China coronavirus outbreak: All the latest updates

New fatalities push nationwide death toll close to 1,400 and further 5,090 new cases take total infections near 65,000.

China on Friday reported 121 more deaths from the coronavirus outbreak, 116 of which are from the epicentre of the infection in Hubei Province alone, bringing to at least 1,380 the total number of deaths across the country.

The latest toll reflected the removal of some deaths that had been double counted in Hubei, the health commission said. On Thursday, Chinese health officials had already reported 1,367 deaths.

Hubei and its capital Wuhan, where the infection now known as COVID-19 is thought to have originated in late December, also reported a further 4,823 new cases of the infection, taking the total in the province alone to 51,986.

Nationwide, there are 5,090 new cases pushing the total number to nearly 64,000 as of Friday.

More than two dozen countries have confirmed cases and several nations have evacuated their citizens from Hubei. Three deaths have been recorded outside mainland China – one in Hong Kong one in the Philippines, and the most recent in Japan.

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”.

Meanwhile, Vietnam has ordered a lockdown on a community of 10,000 residents northwest of the capital Hanoi, becoming the first location outside of China to have ordered a quarantine for at least 20 days. 

Here are the latest updates:

Friday, February 14

Top China official concedes challenge but slams ‘overreaction’

State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi acknowledged that the coronavirus posed a big challenge to the country, but defended Beijing’s management of the epidemic while lashing out at the “overreaction” of other countries.

In a wide-ranging interview with Reuters news agency, the senior leader said any country in the world would find it hard to control the virus’s spread, but China has done it.

He also urged the United States not to take unnecessary virus-response measures that could hamper trade, travel and tourism.

US to test people with flu symptoms for novel coronavirus

The US will begin testing people identified by local health authorities as having flu-like symptoms for the novel coronavirus, a senior official said, a significant expansion of the government’s response to the epidemic.

“CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has begun working with five public health labs across the US to tap into their ability to conduct community based influenza surveillance, so that we can begin testing people with flu-like symptoms for novel coronavirus,” said Nancy Messonnier, a senior CDC official.

The testing will initially be carried out by labs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and New York, but more sites are planned.

Egypt confirms first case of coronavirus

Egypt has confirmed its first case of the coronavirus, the first known instance of the virus in Africa, according to WHO. 

The infected person is a foreigner who has been put in isolation, according to WHO. Officials have not released the individual’s nationality or further details. WHO Egypt said on Twitter the person was carrying the virus, but had not shown any symptoms and was in a stable condition. 

Cases among China health workers peaked at end of January

The WHO has said that coronavirus cases among health workers in China peaked in the third and fourth of weeks of January. 

Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergency Programme, Mike Ryan, said there had been a rapid fall off in infections among healthcare workers in the last two weeks, adding it’s important to know where hospital infections occured. 

On Friday, China reported 1,700 health workers have been infected since the outbreak began, and six have died. 

Full team of int’l health experts to arrive in China over the weekend

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said he expects the full team of WHO-led international experts to touch down in China over the weekend. 

The 12 experts will join their Chinese counterparts in a mission to understand the transmission of the coronavirus and the impact of the ongoing response measures. 

China sets 14-day quarantine rule for all arrivals to Beijing

All people returning to the Chinese capital should quarantine themselves for 14 days to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, the official Beijing Daily reported on Friday.

Those who refuse to quarantine themselves or follow the official rules on virus containment will be punished, the newspaper said.

Coronavirus Car
A worker installs plastic film to separate the front seats from the back, inside a vehicle for a car-hailing service as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, in Taiyuan, Shanxi province. [Reuters]

Taiwan says China ‘stalling’ over repatriation flights

Taiwan accused China of dragging its feet over the evacuation of about 1,000 citizens who have been stranded in the midst of the deadly coronavirus outbreak and have waited for nearly two weeks for a flight out. 

On Wednesday, Chinese state media quoted local officials accusing Taiwan’s government of “repeatedly delaying” their return, the AFP news agency reported. The state media said “political manipulation” was behind the delay but gave no concrete details.

On Friday, Taiwan’s health minister Chen Shih-chung ended days of silence on the matter by saying Beijing had “refused to cooperate”, saying the “Chinese side has used all kinds of reasons to stall and refused our plans and recommendations. We deeply regret this.”

China eases refinancing rules to help listed firms fight coronavirus

China’s securities regulator loosened its refinancing rules on Friday to help listed companies fight the coronavirus epidemic and resume production.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) said the new rules would make it easier for listed firms to raise additional funding. CSRC also encouraged listed companies to introduce strategic shareholders.

Philippines to lift Taiwan travel ban

The Philippines will lift a travel ban it had imposed on visitors from Taiwan in a bid to control the spread of the coronavirus, a senior Philippine official and Taiwan’s official news agency said.

The move follows a warning by Taipei of possible retaliation against the ban.

Universities say Chinese students could quit Australia

Top Australian universities have warned that Chinese students may walk away from courses after Canberra extended a coronavirus travel ban, in a major blow to the multi-billion-dollar sector.

Nearly 70,000 Chinese students are due to start their semesters soon at eight top-ranked universities, but have been stuck since the bans started on February 1, said Vicki Thomson, chief executive of Group of Eight, which represents the universities.

“We can’t give our students any certainty as to when they can actually come here. So there is a risk of students choosing not to come here,” Thomson said.

First passengers exit quarantined Japan ship

The first passengers began leaving a quarantined cruise ship off Japan’s coast to finish their isolation in government-designated lodging after testing negative for the new coronavirus.

Japan’s government has given passengers aged 80 or older in poor health or confined to windowless inner cabins on the Diamond Princess the chance to move from the ship to accommodation on land. However, only those who test negative for the virus that has so far infected more than 200 people on board the ship have the option to move.

China says 6 health workers died from virus

Six health workers have died from the new coronavirus in China and more than 1,700 have been infected, health officials said.

Zeng Yixin, vice minister at the National Health Commission, said at a news conference that 1,716 health workers have been infected in the country as of Tuesday.

Coronavirus China
The majority of the health workers have been diagnosed with the COVID-19 illness in Wuhan [Gao Xiang/Xinhua/AP]

Death toll revised: health commission

China’s National Health Commission has removed a number of reported deaths and infections after it said double counting was discovered in the data collection process in Hubei.

Analysis: Are coronavirus figures from China credible?

Cruise passengers land in Cambodia after two weeks at sea over virus fears

Passengers on MS Westerdam cruise ship that was turned away from ports around Asia, over fears they could be carrying the new coronavirus, finally began disembarking in Cambodia on Friday.

Cambodia’s strongman premier Hun Sen welcomed around 100 tourists who were handed flowers as they stepped ashore after an uncertain two weeks at sea.

Hun Sen
Hun Sen welcomes passengers and crews of MS Westerdam as it docks in Sihanoukville on Friday [Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters]

The Westerdam was supposed to be taking its 2,257 passengers and crew on a 14-day cruise around east Asia, beginning in Hong Kong on February 1 and ending on Saturday in Yokohama, Japan.

But the vessel was turned away from Japan, Guam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand over fears it was carrying someone with COVID-19, a virus that has now killed almost 1,500 people and sickened 65,000, mostly in China.

The  Westerdam also reportedly sought permission to dock in Malaysia, before it was finally allowed in Cambodia.

US ‘prepared to help’ North Korea combat threat from coronavirus

The United States is “deeply concerned” about the possible impact of a coronavirus outbreak in North Korea and is prepared to help US and international organisations contain the spread of the virus, the State Department said on Thursday.

“We strongly support and encourage the work of U.S. and international aid and health organizations to counter and contain the spread of coronavirus in the DPRK,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement after the Red Cross called for an urgent exemption to sanctions on Pyongyang to help prevent a coronavirus outbreak.

“The United States is ready and prepared to expeditiously facilitate the approval of assistance from these organizations,” it added.

Economic Advisor: White House ‘disappointed’ in China’s transparency

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Thursday said the Trump administration was “disappointed” with China’s response to the coronavirus and the fact that no US health officials have been invited in to help with the outbreak.

“We thought there was better transparency coming out of China, but it doesn’t appear to be,” Kudlow said.

Trumps says China handling coronavirus ‘professionally’

US President Donald Trump praised China over its handling of the fast-moving coronavirus outbreak in an interview that aired on Thursday, adding that the United States was working closely with Beijing.

“I think they’ve handled it professionally, and I think they’re extremely capable,” Trump said in a podcast broadcast on iHeart Radio.

Asked if China was telling the truth about virus, Trump said: “Well, you never know. I think they want to put the best face on it”.

Wuhan, Hubei
A medical worker takes a break during her night shift at a community health service center in Wuhan’s Qingshan district on Thursday [China Daily via Reuters]

Indian generic drugmakers may face supply shortages from China

Shortages and potential price increases of generic drugs from India loom if the coronavirus outbreak disrupts suppliers of pharmaceutical ingredients in China past April, industry experts told Reuters news agency.

An important supplier of generic drugs to the world, Indian companies procure almost 70 percent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for their medicines from China.

India’s generic drugmakers say they currently have enough API supplies from China to cover their operations for up to about three months.

WHO: No major change in ‘trajectory’ of coronavirus outbreak

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that a spike of 14,000 coronavirus cases in China on Thursday was the result of new counting methods and did not represent a significant shift in the outbreak. 

“This increase that you’ve all seen in the last 24 hours is largely, in part, down to a change in how the cases are being reported,” Michael Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies programme, told reporters.

Ryan also said he expected members of a WHO-led international mission to China to arrive over the weekend.

US confirms 15th case of COVID-19

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday confirmed the 15th case of the coronavirus in the US, and said the person under federal quarantine at an airbase in Texas was the latest confirmed case.

It is the first person under quarantine at the airbase among a group of people that arrived from China on February 7 who had symptoms and tested positive for the disease, the CDC said.

Read the updates from Thursday, February 13  here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies