China coronavirus outbreak: All the latest updates

New outbreak death toll nears 500, as confirmed cases pass 24,500, with majority of infections and deaths in China.

China coronavirus
A man wearing a mask is seen at Lujiazui financial district in Pudong, Shanghai, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of a new coronavirus, February 5, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song [Reuters]

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in mainland China has risen to 490 after more deaths were reported in Hubei province. The virus originated in Wuhan, Hubei’s provincial capital.

A further 24,324 people on the Chinese mainland have been infected China’s National Health Commission said on Wednesday.

The virus has killed two people outside of mainland China, one in Hong Kong and another in the Philippines. At least 25 countries have confirmed cases.

Countries around the world have rushed to evacuate their citizens from Hubei and Wuhan, while many have also imposed extraordinary travel restrictions on travellers to and from China.

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has called for greater solidarity among the international community, and criticised governments for being “well behind” in sharing data on virus cases.

Read updates from Thursday, February 6 here.

Here are the latest updates:

Wednesday, February 5

US confirms new case

The United States has confirmed its twelfth case of coronavirus, the first in the state of Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said in a statement that the patient is “an adult with a history of travel to Beijing, China prior to becoming ill”.

It added that the patient was “exposed to known cases” while in China and was now isolated at home.

Read more about which countries have confirmed cases here.

Canadians who do not need to be in China should leave: Ottawa

Canadian citizens who do not need to be in China should leave while they still can, Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said. 

“We are advising Canadians whose presence in China is not essential to depart via commercial means while they remain available,” he told reporters.

Canada intended to fly out 200 citizens on Wednesday but will wait another 24 hours because of bad weather, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier.

Hong Kong prepares to quarantine those arriving from China

About 350 US evacuees from Wuhan land in California

Two planes carrying about 350 US citizens out of Wuhan has arrived at a US military base in California. 

The US travelers on two State Department-chartered flights will be quarantined for 14 days after landing, the US Defense Department said. 

WHO convening experts on drugs, vaccines to set research agenda

Experts will meet in Geneva from February 11-12 to set research and development priorities for coronavirus drugs, diagnostics and vaccines to combat the outbreak, the WHO said.

WHO Director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a multinational WHO-led team would go to China “soon”.

Gates Foundation announce $100m for coronavirus response

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged to commit up to $100m for the global response to the coronavirus.

The funding will be used to strengthen detection, isolation and treatment efforts, the foundation said, including protecting at-risk populations and developing vaccines and diagnostics. 

“Multilateral organizations, national governments, the private sector and philanthropies must work together to slow the pace of the outbreak, help countries protect their most vulnerable citizens and accelerate the development of the tools to bring this epidemic under control,” Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman said.

WHO chief: 80 percent of China virus cases are in Hubei

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that 80 percent of China’s coronavirus cases are in the central Hubei province and that not all provinces had been affected.

He said there were 24,363 cases in China and 490 deaths. The last 24-hour period of monitoring saw the most cases in a single day, he said. 

Some 99 percent fo all the cases worldwide are in China, he added.

WHO issues appeal for $675m to fight virus

The WHO has called for $675m in donations for a plan to fight the coronavirus, mainly through investment in countries considered particularly “at risk”.

“Today we’re launching a strategic preparedness and response plan … We’re requesting $675 million to fund the plan for the next three months,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing in Geneva.

Singapore confirms four more coronavirus cases

Singapore’s health ministry has confirmed four more cases, including in a six-month-old baby, taking its tally to 28. 

Both the parents of the infant, a Singaporean citizen, have also been infected, the ministry said. 

Read more about which countries have confirmed cases here.

Adidas closes ‘considerable’ number of shops in China

German sportswear company Adidas said it was temporarily closing a “considerable” number of its stores in China. 

The company said the fast-spreading virus was having a negative impact on its business but added that it could not yet assess to what extent. Adidas has about 12,000 outlets in China, including franchise shops.

Putin proposed stripping pharmacy licenses for raising mask prices

Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed stripping pharmacies of their licenses if they raise prices for anti-virus masks.

Russia, which last week reported its first two cases of the virus, has restricted crossings along its 4,300km (2,670-mile) land border with China and flew home its first group of citizens from Wuhan on Wednesday.

Coronavirus a ‘new layer of uncertainty’ for economy: ECB’s Lagarde

The spread of the virus presents “a new layer of uncertainty” the the European economy, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde said.

“While the threat of a trade war between the United States and China appears to have receded, the coronavirus adds a new layer of uncertainty,” Lagarde said at a speech in Paris, putting the disease on the same level as “global risks” such as trade tensions and geopolitical flashpoints.

Christine Lagarde
Lagarde addressed the potential economic impact of the virus during a speech in Paris [File: Johanna Geron/Reuters]

Chinese air force will join Singapore Airshow

China’s air force will participate in the upcoming Singapore Airshow, the Chinese defence ministry said in a post on its official WeChat account, adding that it would send nine aircraft and more than 100 personnel.

Singapore has banned entry to all Chinese visitors and those who have recently visited China.

In a statement, the Singapore Airshow said that China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force aerobatics team Ba Yi would fly for the first time at the show. The event has taken special measures to safeguard attendees against the virus.

WHO: ‘No known effective’ treatments for new coronavirus

The World Health Organization (WHO) played down media reports of “breakthrough” drugs being discovered to treat people infected with the new coronavirus.

A Chinese TV report said that a research team at Zhejiang University had found an effective drug for the virus, while British broadcaster Sky News said researchers had made a “significant breakthrough” in developing a vaccine.

Asked about the reports, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said: “There are no known effective therapeutics against this 2019-nCoV (virus).”

Coronavirus: 2019-NCoV vaccine

Thousands of Chinese tourists stranded in Bali after flights suspended

Thousands of Chinese tourists risk being stranded in Bali after the Indonesian government suspended flights to and from mainland China.

With flights to be suspended at midnight Wednesday, at least 5,000 Chinese tourists are currently on the holiday island, according to Gou Haodong, the Chinese Consul General in Denpasar.

Some are hoping to secure visa extensions offered by Bali deputy governor Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati.

China’s Xi says virus controls at crucial stage

China’s efforts to control a coronavirus outbreak are at a crucial stage and authorities must prevent the epidemic from spreading, Xinhua news agency quoted President Xi Jinping as saying.

The government must report coronavirus outbreak information accurately in a timely manner, and will crack down on coronavirus related rumour-mongering, Xi said.

Xi also said the government would ensure donated goods would be fully used in virus controls.

About 350 US evacuees from China en route to California

About 350 Americans evacuated from Wuhan are expected to arrive at two US military bases in California, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The US travelers on two US Department of State-chartered flights will land at Travis Air Force Base, before one of the planes continues to Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. Passengers will be quarantined for 14 days.

Airbus halts output at Tianjin assembly plant

Airbus has prolonged a planned closure of its final assembly plant in Tianjin, China, the planemaker said, adding it was monitoring for any signs of impact on deliveries.

“The Tianjin final assembly line facility is currently closed,” Airbus said in a statement.

“Airbus is constantly evaluating the situation and monitoring any potential knock-on effects to production and deliveries and will try to mitigate via alternative plans where necessary.”

IAG sees marginal impact of coronavirus on global travel

The new coronavirus epidemic will have a only a marginal impact on global travel demand and the airline industry is healthy enough to absorb any economic slowdown in China, said the chief executive of British Airways parent IAG.

“The aviation industry is very robust. We may see some marginal impact,” IAG CEO Willie Walsh told reporters in Doha at a CAPA aviation summit.

Mothers may pass coronavirus to unborn children: Chinese doctors

Pregnant women infected with the new coronavirus may be able to pass it to their unborn child, doctors at the Wuhan Children’s Hospital said, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

The doctors said it was possible after an infected coronavirus patient gave birth to a baby on February 2.

The newborn was given a test 30 hours later and was confirmed to have the virus, they said.

Malaysian journalist charged over China virus posts

A Malaysian journalist was charged with causing public alarm with Facebook posts about the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China, as authorities warned against online “rumour-mongering”.

Wan Noor Hayati Wan Alias, a Malaysian newspaper journalist, denied three charges in a Kuala Lumpur court of breaking laws that ban statements which cause public fear and alarm, according to court documents.

The documents did not say what she posted on Facebook, but local media reported the posts were related to the virus. The 40-year-old faces up to two years in prison for each count if found guilty.

Russia evacuation
A Russian military plane at an airport outside Tyumen, Russia [Maxim Slutsky/AP]

Russian plane evacuates 80 from China

A Russian military plane, evacuating 80 people from China, landed in the Siberian city of Tyumen.

The Russian defence ministry said in a statement that a medical staff accompanied the passengers – citizens of Russia, Belarus, Armenia and some other former Soviet countries.

“Among the evacuated citizens no cases of infection were identified,” the statement said. The military doctors reported “the satisfactory condition of those who arrived from China”, it added.

All the evacuees will be in quarantine for 14 days.

Italy scans all international arrivals for coronavirus

Italy began thermal scanning passengers arriving on all international flights. At Rome’s Fiumicino airport, the controls were extended to domestic flights as well.

Ukraine: Coronavirus is not disrupting grain exports to China

Ukraine officials and traders do not expect the coronavirus epidemic to have an impact on the country’s grain exports to China, although there are delays to transport and disruption to logistics throughout the country.

“I see no reason to worry,” said Mykola Gorbachev, the President of the Ukrainian Grain Association (UGA) traders’ union.

“China is in the market, demand has not gone away, but just now American prices are quite competitive with ours so Chinese demand will be divided between us and them,” one Ukrainian trader said.

“There are difficulties inside China with logistics, with delivery to the regions, to consumers, but in general, the demand has not gone away,” he added.

Coronavirus evacuee plane from Wuhan arrives in New Zealand

A plane load of New Zealanders, Australians and Pacific Islanders evacuated from China’s Wuhan city arrived in New Zealand’s Auckland, where they will be quarantined to prevent the spread of a new flu-like coronavirus, officials said.

The Air New Zealand flight with 190 evacuees, three consular staff and five New Zealand health officials landed around 6pm local time (05:00 GMT). The New Zealanders will be put in quarantine for two weeks.

Also among the passengers were 35 Australians and Australian residents with Chinese passports who would be returned to Australia, the authorities added.

While the Australians would be transferred to an unspecified location in Australia without entering New Zealand, the Pacific Islanders would be held in isolation with the New Zealanders at a military base in Whangaparaoa, 25km (15 miles) north of Auckland.

Hong Kong to further tighten mainland China border

Hong Kong will close two cruise terminals and will put anyone coming from mainland China into compulsory quarantine for 14 days, its leader Carrie Lam said.

Lam said the measures were aimed at curbing the cross-border flow of people to prevent the spread of a new coronavirus, which originated on mainland China.

Some medical staff have been on strike for the past three days, demanding a full border closure.

There have been 21 confirmed cases in Hong Kong, Lam said.

Two Malaysians brought from Wuhan test positive for virus

Two Malaysians who were flown back from Wuhan have tested positive for the coronavirus, the Southeast Asian nation’s health ministry said, raising the tally of confirmed cases in the country to 12.

A 45-year-old woman and her 9-year-old son did not show any symptoms when subjected to health screening on arrival in Kuala Lumpur but lab tests confirmed on Wednesday they had contracted the virus, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said.

“Both are receiving treatment in an isolation ward … and they are in stable condition,” Dzulkefly said.

Coronavirus hits Thai tourist industry as Chinese stay away (02:26)

Russia not considering restricting food from China

Russia is not considering restricting the supply of food from China, the deputy head of the agriculture ministry said, according to Russian news agencies.

“We are not considering it,” Maxim Uvaydov said, adding that there has not yet been any information about whether the coronavirus can be transferred through food.

Qatar Airways continuing cargo operations to China

Akbar Al Baker, the CEO of Qatar Airways, said the airline that suspended passenger flights to and from mainland China from February 3 will continue its cargo operations to the country.

Speaking at an aviation event in Doha, he also said Qatar Airways hopes other countries will soon ease entry restrictions on people who recently visited China.

The airline is donating medical supplies to China, Al Baker added.

Thai taxi driver sends encouraging message to Wuhan

A Thai cab driver who recovered from the new coronavirus after catching it from Chinese tourists said he wanted to encourage the city of Wuhan to keep fighting the virus.

“I watched the news every day from my quarantine room and send my support to Wuhan,” said the 50-year-old driver, who wore a surgical mask to conceal his identity at a news conference.

“Even I can beat it. So can you,” the driver said as he was discharged from hospital.

Tokyo Olympics chief expresses worry for this year’s Games

Tokyo 2020 Olympics organisers expressed growing concerns about the effect of the coronavirus from China on this year’s Games, which kick off in less than six months.

“I’m very worried that the spread of the infectious disease could throw cold water on the growing momentum towards the Games,” Tokyo Olympics chief executive Toshiro Muto said at a meeting with officials of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), broadcaster NHK reported.

Tokyo organisers will coordinate with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the IPC, the Japanese government and Tokyo’s city government to take measures against the virus, Muto added.

Cathay Pacific asks 27,000 staff to take unpaid leave

Hong Kong’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific is asking its 27,000 employees to take up to three weeks of unpaid leave, CEO Augustus Tang said, as the airline faces a crisis in the wake of the new coronavirus outbreak.

“I am hoping all of you will participate, from our frontline employees to our senior leaders, and share in our current challenges,” Tang said in a video message posted online.

In his video message to employees, Tang warned Cathay was experiencing “one of the most difficult Chinese New Year holidays we have ever had” because of the virus.

“And we don’t know how long it will last,” he added. “With such an uncertain outlook, preserving our cash is now the key to protecting our business.”

Foxconn sees full China production resuming late-February

Taiwan’s Foxconn aims to “gradually” restart factories in China next week but it could take at least one to two weeks from then to resume full production due to the coronavirus outbreak, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Foxconn, which makes smartphones for global vendors including Apple, has filed requests to reopen factories with local Chinese governments, the source said, adding that full resumption was not possible until late-February due to various travel bans to curb the virus.

China to support virus-hit firms to raise funds via debt instruments

China’s bond market regulator said it will actively support debt financing and debt issuance by companies heavily affected by a fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak.

The National Association of Financial Market Institutional Investors (NAFMII) said it would also support the companies who have participated in containing the spread of the virus, according to a statement published on the central bank’s official WeChat account.

NAFMII is backed by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC). The association also said it would allow virus-hit firms to issue bonds and raise funds via other instruments including asset-backed notes (ABN).

In addition, the association encouraged a lenient approach to debt repayments for firms affected by the epidemic.

Vietnam setting up field hospitals for possible virus influx

Vietnam is setting up field hospitals with thousands of beds to handle a potential influx of coronavirus cases, health officials said, as it prepares to receive its nationals from China.

In the southern business hub of Ho Chi Minh city, two existing facilities are being converted into field hospitals with a total capacity of 500 beds.

In Hanoi, two military facilities have been turned into quarantine centres for up to 1,500 people as the country prepares to receive 950 people from China to be isolated at the sites.

Two provinces in northern Vietnam near the China border have also set up beds for close to 3,000 patients. Central Vietnam has centres ready for as many as 3,700.

African students trapped in coronavirus-hit Wuhan plead for help

Stuck in the epicentre of a viral outbreak, young people from Africa urge their governments to evacuate them.

Read the full story here.

China races to build more hospitals as coronavirus outbreak grows

Two infectious disease hospitals were built in a matter of days at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, authorities taking pains to publicise the work, with live streams of the construction and the arrival of the first patients at Huoshenshan field hospital in Wuhan on Tuesday.

The 1,000-bed Huoshenshan hospital and the 1,600-bed Leishenshan hospital have been the main focus of attention for the country’s state-run media, with round-the-clock coverage.

Less known, however, are the other hospitals now under construction elsewhere in the country to address the shortage of beds and facilities needed to treat the outbreak.

Read the story here.

Hospitals - China
An aerial view shows the newly completed Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan [China Daily via Reuters]

China lab seeks patent on use of Gilead’s experimental treatment

A state-run Chinese research institute has applied for a patent on the use of Gilead Sciences’ experimental US antiviral drug, which scientists think could treat the coronavirus that has killed hundreds and infected thousands.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology, based in the city where the outbreak is believed to have originated, said it had applied to patent the use of remdesivir, an antiviral drug developed by Gilead, to treat the virus.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week reported a coronavirus patient in the US had shown improvement after taking remdesivir, which is also used to treat infectious diseases such as Ebola.

Uzbekistan evacuates 84 people from China’s Wuhan

Uzbekistan has evacuated 84 people from the Chinese city of Wuhan and will place them in quarantine upon arrival 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.

Philippines confirms third case of coronavirus infection

A third person, a 60-year-old female from China, has tested positive for coronavirus, the Philippine Department of Health said.

One of the three infected Chinese nationals in the Philippines died on Saturday, becoming the first death outside mainland China. There are currently 133 individuals with suspected cases of infection, including 115 who have been hospitalised and are in isolation.

Wuhan carries out city-wide sterilisation campaign

Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, has started a city-wide sterilisation campaign in an effort to curb the spread of the infection.

A video posted on social media by the state-owned Global Times showed a truck spraying mist in one city block, and a motorised rickshaw making rounds and shooting thick white fumes in the air in a residential area in the city.

Hong Kong: 30 crew members on cruise ship showing symptoms including fever

The Hong Kong health department has announced that 30 members of a cruise ship, carrying 1,800 people, are showing some symptoms, including fever.

The ship docked in Hong Kong earlier on Wednesday, after it was refused entry in Taiwan.

Officials said none of the passengers in the ship came in contact with three mainland Chinese with coronavirus who were onboard the ship from January 19 to 24.

Vietnam says virus will hurt economy

Vietnam’s gross domestic product in the first quarter of this year will likely slow by 1 percent from a year earlier as a result of the coronavirus and the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, the government said on Wednesday.

Vietnam’s aviation, tourism, agriculture industries and exports are all expected to be harmed by the epidemic, it said in a statement.

“If (the) Chinese economy slowed significantly, it would continue to impact Vietnam,” the statement said.

China is Vietnam’s largest trading partner

Japan prepares ferry to be used as quarantine ship

Japan’s military prepared a chartered ferry on Wednesday to use as a quarantine ship that could house hundreds of suspected coronavirus cases.

The Hakuo was docked at the Yokosuka naval base near Tokyo.

“Around 300 people could comfortably live on the ship and it has a maximum capacity for 500, although that would mean queues for the baths and other facilities,” a Japan Self Defense Force official told Reuters.

Japan has not yet forcibly quarantined people who may carry the coronavirus, including Japanese returning on evacuation flights from Wuhan.

China virus
Visitors wearing surgical masks attend the opening ceremony of Tokyo’s Ariake Arena, which will host Olympic volleyball and wheelchair basketball competitions this summer [Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters]

People quarantined on the Hakuo will be confined to quarters for around 10 days and provided with a tablet computer and wi-fi to help them pass the time, the Japanese defence official said. Each will be provided with toiletries and other necessities during their stay, with meals brought to their rooms, he added.

Japan to send fourth chartered flight to Wuhan on Thursday

Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on Wednesday that Japan would send a fourth chartered flight to Wuhan to bring back about 200 people.

The passengers could include Japanese nationals as well as their Chinese spouses, Motegi told reporters. The flight is expected on Thursday.

New Zealand evacuation flight on way to Auckland from Wuhan

A flight carrying New Zealanders, Australians and citizens of smaller Pacific countries leaving Wuhan is expected to arrive in Auckland later on Wednesday, authorities said.

The Air New Zealand government-chartered flight is expected to arrive in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, at approximately 6:30pm local time (05:30 GMT).


New Zealand’s foreign ministry said 193 passengers boarded the plane in Wuhan, including 100 New Zealand citizens and permanent residents, 23 Australian citizens and 70 nationals of other countries, mostly Pacific islands.

UK plans second and final evacuation flight for citizens

Britain’s Foreign Office said late on Tuesday that it would charter another civilian aircraft to evacuate British nationals and their dependants from Wuhan on Sunday. It will be their last chance to leave.

“The Foreign Office is chartering a second and final UK flight with space to help all British nationals and their dependants remaining in Hubei to leave,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

Britain had earlier advised its citizens to leave China if they were able to, to minimise their risk of exposure to the virus.

At least 10 on quarantined cruise ship confirmed with virus

At least 10 people on a cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama have tested positive for the coronavirus, Japan’s Health Minister said on Wednesday.

The Diamond Princess, with 3,700 people on board, was quarantined after a passenger who got off the liner in Hong Kong was diagnosed with the virus.

The number of infected could rise as screening continues.

Read more here.

China virus Japan
A Japan coastguard boat at the Diamond Princess where 10 people have been confirmed infected with coronavirus [Jiji Press via EPA]

US may stage additional evacuation flights in China’s virus-hit Wuhan

The Department of State said it may operate additional evacuation flights for US citizens in Wuhan on Thursday.

Read updates from Tuesday, February 4 here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies