of Health and Community Protection said in a statement posted on Twitter.

His condition is stable and he is under observation, the statement said.

Read more about which countries have confirmed cases here.

German health minister calls for calm as Wuhan evacuees return

Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn warned against hysteria and hostility towards those in quarantine as more than 100 Germans return from Wuhan. 

“I am most concerned about conspiracy theories of all sorts and that circulate in the social media, which only have one goal, to spread uncertainty,” he said. 

Spahn added that none of those on board had any shown symptoms of the virus. 

Delta speeds up suspension of China flights

Delta Air Lines said it will accelerate the suspension of flights in and out of China from the United States after the White House said it was imposing new restrictions on visitors starting on Sunday.

Delta had planned to end all flights by February 6.

The last China-bound flights will now leave on Saturday, February 1, and the last returning flights from China will depart China on Sunday.

Coronavirus: How can people protect themselves?

Evacuees arrive in Germany

A plan carrying 102 German citizens and 26 foreign nationals evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, landed at Frankfurt Airport in Germany, AFP reported.

The passengers will be examined at a specially-equipped facility at the airport before being quarantined for two weeks at a military base in Germersheim, near Stuttgart. 

None of the people on board appear to have any symptoms of the virus.

HK doctors and nurses vote to close China border

Members of a newly-formed public hospitals union have voted overwhelmingly in favour of closing Hong Kong’s borders with mainland China. 

More than 3,000 nurses and doctors registered with the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance voted to strike next week to pressure the Hong Kong government to close the eight remaining open border points. Ten members voted against the strike while 25 marked their ballots as undecided.

A registered nurse named Ada who voted said she felt “disappointed in the government” for ignoring the advice of local health experts and refusing to close Hong Kong’s borders.

‘Utter chaos’: Coronavirus exposes China healthcare weaknesses

Hubei extends holiday break to Feb 13

China’s Hubei provincial government has extended the Lunar New Year holiday break to February 13, as it seeks to curb the coronavirus outbreak, the Hubei Daily newspaper reported on Saturday. 

Russia to begin evacuating citizens from China 

Russia’s aerospace defence forces, part of the armed forces, will start evacuating Russian citizens on Saturday from China due to the coronavirus outbreak, news agencies reported, citing the Kremlin spokesman.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the evacuation would take place in regions that had been most affected by the outbreak, Interfax and TASS news agencies reported.

Qatar Airways suspends flights to China

Qatar Airways will suspend flights to mainland China from Monday until further notice, the national carrier said.

In a statement it said it was encountering “significant operational challenges caused by entry restrictions imposed by several countries,” following the coronavirus outbreak in China.

North Korea’s Kim offers condolences to China’s Xi

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping offering condolences about the coronavirus outbreak in China, North Korean state news agency KCNA reported.

Kim “expressed the conviction that the party, government and people of China would surely emerge victorious in the campaign to combat the disease” under Xi’s guidance, KCNA said.

Uzbekistan to suspend flights to and from China

The government of Uzbekistan instructed the state airline to suspend flights to and from China over the coronavirus epidemic, the cabinet said. 

Charter flights will bring back Uzbek citizens if they wish to return, except from Wuhan, it said

Indonesia prepares to evacuate students

Turkmenistan airline suspends Beijing flights

Turkmenistan Airlines, the Central Asian nation’s state carrier, suspended flights to and from Beijing, the company said. 

The move was aimed at preventing the spread of the 2019-nCoV virus which has prompted many other nations to suspend travel links with China, the company said in a statement. 

Iran bans flights to and from China

Iran banned flights to and from China due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus, Minister of Health and Medical Education Saeed Namaki was quoted by Iranian media as saying.

Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri stressed the measure would only be temporary.

So far, there have been no confirmed cases of the deadly virus in Iran.

A foreign traveller wearing a mask walks past a departures information board at Beijing International Airport in Beijing
A foreign traveller wearing a mask walks past a departures information board at Beijing International Airport [Jason Lee/Reuters]

Vietnam suspends all China flights 

Vietnam has declared a public health emergency over the coronavirus epidemic and said it would stop all flights to and from China. 

The government said it would also stop issuing visas for foreign visitors who had been in China in the past two weeks.

Vietnam Airlines, the country’s national carrier, and budget airline Jetstar Pacific said they would stop flying to mainland China along with Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Bangladesh evacuates citizens from Wuhan

Bangladesh evacuated 316 of its citizens, including 15 children, from the Chinese city of Wuhan, in a chartered Biman Bangladesh Airlines plane, the carrier’s Chief Executive Officer Mokabbir Hossain told DPA news agency.

Seven of the returnees were transported to a hospital shortly after their arrival in Dhaka, an airport health official said, adding that the rest of the evacuees will be placed in quarantine for two weeks at a location near the airport.

China asks EU to facilitate urgent medical supplies

China’s Premier Li Keqiang asked the European Union to facilitate China’s urgent procurement of medical supplies from member countries, the Chinese government said. 

Apple to temporarily close all China stores

Apple Inc said it has decided to shut down all of its official stores in mainland China until February 9 due to “recent public health and prevention considerations”. 

Apple did not immediately respond to a further request for comment.

‘Children at risk’ amid coronavirus outbreak

Children are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak, international aid group Save the Children said as it expressed concern over its spread in countries with weak healthcare systems and insufficient resources.

“While the Chinese government is taking effective measures to respond to this outbreak inside China, Save the Children is concerned about a potential outbreak in other parts of Asia where the healthcare systems won’t be able to adequately screen for the virus or treat patients who have contracted it,” Hassan Saadi Noor, the charity’s Asia regional director, said in a statement.


Thailand to evacuate nationals from China

The evacuation of Thai nationals from the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in China could take place “in a matter of days”, Thailand’s government said. 

Three officials from the Thai embassy in Beijing are expected to reach Wuhan on Sunday to help with the evacuation, government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat said.

“We have an increase from 161 to now 182 Thais in the area who have registered with us and we are verifying their documents,” she told Reuters news agency. “The evacuation will be in a matter of days, likely after February 2.”

Indonesia to quarantine evacuees in military base

Indonesian officials said about 250 of its nationals being evacuated from China’s Hubei province, the centre of the coronavirus epidemic, will be quarantined in its Natuna Islands military base.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi said all the evacuees, along with five officials arranging their return on the Batik Air plane, were healthy and that further onboard medical checks would be conducted on their arrival in Indonesia.

China flies citizens home to virus-hit Wuhan

China flew two planeloads of its citizens back home to the locked-down province of Hubei, where they were greeted by authorities in full-body protective suits.

A Xiamen Airlines charter flight from Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, touched down in the provincial capital, Wuhan. 

A second Xiamen flight landed soon afterwards carrying Hubei residents from Kota Kinabalu, a popular coastal tourist destination in Malaysia.

Passengers wearing face masks are seen on a Xiamen Airlines airplane before getting off the charter flight sent by the Chinese government to bring home Hubei residents from Thailand's Bangkok, at Wuha
Passengers wearing face masks are seen on a Xiamen Airlines plane before getting off the charter flight sent by the Chinese government to bring home Hubei residents from Thailand’s Bangkok [Reuters]

Australia bars entry to non-citizens coming from China

The Australian government said it would bar non-citizens arriving from China from entering the country under new measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said only “Australian citizens, Australian residents, dependents, legal guardians or spouses” would be permitted into the country from China from Saturday.

“The arrangements are being put in place through our border authorities to ensure that that can be actioned,” he added. “Those that do return will be required to go into self-isolation for 14 days.”

More than 300 Indians flown back from China’s Hubei

An Air India flight carrying 324 Indian nationals, most of them students, from China’s coronavirus-hit Hubei province landed in the Indian capital, a spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs said.

Those evacuated were quarantined in a facility in the outskirts of New Delhi prepared by the Indian army.

They are expected to remain in quarantine for an estimated two weeks but will remain under surveillance by local health authorities once they return home.

Turkey evacuates citizens from Wuhan

A cargo plane with 42 passengers left for Turkey after evacuating Turkish citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan, state-run Anadolu news agency reported. 

The evacuees were screened by Turkish health experts using a team of six experts assigned to run blood tests and scan the health conditions to eliminate the potential risk in Turkey.

UK withdraws some staff from China embassy

Britain is withdrawing some staff from its embassy and consulates in China due to the coronavirus, the UK government said in a statement. 

“Essential staff needed to continue critical work will remain,” it said.

“In the event that the situation deteriorates further, the ability of the British Embassy and Consulates to provide assistance to British nationals from within China may be limited.”

China criticises latest US response to coronavirus outbreak

Beijing criticised Washington’s order barring entry to most foreigners who visited China in the past two weeks, and “unfriendly comments” that its government is failing to cooperate in the crisis.

The Chinese government said the decision contradicted the WHO’s appeal to avoid travel bans. 

US imposes travel restrictions as coronavirus cases rise

The United States took drastic steps that will temporarily bar foreign nationals who have travelled in China within the last 14 days. 

Americans returning from China will be allowed into the country but will face screening at select ports of entry and required to undertake 14 days of self-screening to ensure they do not pose a health risk.

Read more here

WHO: Coronavirus a ‘global health emergency’

Those returning from Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine.

Beginning on Sunday, the US will also begin funnelling all flights to the US from China to seven major airports where passengers can be screened for the illness.

More airlines suspend China flights

Qantas Airways said it will suspend its two direct flight routes from Australia to mainland China from February 9 in response to travel restrictions imposed by some countries due to the coronavirus crisis.

The Australian national carrier’s direct flights from Sydney to Beijing and Sydney to Shanghai will be halted until March 29, it said in a statement published on Saturday.

Philippine airline Cebu Pacific also said on Saturday that it has cancelled flights to and from mainland China, Macau and Hong Kong from February 2 to March 29.

Wuhan, China
A man wearing a face mask registers at a registration point set up by community members for people returning or leaving Beijing, as the country battles the coronavirus outbreak [Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]

Earlier, three US airlines – American, Delta and United – said they would soon suspend all flights to China.

China’s Tianjin says all schools, non-essential companies to remain close

China’s city of Tianjin announced on Saturday that all schools and non-essential companies will remain closed until further notice to help curb the spread of coronavirus, according to the state media.

Tianjin, which has a population of about 15 million and borders capital Beijing, had 32 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of 10pm local time (14:00 GMT) on January 31. 

Spain confirms case of coronavirus

Spain’s National Centre for Microbiology has confirmed the country’s first case of coronavirus after a man was diagnosed with the virus on the remote island of La Gomera in the Canaries, the Health Ministry said.

The patient is part of a group of five people taken under observation on the island and isolated after it was found they had come into contact with a German man diagnosed with the virus.

UN biodiversity talks moved out of China on virus fears

The next round of talks on a global biodiversity treaty, due to be held in the Chinese city of Kunming on February 24, will be moved to Rome as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the United Nations announced.

The UN’s Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity said it had reached the decision after consultations with the Chinese government.

Kunming is still set to host the main round of global biodiversity talks in October this year.

Pasteur Institute eyes coronavirus vaccine in 2021

France’s Pasteur Institute Foundation said it had set up a task force aimed at developing a vaccine against the coronavirus in 20 months.

Christophe D’Enfert, a scientific director with the Pasteur Institute, told reporters in Paris the vaccine could be made available in 20 months if “all goes well”.

“At the end of August, we could enter clinical trials and, provided all goes well, obtain a vaccine candidate within 20 months.”

Coronavirus symptoms

Japan dismisses 2020 Olympics cancellation fears

Tokyo 2020 Olympics organisers have dismissed rumours that the Games were endangered by the spread of the coronavirus.

“We have never discussed cancelling the Games. Tokyo 2020 will continue to collaborate with the (International Olympic Committee) IOC and relevant organisations and will review any countermeasures that may be necessary,” the organisers said in a statement to the German news agency DPA.

The IOC also said preparations for the July 24-August 9 Games were continuing as planned.

Diary of a Wuhan native: A week in quarantine

A teacher living in the epicentre of the deadly outbreak shares her experiences of isolation with Al Jazeera as the quarantine in Wuhan continues.

Read the full story here.

Wuhan, China
An elderly man collapsed and died in the street in Wuhan on Thursday [Hector Retamal/AFP]

Japan to enforce special measures: NHK

Japan plans to bring forward the date that the coronavirus will become a “designated infectious disease” to Saturday from February 7, public broadcaster NHK said.

Japanese Minister of Health Katsunobu Kato said the government was considering moving up the date, without elaborating.

The government classified the virus as a designated infectious disease on Tuesday, a move that allows compulsory hospitalisation, stricter screening of people entering the country, and the use of public funds for treatment, among other measures.

In line with regulations, the designation was only set to take effect on February 7 after ordinances are issued.

Read updates from Friday, January 31 here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies