At least 106 of the 360 Hong Kong residents aboard disease-stricken cruise ship have returned while 65 have fallen ill.
Beijing also reported 1,109 new confirmed cases of the disease during the same period, sharply up from 349 cases the previous day, reversing three days of decline.
At least 631 of the new cases were from the epicentre of the epidemic in Hubei, including 220 cases from the province’s prison system. Most of the latest deaths were also from the province.
The latest number of infections nationwide has now reached 75,685.
Here are the latest updates:
Friday, February 21
First Italian patient dies of coronavirus
A patient in the northern city of Padua has died after being infected with the coronavirus, becoming the first Italian victim of the disease, Ansa news agency reported.
The dead man was aged 78, it said.
Kuwait stops all flights to and from Iran
Kuwait’s civil aviation authority has decided to stop all flights to and from Iran amid fears from coronavirus outbreak, the state news agency said, citing an official statement.
Kuwaiti nationals arriving from Iran will be subjected to quarantine, it said, adding that residents or those with entry permission who were in Iran during the past two weeks will be barred.
Moreover, any foreign travellers coming from Iran will also be denied entry.
Zelenskyy criticises people that attacked Ukrainians evacuated from Wuhan
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had harsh words for an angry mob who smashed windows on buses carrying dozens of Ukrainians evacuated from China over the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“We keep saying that Ukraine is Europe. But yesterday it seemed like we were Europe in the Middle Ages,” Zelenskyy said in Kyiv.
Fearing the passengers would bring the first deadly case of the novel coronavirus to Ukraine, hundreds of people – some armed with metal rods and rocks – turned out to protest their return on Thursday.
Public spaces closed in 10 Italian towns over coronavirus fears
Authorities in northern Italy ordered the closure of schools, bars and other public spaces in 10 towns following a flurry of new coronavirus cases.
Five doctors and nine other people tested positive for the virus in Lombardy, after apparently frequenting the same bar and group of friends, with two other cases in Veneto, authorities said at a press conference.
Over 50,000 people have been asked to stay at home in the areas concerned, while all public activities such as carnival celebrations, church masses and sporting events have been banned for up to a week.
Drug testing to resume in China after coronavirus outbreak
The China Anti-Doping Agency (CHINADA) will resume drug testing following a temporary suspension due to the coronavirus, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said.
Drug testing programs on mainland China were halted on February 3 following the outbreak of the virus which has killed more than 2,000 people in China and infected thousands globally.
WADA said drug testing would resume this week on a “phased basis” with priority given to testing elite level athletes from higher-risk categories and sports.
Iraq, Kuwait brace for coronavirus
Iraq and Kuwait, which share borders with Iran, were on high alert for a potential outbreak after banning travel to and from the Islamic Republic although they have not confirmed any cases domestically.
The outbreak in Iran has raised concerns, especially since many of the coronavirus cases involved residents of Qom, a popular destination for Kuwaiti and Iraqi Shiites.
Iraq’s top Shia leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged authorities to be ready to stem any outbreak.
“The scale of preparations should match that of the threat,” he said in comments delivered by a representative. “We call on relevant authorities to be up to the level of responsibility.”
Only three US states can test for coronavirus – public lab group
California, Nebraska and Illinois are the only US states that can currently test for coronavirus, the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) told Reuters News Agency.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week said some of the testing kits sent to US states and at least 30 countries produced “inconclusive” results due to a flawed component and the CDC planned to send replacement materials to make the kits work
Sixteen cases in Northern Italy reported in one day
An outbreak of coronavirus in northern Italy worsened, with officials announcing 14 confirmed cases in the wealthy region of Lombardy, while two cases were reported in the adjacent region of Veneto.
Just hours after revealing that six people had come down with the virus in the first known cases of local transmission in Italy, officials said a further eight had tested positive for the disease, including five health workers.
Qatar Airways depart to China carrying medical supplies: QNA
Five Qatar Airways Cargo freighters departed to China today carrying approximately 300 tonnes of medical supplies donated by the airline to support coronavirus relief efforts, QNA news agency reported.
The five flights departed one after the other bound for Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou as part of Qatar Airways’s voluntary offer of free air cargo transportation for medical relief aid organised by Chinese embassies and consulates worldwide to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
Coronavirus to drag oil below $60 this year, weighing on Gulf exporters – IIF
The coronavirus outbreak may curb demand for oil in China and other Asian countries, depressing oil prices further to as low as $57 a barrel and clouding growth prospects across the Middle East, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) said.
“Before the coronavirus, we were assuming that oil prices would average $60 a barrel this year, compared to $64 last year,” said Garbis Iradian, chief economist for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) at the finance industry body.
UAE records two new coronavirus cases, total number reaches 11
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) said it registered two new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of people diagnosed with the virus in the Gulf Arab state to 11.
The new cases in the UAE were detected in a 34-year-old Filipino national and a 39-year-old Bangladeshi national who had contact with a Chinese national who had been diagnosed with the virus, the health ministry said in a statement.
It said the two were in stable condition.
Ukrainian health minister joins coronavirus evacuees in quarantine
Ukraine’s health minister joined evacuees from China in quarantine in a sanatorium on Friday in a show of solidarity after fears over the possible spread of the coronavirus led to clashes between protesters and police.
Posting a selfie on her Facebook page, Zoryana Skaletska said she would spend two weeks in a room there and would carry out her government duties by phone and Skype.
Everyone inside the sanatorium was feeling well and showed no signs of infection, she said.
World must act fast to contain coronavirus, says WHO’s Tedros
The window of opportunity to contain the wider international spread of the epidemic of the new coronavirus disease is closing, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Friday, and countries must act fast if they are to control it.
Asked whether the outbreak is at a “tipping point” after new cases and deaths from COVID-19 were reported in Iran and Lebanon, the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said he still believed the virus could be contained, but added: “The window of opportunity is narrowing, so we need to act quickly before it closes completely.”
China’s Hubei province revises Feb 19 new cases tally to 775, from 349 previously
China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, on Friday revised the number of new cases it reported on February 19 to 775, from 349 previously.
Earlier in the day, provincial authorities said they would add back some cases to their tally of the disease, after they adjusted their methodology to count only cases that were detected with genetic tests, rather than with CT scans. Officials later concluded on Friday that it was a mistake to have removed cases that were already counted.
Hubei Party secretary Ying Yong on Friday ordered the cases to be added back to the tally and said that whoever removed them would be held responsible, Tu Yuanchao, a senior official at Hubei’s health commission said.
WHO chief concerned about cases outside China
WHO chief Ghebreyesus in Geneva said he was concerned about cases outside China with ‘no epidemiological link’.
“Although the total number of COVID-19 cases outside of China remains relatively small, we are concerned about the number of cases with no clear epidemiological link, such as travel history to China or contact with a confirmed case,” he told reporters during a media briefing.
The WHO chief said he was concerned about the potential for COVID-19 to spread in countries with “weaker health systems”.
"Although the total number of #COVID19 cases outside 🇨🇳 remains relatively small, we are concerned about the number of cases with no clear epidemiological link, such as travel history to 🇨🇳 or contact with a confirmed case"-@DrTedros #coronavirus
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) February 21, 2020
Six coronavirus cases discovered in north Italy, hundreds to be tested
Six people have tested positive in Italy for coronavirus, the northern Lombardy region said, in the first known cases of local transmission of the potentially deadly illness in the country.
Officials told residents from three small towns some 60km (40 miles) southeast of Italy’s financial capital Milan, to stay at home as doctors tested hundreds of people who might have come into contact with the six coronavirus sufferers.
None of the six was believed to have visited China.
First case of coronavirus confirmed in Lebanon
The first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Lebanon after a woman arriving from Iran was found to be positive. There were also two other suspected cases.
“We confirmed the first case today,” Lebanese Health Minister Hassan Hamad said at a news conference in Beirut.
The woman arrived in Lebanon from the Iranian holy city of Qom, where several infections and deaths were reported this week.
Japan gov’t faces questions over coronavirus handling
Japan faced growing questions about whether it was doing enough to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
More than 400 Japanese and foreign passengers were set to disembark from the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship near Tokyo after weeks aboard in quarantine, despite reports of new cases coming in from around Japan.
The growing number of cases across the country – particularly the high rate of infection on the cruise liner – have stoked concerns about Japan’s quarantine practices.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga faced questions about why one of the passengers who died – an 84-year-old woman – was not tested or transferred to a hospital until a week after she developed a fever.
“The woman was removed from the ship on the 12th after the fever continued for days,” he said. “A decision was made not to wait for the test results before moving her to hospital to protect the health of those remaining on the ship,” he said.
After clashes, Ukraine blames disinformation for spreading virus panic
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk blamed an “information war” being waged on the country for spreading panic and mistrust over the coronavirus, a day after the arrival of evacuees from China sparked clashes outside a sanatorium.
Speaking to Parliament, Honcharuk said misinformation was being spread from within and outside Ukraine but did not elaborate.
The authorities are trying to find the source of bogus emails sent this week on behalf of the health ministry erroneously declaring there had been confirmed coronavirus cases in Ukraine, when so far there have been none.
In another example, Honcharuk cited an incident of Russian officials asking a wagon-load of passengers travelling on a train from Kyiv to Moscow to disembark after a Chinese woman with fever was found to be on board.
Police arrested 24 people in clashes with the residents of a town in central Ukraine on Thursday, who feared they would be infected by Ukrainians who had been evacuated from China’s Hubei province.
Premier Li urges increased mask production amid outbreak
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged businesses to increase the output of protective products, especially masks, to support the nationwide campaign against the coronavirus.
Li visited a private medical products manufacturer in Beijing that is producing 300,000 masks a day, China’s Central Television (CCTV) reported.
The government said mask factories all over the country are working at full capacity and are making nearly 20 million masks a day, CCTV said.
Output will sharply increase with more businesses investing in production lines, authorities said.
Iran reports two new deaths, 13 new cases
Iran’s health ministry reported two more deaths among 13 new cases of coronavirus in the Islamic Republic, bringing the total number of deaths to four and infections to 18.
“Thirteen new cases have been confirmed,” ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said on Twitter. “Unfortunately two of them have lost their lives.”
Israel confirms first case of new coronavirus
An Israeli woman who returned to Israel from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship near Tokyo tested positive upon return to her home country, Israel’s health ministry confirmed.
A health ministry statement said: “In the course of testing conducted by the Health Ministry’s central laboratory, one of the passengers who returned from the ship in Japan was found to be positive.
“The laboratory is pursuing confirmation of the finding. The remaining returning passengers tested negative today. The patient is in quarantine and under supervision and this is not an infection that took place in Israel.”
China to retally virus count to clear ‘doubt’ around data
China said it would reinsert previously removed cases from its coronavirus tally in the province at the centre of the epidemic after an earlier revision created “doubt” around the data.
The decision is the latest in a string of changes to the counting method used in Hubei over the past nine days – revisions that have further complicated efforts to track the spread of the illness.
Last week, Chinese health officials said patients from the central province who had been diagnosed via clinical methods including lung imaging would be added to the count, on top of those confirmed by lab tests.
Plane lands with Canadians evacuated from Japan virus ship
A chartered plane carrying more than 200 Canadians evacuated from the coronavirus-quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship landed at a military base in Ontario province.
All the passengers who arrived at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, 200km (120 miles) southwest of Ottawa, had tested negative for COVID-19, CBC reported.
They will, however, be quarantined for a further 14 days at the Nav Centre in Cornwall, Ontario, a hotel and conference centre which has previously been used by the government as an emergency shelter, the national broadcaster said.
Two more Italian residents test positive for coronavirus
Two more Italian residents tested positive for coronavirus, Lombardy region said, shortly after the first case of local transmission of the potentially deadly illness was confirmed in Italy.
The wife and a close friend of the initial patient had the virus and were now in quarantine, Giulio Gallera, a member of the local government, said in a statement.
The initial patient fell ill after meeting a friend who had recently returned from China.
N Korea to cancel April marathon over coronavirus fears
North Korea called off its Pyongyang Marathon scheduled for April after imposing a border lockdown and travel curbs to prevent a coronavirus outbreak, a Western tour company said.
In an online statement, Young Pioneer Tours said: “We have received confirmation from our travel partners in North Korea that the Pyongyang Marathon held in April has been cancelled due to the current borders of the DPRK being closed.”
But Pyongyang’s Autumn Marathon set for September is still scheduled to go ahead, added the company, which is one of several foreign operators that run tours to North Korea.
Kyrgyzstan halts issuance of new visas to Chinese nationals
Kyrgyzstan suspended the issuance of new visas to Chinese nationals because of the coronavirus outbreak in the neighbouring country, Kyrgyz news agency Akipress quoted deputy foreign minister Nurlan Abdrakhmanov as saying.
Chinese nationals who already have Kyrgyz visas are still allowed to enter the country, Abdrakhmanov said.
Young Chinese doctor dies of coronavirus
A 29-year-old doctor at the epicentre of China’s new coronavirus outbreak died from the disease, one of the youngest known fatalities of the epidemic and the latest among medical workers.
Peng Yinhua died on Thursday after becoming infected while working at Wuhan’s Jiangxia district People’s No 1 Hospital, official news agency Xinhua reported.
Ukraine minister joins China evacuees in quarantine after clashes
Ukraine’s health minister said she will spend two weeks in quarantine with evacuees from coronavirus-hit China after protesters clashed with police and threw stones at returnees over infection fears.
Kyiv’s efforts to treat 45 nationals and 27 foreigners, mostly from Latin America, in the central Poltava region sparked unrest on Thursday as residents blocked roads and hurled stones at buses carrying the evacuees.
“I will spend the next 14 days with them, in the same premises, under the same conditions,” Health Minister Zoryana Skaletska said late on Thursday in a statement addressed to the residents of Novi Sanzhary.
Read about the clashes here.
China fires officials over spead of coronavirus in prisons
China fired nearly a dozen prison and justice department officials across three provinces due to the emergence of coronavirus infections in prisons, state media reported.
Shandong, Zhejiang and Hubei provinces, the latter of which is the epicentre of the ongoing outbreak, reported a total of 447 infections in prisons, according to the state-run tabloid Global Times.
The paper described the infections as “blind zones” in China’s fight against the coronavirus.
South Korea’s confirmed cases rise to 204
South Korea reported another 48 new cases of the virus, raising its total to 204.
Italy’s Lombardy region confirms new coronavirus case
An Italian national tested positive for the new coronavirus, a statement of the Lombardy region said.
The 38-year old man was admitted to hospital in the northern town of Codogno and further medical tests are still under way, the region said.
It would be the fourth case confirmed in Italy after two Chinese tourists and another Italian tested positive.
China police handle 274 cases of price gouging, hoarding
China’s police handled 274 cases of illegal commercial practices such as price gouging and hoarding during the coronavirus outbreak, said an official with China’s public security bureau.
Li Jingsheng, the director of the public security administration at the Ministry of Public Security, also said they have dealt with a total of 1,787 cases of illegal wildlife trafficking during the outbreak.
China has temporarily banned all wild animal trade, as the coronavirus is believed to have originated in a seafood market in Wuhan.
Qatar accuses Saudis of hampering access to Gulf meet on coronavirus
Qatar accused Saudi Arabia of allowing a protracted dispute to hinder Gulf Arab coordination over the coronavirus outbreak by denying the Qatari health minister timely access to a meeting of regional health ministers in Riyadh.
Qatar’s foreign ministry said in a post on its official Twitter account that Saudi Arabia had only granted an entry permit to Public Health Minister Hanan al-Kuwari after the meeting at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) General Secretariat on Wednesday had already started.
“We are surprised to see that Saudi is politicising a humanitarian sector, that requires close collaboration and coordination due to the urgency of the situation,” the English-language statement issued on Thursday said.
Japan to let off last healthy cruise travellers, isolate rest
Japan’s health minister said the last cruise ship passengers who tested negative for a new virus will leave the Diamond Princess on Friday after a much-criticised quarantine of the vessel ended.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told a news conference the mass disembarkation into Japan of passengers from the ship is set to end on Friday, while dozens of foreign passengers are flying back to their home countries on flights chartered by their governments.
Most crew members and other passengers who have not completed their 14-day quarantines because they had more recent contact with infected people are staying on the ship for now, but they will be transported to a government facility to be quarantined in isolation.
Tokyo criticises suggestion that London could host 2020 Olympics
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said it was inappropriate for candidates in London’s mayoral election to propose their city host the 2020 Olympic Games if the coronavirus outbreak forces organisers to look for an alternative site.
Shaun Bailey, the Conservative Party candidate for mayor of the British capital, said London would be ready to host the event if needed.
The International Olympic Committee said the World Health Organization advised it that there was no case for contingency plans to cancel or relocate the Games from Tokyo.
South Korea’s K-League football team postpones matches
South Korea’s top professional football league said it had postponed next week’s opening home matches for Daegu FC and Pohang Steelers due to a surge of coronavirus cases in the southeastern region.
After a meeting of league executives and representatives from the 12 clubs, the K-League said Daegu’s season opener against Gangwon FC on February 29 and Pohang’s meeting with Busan IPark on March 1 would be played later in March or in June.
“We all recognise the gravity of the situation regarding COVID-19,” K-League Secretary-General Han Woong-soo was quoted as saying by Yonhap.
Iraq temporarily closes border with Iran
Iraq banned border crossings by Iranian nationals for three days from Thursday amid fears of the coronavirus, Iraq’s state news agency said on Thursday.
The decision came after Iraqi Airways suspended flights to Iran.
Two Iranians who tested positive on Wednesday for the disease have died, while three tested positive on Thursday, taking the total number of confirmed cases in Iran to five, the Iranian health ministry said.
China: Earliest vaccine to be submitted for trials in late April
The earliest vaccine for the coronavirus that has killed more than 2,000 in China alone will be submitted for clinical trials around late April, China’s Vice Science and Technology Minister Xu Nanping said on Friday.
Xu made the remarks during a press briefing.
Zhou Qi, deputy secretary-general of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, also told reporters companies which have resumed operations should ensure proper ventilation and maintain a safe distance among workers.
South Korea reports 52 new cases; Seoul bans rallies
South Korean capital Seoul banned rallies in major downtown areas in efforts to fight the viral outbreak.
The news comes as the country reports 52 new cases of infections, raising its total to 156, after declaring the southern city of Daegu a special zone following an explosion of infections.
South Korea declares Daegu city as ‘special management zone’
South Korea declared Daegu city as a “special management zone” following an explosion in new virus infections.
On Thursday, Daegu reported 23 new cases which were traced to a church that a 61-year-old coronavirus patient had attended.
South Korea currently has at least 82 cases of the infection.
Australia reports two coronavirus cases from Diamond Princess
Two evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan tested positive for coronavirus in Australia, according to authorities.
Australia on Thursday evacuated 170 citizens from the cruise ship owned by Carnival Corp, who had been confined to their cabins since February 3, when the vessel was quarantined at Yokohama, south of the capital, Tokyo.
After arriving in Australia’s tropical north all passengers were screened and those complaining of being unwell were tested for coronavirus. They will spend the next 14 days in quarantine.
Virus may end ‘by end of March’: Chinese diplomat
China’s Consulate General in Karachi, Pakistan said experts in China believe the “peak of the epidemic (had) already arrived” and it could be over by the end of March.
“I have seen that according to the experts in China, they are saying the peak of the epidemic has already arrived and it will come down no matter from the epicentre and across the whole of China,” Li Bijian said.
“This will [be] coming down this week and next week and the epidemic maybe go over by the end of March,” he added.
Ukraine protesters clash with police over China evacuees
Dozens of people clashed with police outside a hospital in central Ukraine over government plans to quarantine evacuees from coronavirus-hit China in the facility.
Six buses with the evacuees arrived at the medical centre, accompanied by law enforcement officers, a video published by Ukrainian media showed.
The policemen had to disperse the protesters to unblock a road that leads to the hospital and to create a cordon for the vehicles.
WHO says ‘no time for complacency’ as China virus cases fall
A continued decline in the number of new cases of coronavirus infections in China is encouraging, the World Health Organization said but it is too early to know if this trend will continue.
“We are encouraged by this trend but this is no time for complacency,” the WHO’s Ghebreyesus told a briefing in Geneva.
He noted that the number of coronavirus cases in the rest of world was very low compared inside China, but added: “That may not stay the same for very long”.
China backs Pakistan decision not to evacuate students
A Chinese diplomat backed Pakistan’s decision not to evacuate Pakistani students from the province at the centre of China’s coronavirus outbreak, a day after parents confronted government ministers demanding their children be brought home.
Pakistan ruled out bringing back more than 1,000 students in Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, where three-quarters of the more than 2,000 deaths from the outbreak have been recorded.
“If such a large number of students come back, this will cost huge health operations for the Pakistani government. If the isolation facilities are not ready, this can cause another outbreak of this virus in Pakistan,” Li Bijian, Consul General of China in Karachi, told reporters.
China sees drop in new virus cases: ‘Control efforts working’
China touted a big drop in new cases of the coronavirus as a sign it has contained the epidemic, but fears grew abroad after two former passengers of a quarantined cruise ship died in Japan and a cluster of infections increased in South Korea.
Chinese officials said this week their drastic containment efforts including quarantining tens of millions of people in Hubei and restricting movements in cities nationwide have started to pay off.
“Results show that our control efforts are working,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a special meeting on the virus with Southeast Asian counterparts in Laos.
“China’s forceful action has contained the spread of the virus inside China and also the spread of the virus to other parts of the world,” Wang said, adding the country “has the capacity and determination to overcome this outbreak at an early date”.