China coronavirus outbreak: All the latest updates

Citing Chinese data, WHO chief says COVID-19 not as deadly as SARS, and children not affected in same way as adults.

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in mainland China reached 1,770 as of the end of Sunday, up by 105 from the previous day, according to the country’s National Health Commission.

At least 100 of the new deaths were from the province of Hubei, the epicentre of the epidemic, the commission said on Monday morningAcross the country, there were 2,048 new confirmed infections, about 1,933 from Hubei alone, pushing the new total to 70,548.

On Sunday, Hubei announced tough new measures to try to curb the outbreak, ordering its cities to block roads to all private vehicles. Meanwhile, a newly published speech revealed Chinese President Xi Jinping was aware of the potential severity of the outbreak long before the public was informed.

Here are all the latest updates: 

For February 18 updates, click here.

Monday, February 17. 

Virus causes mild disease in four out of five people infected: WHO

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said Chinese medical data shows that more than 80 percent of patients have mild symptoms and will recover, while 14 percent suffer from severe complications such as pneumonia, 5 percent are in critical condition and 2 percent die from the disease.

“It appears that COVID-19 is not as deadly as other coronaviruses, including SARS and MERS,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva, adding that officials were starting to get a clearer picture of the outbreak.  

The UN health agency’s chief also said that children were not suffering from COVID-19 the same as adults and that the risk of death increases the older you are. 

Chinese doctors ‘using plasma therapy’ on patients

Doctors in Shanghai are using infusions of blood plasma from people who have recovered from the coronavirus to treat those still battling the infection, reporting some encouraging preliminary results, said Lu Hongzhou, professor and co-director of the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre.

According to Hongzhou, the hospital had set up a special clinic to administer plasma therapy and was selecting patients who were willing to donate. “We are positive that this method can be very effective in our patients,” he said.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Mike Ryan, the head of WHO’s health emergencies programme, said using convalescent plasma was a “very valid” approach to test, but that it has to be carefully timed to maximise the boost to a patient’s immunity.

“You are essentially giving the new victim’s immune system a boost of antibodies to hopefully get them through the very difficult phase,” Ryan said, cautioning, however, that the method is not always successful.

On epidemic’s evolution, ‘every scenario still on the table’: WHO chief

The latest data provided by China on people infected indicates a decline in new cases but “every scenario is still on the table” in terms of the epidemic’s evolution, according to Tedros.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, the WHO chief cited a new Chinese medical report that analyses more than 44,000 COVID-19 cases.

Asked whether the outbreak was a pandemic, Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies programme, said: “The real issue is whether we are seeing efficient community transmission outside of China and at the present time we are not observing that”.

Separately, WHO expert Sylvie Briand said the health agency was working closely with Japanese authorities and the chief medical officer on the Diamond Princess docked off Yokohama on infections and evacuations, adding: “Our focus is on our public health objective that we contain the virus and not contain the people”.

Two more cases confirmed in Taiwan

Taiwan has reported two more confirmed cases of the coronavirus, saying they were linked to the island’s first death and lifted the number of those infected to 22.

The mother of the deceased, who died on Saturday, and a male relative were tested positive, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung told a televised news conference.

Geneva inventions exhibition postponed 

The International Exhibition of Inventions held annually in the Swiss city of Geneva has been postponed by six months due to the coronavirus epidemic, according to its organisers.

“The exhibition management has chosen to be wise and decided to postpone the largest event of its kind in the world until September,” it said in a statement, citing difficulties for inventors planning their trips.

Organisers said half of the exhibitors come from Asia, a third of whom are from mainland China and a further third from Hong Kong.

Asian Weightlifting Championships moved to Uzbekistan

The International Weightlifting Federation announced the relocation of its Asian tournament from Kazakhstan to neighbouring Uzbekistan because of the coronavirus.

The IWF said Kazakhstan had restricted travel to and from countries neighbouring China, forcing organisers to seek other options.

They settled on Uzbekistan which will now host the April 16-25 competition in its capital, Tashkent.

Effect of virus on eurozone to be ‘temporary’

Eurogroup head Mario Centeno said he expected the effect of the coronavirus outbreak on the economy of the eurozone to be “temporary”.

The Eurogroup is the name given to meetings of all finance ministers of countries using the euro.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Centeno said the European Union should carefully assess developments for the long term.

Biotech group launches test for coronavirus product

Biotechnology company Novacyt said it had launched a “CE-Mark” molecular test to help detect the coronavirus, marking a step forward in plans to commercialise a product for the disease.

“I am very pleased to announce the launch of our COVID-19 CE-Mark test, which we believe is the first CE-Mark approved test for clinical diagnosis of the 2019 strain of the novel coronavirus,” said Novacyt CEO Graham Mullis.

He added the “research use only” test produced a result in less than two hours. 

Russian city orders woman who fled virus quarantine back to hospital

A court in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg ordered a woman to be forcibly returned to coronavirus quarantine in hospital after she broke out and went home.

The city’s Botkin hospital filed a highly unusual request for a court order to hospitalise 33-year-old Alla Ilyina after she posted on social media about breaking out of her isolation room, complaining of inedible food and a lack of necessities such as shampoo.

China seeks to track coronavirus with QR codes

China’s government plans to use a colour-based QR code system based on health status for tracking individuals affected with the coronavirus nationwide.

Last week, Alipay, a payment app operated by Alibaba’s financial division Ant Financial, released a feature in collaboration with the government in which residents of Hangzhou are given a code based on a health assessment they fill out online. The company says it is helping the government to expand the feature. 

QE code coronavirus
A traveller shows a green QR code that indicates his health status on his mobile phone to a worker at a railway station, following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province [Reuters]

Organisers cancel Tokyo marathon for 38,000 runners over coronavirus

Organisers said they are cancelling the amateur portion of the Tokyo marathon, affecting around 38,000 runners, on fears about the spread of the new coronavirus in Japan.

“We reached the conclusion that unfortunately it is difficult to organise the event … after several cases (of the virus) were confirmed in Tokyo,” the Tokyo Marathon Foundation said in a statement.

Russia says citizen aboard cruise ship has coronavirus

A Russian woman who was on board the Diamond Princess cruise liner docked in Yokohama, Japan, has tested positive for coronavirus following examinations by the Japanese authorities, the Russian Embassy to Japan said.

The woman will be taken to a hospital and treated, the embassy said in a post on Facebook. The woman is thought to be the first Russian national to contract the virus after the two previous cases found in Russia were Chinese nationals.

Cruise operator races to track Cambodia passengers

A US cruise operator is working to track down hundreds of passengers who disembarked a luxury liner in Cambodia after one traveller was later diagnosed with the deadly new coronavirus.

The Westerdam was at sea for two weeks during which it was barred from Japan, Guam, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand. Cambodian officials had cleared the passengers, but Malaysian officials said a US woman who had been on the ship tested positive for the virus. 

Beijing to fast-track new mask factory in virus fight

The Chinese capital of Beijing will set up a new mask factory within just six days to meet soaring demand for protective gear in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The factory, to be converted from an industrial building by China Construction First Group, will be able to turn out 250,000 masks each day, it said, adding that work began on Monday and was set to be completed by Saturday.

Employees work on a production line manufacturing face masks at a factory, as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, in Fuzhou, Fujian province, China February 15, 2020. cnsphoto
Employees work on a production line manufacturing face masks at a factory in Fuzhou, Fujian province, as China is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus [Reuters]

Macau casinos to resume operations after suspension

Macau, the world’s biggest gambling hub, will allow casinos to resume operations from February 20, after authorities imposed a two-week suspension to curb spreading of the coronavirus, public broadcaster TDM reported, citing authorities.

The unprecedented halt of gaming operations started on February 5 and was due to end on February 19. Macau has not reported any new cases of the virus since February 4, authorities said. There have been 10 confirmed cases of the virus in total. 

Security guards stand outside the closed Grand Lisboa casino, following the coronavirus outbreak in Macau [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

Japan confirms 99 more cases of new virus on cruise ship 

Japanese officials have confirmed 99 more people infected by the new virus aboard the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess, bringing the total to 454, the Health Ministry said.

The ministry has been carrying out tests on passengers and crew on the ship, docked in Yokohama, a port city near Tokyo. Outside China, the ship has had the largest number of cases of the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus that emerged in China late last year.

China coronavirus
A medical worker in protective suit interacts with a patient inside an isolated ward at Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, in Hubei province [Reuters]

US firms in China report staff shortages, say coronavirus hitting global operations

Nearly half of the US companies in China say their global operations are already seeing an impact from business shutdowns due to the coronavirus epidemic, according to a poll by Shanghai’s American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham).

Some 78 percent of the respondents also said they did not have sufficient staff at their Chinese plants to resume full production, while 48 percent of respondents said plant shutdowns had already impacted their global supply chains.

China parliament body to discuss delaying key annual March session

A top legislative body of the Chinese parliament will meet on February 24 to discuss a proposal on delaying the key annual March meeting of parliament, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

The reason for the delay is the coronavirus outbreak, Xinhua reported

China says WHO delegation to visit Beijing, Guangdong, Sichuan

China says a WHO delegation of experts will visit Beijing, and the provinces of Guangdong and Sichuan from February 17 onwards.

A spokesman for the National Health Commission announced the details of the visit at a media briefing on Monday.

Armed gang steals toilet rolls in panic-buying Hong Kong

A gang of knife-wielding men jumped a delivery driver in Hong Kong and stole hundreds of toilet rolls in a city wracked by shortages caused by coronavirus panic-buying.

Toilet rolls have become hot property in the densely packed business hub, despite government assurances that supplies remain unaffected by the virus outbreak. There has also been a run on staples such as rice and pasta, as well as hand sanitiser and other cleaning items.

“A delivery man was threatened by three knife-wielding men who took toilet paper worth more than HK$1,000 ($130),” a police spokesman told the AFP news agency.

US State Dept: 14 test positive among US plane evacuees from Japan virus ship

Fourteen people who had tested positive for the new coronavirus were among the more than 300 US citizens and family members evacuated by plane from a quarantined ship in Japan, the US State Department said on Monday.

The passengers had already disembarked from the Diamond Princess and were preparing to return to the United States on chartered aircraft when US officials were informed 14 of them who had been tested days earlier were positive for COVID-19, it said in a joint statement with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Buses carrying passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship leave a port in Yokohama, near Tokyo [File: Jae C Hong/The Associated Press]

Health official: Thailand records one new case of coronavirus

Thailand has recorded one new case of coronavirus, bringing the total in the country to 35 since January, a senior health official said on Monday.

The new case is a 60-year old Chinese woman, whose family members earlier contracted the virus, Sukhum Kanchanapimai, the health ministry’s permanent secretary said in a news conference.
Fifteen people have recovered and returned home.

Japan cancels Emperor’s birthday public celebrations amid virus fears

Japan said on Monday it would cancel a public gathering to celebrate the birthday of new Emperor Naruhito, as fears grow over the spread of the new coronavirus in the country.

“In light of various situations, we have decided to cancel the visit by the general public to the palace for His Majesty’s birthday,” the imperial household agency said in a statement, a day after the government warned people to avoid crowds and “non-essential gatherings”.

Jaoan Emporer Naruhito
Japan’s Emperor Naruhito waves to well-wishers during a public appearance for New Year celebrations at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan [File: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters]

Australia to evacuate more than 200 citizens from quarantined cruise ship

Australia will evacuate more than 200 of its citizens on board the coronavirus-stricken cruise, the Diamond Princess, which has been quarantined since arriving in Yokohama, Japan on February 3.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the passengers will depart on Wednesday and will be taken to Australia’s tropical north, where they will be required to be quarantined for another 14 days.

Filipino crew members infected by coronavirus on cruise ship rise to 27

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs reported on Monday that there are now 27 Filipinos on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship who have been infected with the coronavirus.

The number includes 16 new cases confirmed on Saturday, February 15, according to the statement issued by the Philippine embassy.

There are an estimated 531 Filipino crew members and seafarers, as well as seven Filipino passengers on board the Diamond Princess, which is now docked and under quarantine in the port of Yokohama, Japan.

Diamond Princess
At least 634 passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship have been diagnosed with coronavirus [Franck Robichon/EPA]

Japan keeps high coronavirus alert as more citizens return from China

Japan evacuated more citizens from the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak on Monday, while the disease’s spread prompted a hospital to stop accepting new patients and raised the possibility of restricting participants at the Tokyo Marathon on March 1.

A fifth government-chartered flight carrying 65 Japanese citizens arrived in Tokyo from Wuhan, China, early on Monday, bringing the total number repatriated from the city to 763, broadcaster NHK reported.

A hospital in Sagamihara, 50km (31 miles) west of Tokyo, said it would suspend admissions of new patients as one of its nurses tested positive for the virus after treating a patient who later died of the disease.

With more than 400 people infected, most of whom are passengers on a cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan is the country most affected by the epidemic after China, where the outbreak was first detected in December.

Read the updates from Sunday, February 16 here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies