China coronavirus outbreak: All the latest updates

Global death toll reaches 427 with two reported dead outside mainland China as the number of infections passes 20,500.

Hong Kong reported its first death from the new coronavirus on Tuesday – only the second outside mainland China – as the death toll from the outbreak rose to at least 425 and China admitted “shortcomings and difficulties” in its response to the flu-like infection.

The Hong Kong victim was a 39-year-old man who had recently travelled to Wuhan, where the virus originated, and had underlying health problems, the authorities said. It was the second death recorded outside mainland China – the first was in the Philippines on Sunday.

Meanwhile, China’s National Health Commission reported 64 new deaths as of midnight on Monday – the biggest daily increase since the virus was first detected late last year. Wuhan and the surrounding province of Hubei have been effectively sealed off from the rest of the country for more than a week.

There are now 20,471 people confirmed to have the infection in mainland China. 

Late on Monday, the Standing Committee of the Politburo – the country’s top leadership – met in Beijing and acknowledged “shortcomings and difficulties” in China’s response to the outbreak.

“This is very rare sort of language to hear,” Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown said from Hong Kong, where he was reporting from the border. “This was the senior leadership of the party essentially admitting they had failed the people. They said officials who had made mistakes would be punished. And they said China would have to improve the way it responded to this sort of national emergency in the future.”   

Other countries have rushed to evacuate their citizens from Hubei and its capital city, Wuhan, while many have also imposed extraordinary travel restrictions on travellers to and from China.

More than 170 cases have been reported in two dozen other countries, with the United States reporting the second case of human-to-human transmission on Monday.

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday called for greater solidarity and slammed some governments of being “well behind” in sharing data on virus cases as he has received complete case report forms for only 38 percent of the cases outside China. 

Here are the latest updates:

Tuesday, February 4

WHO chief slams wealthy countries for failing to share virus data

Head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom, accused some wealthy countries of being “well behind” in sharing data on novel coronavirus cases, calling for more global solidarity to combat the virus.

Tedros said he has written to all health ministers to improve data-sharing on coronavirus cases immediately.

“Of the 176 cases reported outside China so far, WHO has received complete case report forms for only 38 percent of cases. Some high-income countries are well behind in sharing this vital data with WHO,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

WHO: 22 nations imposed travel or trade-related measures

WHO said 22 nations have officially reported trade or travel-related measures linked to a new coronavirus outbreak saying they should be short in duration, proportionate and considered regularly.

China’s envoy to the UN in Geneva Chen Xu says some restrictions do not comply with WHO advice which urged countries to no overreact.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom reiterated the agency’s advice not to impose travel or trade restrictions on China saying such measures can cause “fear and stigma”.

Hyundai to halt S. Korea output as China virus disrupts parts supply

Hyundai Motor will suspend production in South Korea because the coronavirus outbreak has disrupted the supply of parts, it said, becoming the first major carmaker to do so outside of China.

In China, global automakers have already extended factory closures in line with government guidelines. Those manufacturers include Hyundai, Tesla, Ford, PSA Peugeot Citroen , Nissan and Honda Motor.

Hong Kong Hospital Authority asks medical workers to return to work

The Hong Kong Hospital Authority (HA) has appealed to public hospital employees to return to work as it said nearly 5,000 staff were absent from duty on Tuesday.

Medical workers went on a strike to pressure the government into instigating a full border closure with mainland China.

According to Dr Deacons Yeung, HA director of cluster services, public hospitals can currently maintain only basic emergency surgery services due to the absence of staff.

People wear face masks as they walk through a shopping mall in Taipei, Taiwan [Chiang Ying-ying/AP Photo]
People wear face masks as they walk through a shopping mall in Taipei, Taiwan [Chiang Ying-ying/AP] 

France warns against travel to China

France’s government has joined the United Kingdom in warning against any non-essential travel to China and suggesting that all of its citizens in China leave while the new virus is still spreading.

The Foreign Ministry issued the travel warning Tuesday based on measures taken by Chinese authorities, and on “the evolution of the epidemic”.

It said France’s embassy and consular services in China will continue to help French people who decide to stay in China.

WHO joins forces with Google to fight ‘infodemic’ about virus

The WHO’s chief of global infections hazard preparedness says the UN health agency has teamed up with Google and other social media outlets to help fight an “infodemic” about a viral outbreak in China.

Dr Sylvie Briand explored the difficulties of getting facts straight about the coronavirus outbreak.

Expert warns disease appears to be ‘on the rise’

A doctor who led the WHO’s response to the 2002-03 SARS outbreak said it is too early to tell when the new coronavirus will peak, but that it appears the disease is still on the increase.

Dr David Heymann said the spike in China’s caseload in recent days was partly attributable to the fact that Chinese officials expanded their search to include milder cases, not only people with pneumonia.

Heymann said as the new virus starts to spread beyond China, scientists will gain a much better understanding of the disease.

Royal Caribbean cancels eight China cruises

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd cancelled eight cruises out of China through March 4 in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the company said on Tuesday.

Royal Caribbean also said it would deny boarding to people who had visited mainland China or Hong Kong over the past 15 days. It will also screen Chinese and Hong Kong passport holders and people showing flu-like symptoms.

Iraq says OPEC weighing output cut

OPEC members and their ally Russia are discussing a further cut to crude oil output at a meeting in Vienna because of China’s coronavirus epidemic, Iraq’s oil ministry said Tuesday.

Crude prices have tumbled since the outbreak in the world’s second-biggest economy, which is a huge consumer of crude.

“Depending on the needs of the market and how it’s been affected by the coronavirus, will a cut be necessary? This is being discussed as the technical reports are presented,” said Iraq’s oil ministry spokesman Assem Jihad.

US White House’s adviser: ‘It’s not a disaster’ 

The coronavirus outbreak will likely have some effect on US supply chains, but the effects will probably not be catastrophic, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said in an interview with Fox Business Network.

“It’s not a catastrophe. It’s not a disaster,” Kudlow said, adding later: “We’ve been through this before and I just think the impact is minimal.”

Plane brings Thais back from China’s virus-hit Wuhan

A plane carrying Thais from Wuhan arrived in Thailand late on Tuesday.

The plane, which arrived at U-Tapao airport in the eastern Rayong province, was carrying 138 Thais, all of whom were healthy, public health minister Anutin Charnvirakul said ahead of the plane’s arrival.

They will be quarantined for 14 days in a navy resort near the Thai navy base in Sattahip, Chonburi, east of Bangkok.

Russia sends military planes to evacuate citizens

Russia has sent military planes to evacuate its citizens from Wuhan. More than 130 Russian nationals are expected to be brought back to Russia by Tuesday.

The Russian Ambassador to China, Andrey Denisov, said Russia received written permission from Chinese authorities on Tuesday to send the planes.

Those evacuated will be held in quarantine for 14 days in Siberia’s Tyumen region.

Reports of anti-Chinese views in Philippines over coronavirus (02:22)

American Airlines suspends flights to and from Hong Kong

American Airlines Group, the largest US carrier, said it had suspended all its flights to and from Hong Kong.

A spokeswoman said the airline’s suspension of its Hong Kong flights to and from Los Angeles and Dallas would continue through February 20.

Chinese racer Ma in quarantine for Mexican Formula E race

China’s only Formula E driver Ma Qinghua has gone into quarantine in Mexico ahead of the country’s race on February 15.

Ma’s Nio 333 team said in a statement that Chinese employees who had gone home for the Chinese New Year celebrations after last month’s race in Chile were well and preparing for the Mexico City round.

“In a responsible manner toward the championship and personnel involved in Formula E, Chinese driver Ma Qinghua arrived in Mexico City on the 2nd of February to ensure a 14-day quarantine period prior to the race,” the team added.

Britain tells its citizens to leave China if they can

Britain told its citizens to leave China if they could after airlines suspended flights, making it increasingly difficult to get out.

In an update to its travel advice, the Foreign Office also said some staff and dependants from the British Embassy and consulates were being withdrawn from China.

Essential staff, such as those providing consular assistance, would remain.

Matches involving Chinese clubs in the Asian Champions League postponed

Matches involving Chinese clubs in the Asian Champions League have been postponed for the first three match days because of the coronavirus outbreak, the ruling body, Asian Football Confederation, said.

But the AFC also said after an emergency meeting in Kuala Lumpur that one match, Thailand’s Chiangrai United v Beijing, would remain set for match day two on February 18 as the Chinese team was training in South Korea and did not quarantine measures.

The outbreak also prompted the Chinese women’s handball team not to participate in a Tokyo 2020 Olympics qualifying tournament next month; while Formula One teams are to discuss the fate of the April 19 Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on Wednesday.

Uzbekistan evacuates 250 from China

Uzbekistan has evacuated 250 people from China and will place them in quarantine after their arrival shortly in Tashkent, the Central Asian nation’s state airline said.

Uzbekistan Airways said in a statement the passengers were being accompanied by doctors and specialists with protective equipment.

Ukraine’s last planned plane from China to arrive in Kyiv

The last planned Ukrainian flight from China before a ban over coronavirus is enforced was due to arrive in Kyiv shortly with about 200 passengers on board, Ukraine International Airlines said.

It said the plane, coming from the Chinese resort town of Sanya, was due to land at 2:28 pm local time (12:28 GMT).

Deputy director of Kyiv’s Boryspil airport last week said Ukraine would suspend direct flights to China over coronavirus fears from February 4.

Coronavirus: Pressure grows for Hong Kong to close border (06:08)

Thailand approves price controls for face masks

The Thai government has approved measures to control the prices of face masks and hand-sanitising gel after a reported lack of supplies.

A proposal to place the products on the state price control list was approved by the cabinet, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said.

Businesses that produce or sell goods on the list are required to inform authorities of production costs and seek approval before making price changes.

WHO: World currently ‘not in a pandemic’ of coronavirus

Sylvie Briand, director of global infectious hazard preparedness at the World Health Organization (WHO), said: “Currently we are not in a pandemic”, we are at a phase where we have an epidemic of coronavirus with multiple foci and we try to extinguish each of these foci.

She also said the WHO was working with different countries on repatriation of people from China, having “intense discussions to see how we can harmonise the practices”.

Briand said the WHO currently has no evidence of mutation of the virus, adding that “it is quite a stable virus”.

Sylvie Briand, Director of global infectious hazard preparedness at the World Health Organization (WHO) attends a news conference on the new coronavirus outbreak in Geneva, Switzerland February 4, 202
Sylvie Briand, director of global infectious hazard preparedness at WHO [Denis Balibouse/Reuters]

Singapore announces first local coronavirus transmissions

Singapore’s Ministry of Health said it had found six additional cases, four of them involving human-to-human transmission within Singapore, bringing the total infections to 24 in the city-state.

“Though four of these cases constitute a local transmission cluster, there is as yet no evidence of widespread sustained community transmission in Singapore,” the ministry said in a statement.

Thailand confirms six new cases

Thailand confirmed six new cases, four of them Thai nationals and two Chinese.

The four Thai people included a couple who had visited Japan and two drivers who had picked up Chinese passengers in Thailand, the health ministry said.

The new cases brought the total reported in the country to 25.

Jeweller Pandora says China business at ‘standstill’

Pandora’s business in China has ground to a halt, the jewellery maker and retailer said, as a new flu-like virus forced the company to shut around a third of its stores in one of its top markets as shoppers stay at home.

“As I sit here and watch the Chinese business, it is in a standstill mode, I mean there’s pennies being sold,” Chief Executive Alexander Lacik told Reuters, describing an “unprecedented” drop in business.

Pandora has closed 70 of its 240 shops in China on the order of the government and at its remaining ones, mostly in shopping malls, customer traffic is “next to none”, Lacik said.

Philippines monitoring 105 patients

The Philippines Department of Health said 105 people in the country were now under observation for possible novel coronavirus infection.

Can China handle the economic turmoil of its viral outbreak?

One analyst says the crisis may provide the government with the excuse it needs to miss its growth target.

Read the story here.

Cambodian PM to visit students in Wuhan for moral support

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said he will visit Cambodian students in Wuhan to give them moral support following criticism of his decision not to repatriate them.

Hun Sen, a close ally of China, said he would fly there on Wednesday from South Korea, where he is attending a summit, and that he had informed Chinese authorities of his trip.

He said in a post on his Facebook page he would visit the students to “to show them warmth and to make sure they are not scared of the new type of infectious coronavirus”.

Hyundai suspends domestic production

South Korea’s largest automaker, Hyundai Motor Company, will suspend all domestic production this week because of a lack of parts due to the coronavirus outbreak in China, it said.

“Hyundai Motor has decided to suspend its production lines from operating at all of its plants in Korea,” the carmaker said in a statement.

The order of suspensions would vary, it said, but all production would cease by the end of the week.

Japan’s ANA to slash flights to Beijing from Tokyo

Japan’s biggest carrier ANA Holdings said it will slash the number of flights between Tokyo and Beijing by two-thirds beginning February 10, for at least seven weeks.

ANA will reduce flights from Tokyo’s two airports, Haneda and Narita, to the Chinese capital from 21 flights per week to seven, the airline said in a statement.

ANA’s local rival Japan Airlines Co, in a separate statement, said it also planned to reduce services to China over the next several weeks, including cancellations and the use of smaller aircraft on some routes.

Repatriated Belgian tests positive for coronavirus

A Belgian person, one of nine repatriated from Wuhan in China on Sunday, has tested positive for the coronavirus, Belgium’s health agency said.

The agency said all nine people had undergone a series of tests in a military hospital in the capital, Brussels. Eight of them tested negative.

No details were given about the person who tested positive, but the agency said they were in good health and not currently showing any symptoms of the virus.

Malaysia confirms first citizen infected with virus, total cases now 10

Malaysian health authorities confirmed the first citizen to be infected with the new coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 10.

They said the 41-year-old Malaysian had travelled to Singapore for a meeting last month with colleagues from China – including one from Wuhan. But he only showed symptoms on January 29, nearly a week after he returned to Malaysia.

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said lab results on February 3 confirmed that the man, along with a 63-year-old man from Wuhan who had been under observation, had contracted the virus.

China moves virus patients into new facilities

China has begun moving patients suffering from the deadly new virus into rapidly built or adapted facilities, although the degree of medical isolation among them appears to vary widely.

The first 50 patients were moved into Huoshenshan Hospital, a pre-fabricated structure on the outskirts of the city of Wuhan.

Taiwan to restrict entry of foreigners from China

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said the island will deny entry to all foreign nationals who had been to China during the past 14 days, starting from Friday.

The new incoming travel ban includes all foreign nationals who have been in China since February 7, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

It extends an existing ban on visitors from China but does not include visitors from Hong Kong and Macau.

Macau to close casinos for two weeks over virus

Macau will close all its casinos for two weeks because of the coronavirus, the leader of the semi-autonomous territry announced.

Gaming forms the backbone of Macau’s economy.

“We will suspend the gambling industry and related casino businesses for half a month,” chief executive Ho Iat-seng said.

Gambling is crucial to the economy of Macau, a semi-autonomous territory in southern China [File: Jason Lee/Reuters]

South Korean woman tests positive for coronavirus after Thailand visit

A South Korean woman has tested positive for coronavirus after visiting Thailand, South Korean officials said, the first foreign tourist reported to have been infected after a visit to the southeast Asian nation.

The 42-year-old, identified only as Patient 16, flew back to South Korea on January 19 after holidaying in Thailand, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said in a statement.

Treated since developing chills and other symptoms from January 25, she did not improve until Sunday, the KCDC added, and was confirmed positive on Tuesday, following checks at Chonnam National University Hospital.

Chinese cities far from virus epicentre sealed off

Two more cities in China’s eastern province of Zhejiang, far from the epicentre of the health emergency, have restricted the movement of residents.

The city of Taizhou and three Hangzhou districts – including the area that is home to the main office of Chinese tech giant Alibaba – will only allow one person from each household to go outside every two days to buy necessities, city officials said.

Between them the areas are home to more than nine million people.

China virus
 Taizhou and three districts of Hangzhou are the latest to impose severe restrictions on residents’ movement [China Daily via Reuters]

China tells domestic airlines not to cut international routes

China’s civil aviation authority has urged domestic carriers to continue flying international routes, except to countries with travel bans as a result of the coronavirus epidemic, state news agency Xinhua said.

The comments of the Civil Aviation Administration of China were reported on Xinhua’s account on messaging app Weibo.

Malaysia evacuates citizens from Wuhan on chartered AirAsia jet

Malaysia on Wednesday brought back 107 people – including citizens’ non-Malaysian partners and children –  from Wuhan and placed them in quarantine for 14 days.

The chartered AirAsia aircraft landed in Kuala Lumpur at 6am (22:00 GMT) and the evacuees, as well as the 12 crew and 14 government officials on board, were taken to a separate building for screening, the National Disaster Management Agency said in a statement.

Of the 107, two did not pass the health screening and were admitted to Kuala Lumpur’s main hospital, it said. 

Taiwan calls China ‘vile’ for restricting island’s access to WHO on coronavirus

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday China is “vile” for restricting the island’s access to the WHO during the coronavirus outbreak, adding to tensions with Beijing over the health crisis.

China said on Monday that it had shared full information on the virus with authorities in Taiwan, where there have been 10 confirmed cases, and that channels of communication were “unblocked”.

Hong Kong reports first death from coronavirus

Hong Kong reported its first death from the coronavirus on Tuesday morning; a 39-year-old man with underlying health issues, as the territory closed all but three of its border crossings and health workers stepped up a strike over the government’s handling of the outbreak.

Chief executive Carrie Lam refuted the medics claims.

“I certainly would not agree with the allegation that we are not addressing this public health concern adequately,” Lam told reporters at a media conference on Tuesday. “Certainly, I do not agree with the allegation that we are putting politics above public health.”

For more on the strike and the medical workers concerns, read here.

Taiwan evacuates first group from Wuhan, announces mask curbs

Taiwan has evacuated the first group of an estimated 500 Taiwanese stranded in Wuhan.

Taiwan had complained that China had not responded to requests to fly out its citizens, even as Beijing gave such permission to other governments, including the United States and Britain.

China virus
Taiwan is limiting purchases of face masks after the outbreak of the coronavirus prompted a surge in demand [David Chang/EPA]

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement on Tuesday that 247 people had arrived at Taipei’s main international airport late on Monday. They will be quarantined for 14 days, and anyone showing symptoms of the virus will be sent to the hospital.

Separately, Taiwan said it would begin rationing face masks, with people limited to two masks each week on presentation of their national insurance cards.

China says US should not overreact on coronavirus outbreak

China’s foreign ministry reiterated on Tuesday the United States should refrain from overreacting over the coronavirus outbreak and called on Washington to work with Beijing and the international community to deal with the epidemic.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, in a statement issued by the ministry, also said Beijing notes the repeated offer from the US to China for assistance in fighting the outbreak. Beijing hopes that Washington will provide the offered aid soon, she said.

Japan quarantines cruise ship in Yokohama

Japan has quarantined a cruise ship with 3,500 people on board after a passenger who got off the liner in  Hong Kong tested positive for the virus.

Japan cruise ship
The Diamond Princess and the 3,500 people on board have been quarantined off Yokohama Port in Japan [Kyodo via Reuters]

Television footage showed images of several quarantine officers entering the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama on Monday evening to check the health of all 2,500 passengers and 1,000 crew.

An 80-year-old passenger who disembarked on January 25 in Hong Kong tested positive for the deadly virus.

Australian Wuhan evacuees arrive on Christmas Island

The first plane-load of Australians evacuated from Wuhan has arrived in the Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island, where they will be quarantined for two weeks to prevent the spread of the virus, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said,

The plane carrying 243 passengers, 14 crew, four pilots and officials from the Department of Health first landed at a military airbase about 1,200 kilometres (746 miles) north of Perth, and a pregnant woman and her partner were put into isolation in Perth, Morrison said.

The remaining 241 people continued their journey to Christmas Island, landing at 9:01pm (14:01 GMT) on Monday, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Morrison said Australia was now working with China on a second evacuation flight, and was working with New Zealand to secure Australian nationals a seat on their plane.

Russia postpones annual investment forum

Russia is postponing an annual investment forum in the Black Sea city of Sochi that had been scheduled to take place next week because of concerns about the coronavirus concerns, a government order said.

The Russian Investment Forum, which is attended by a string of high-ranking officials and foreign investors, had been set to take place from February 12-14. The government order did not say when it would now be held.

Coronavirus: How does it spread?

United Airlines suspending US-bound mainland China flights a day earlier

United Airlines said on Monday it will bring forward its temporary suspension of US-bound flights from mainland China by one day to Tuesday.

The airline, which is the last US airline still operating China flights said on Friday it planned to fly its last flight from China on Wednesday because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Delta Air Lines suspended flights over the weekend, while American Airlines ended its flights from mainland China on Friday. United said Monday it still plans to resume flights to and from China on March 28.

United Airlines
United Airlines is among numerous carriers that have suspended operations to China [File: Chris Helgren/Reuters]

World Bank calls for global effort against virus

The World Bank called on Monday for countries to step up programmes to fight the new coronavirus outbreak and said it was considering mobilising its own resources against the disease.

“We are calling on all countries to strengthen their health surveillance and response systems, which is essential to contain the spread of this and any future outbreaks,” the institution said in a statement.

It added that it was reviewing financial and technical resources that could be mobilised quickly to support affected countries and ways to accelerate the international response.

Read updates from Monday, February 3 here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies