China coronavirus outbreak: All the latest updates

China reports 73 people died on Wednesday, the highest since the outbreak began late last year.

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Countries are tightening restrictions on travellers from China as the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak mounts. [David Chang/EPA]

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in mainland China rose to 563 on Wednesday – recording another record daily increase in fatalities –  as the government rushed to build new hospitals and other countries moved to evacuate citizens and warned against all travel to China. 

A total of 73 people died from the virus over the 24 hours to midnight, China’s National Health Commission said on Thursday.

Most of the deaths were in Hubei province but three were also recorded elsewhere – in Tianjin and Heilongjiang in the northeast and Guizhou in the southwest. 

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

The director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, asked for $675m to help countries address the expected spread of the virus.

He acknowledged that the sum was a lot, but told a news briefing that “it’s much less than the bill we will face if we do not invest in preparedness now.”

Tedros said that in the last 24 hours, the UN health agency has seen the biggest jump in cases since the start of the epidemic. According to the latest figures early on Thursday, the number of confirmed cases in China jumped by 3,694 to 28,018.

Updates for February 6 have concluded. For February 7 updates clicke here:

Thursday, February 6

Doctor who ‘sounded alarm’ over outbreak dies of virus, report says

Global Times, a tabloid run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital and among the first doctors to reportedly warn about the coronavirus outbreak, died of the virus in Wuhan.

Whuan Central Hospital Weibo’s page however has not confirmed the death yet. The hospital’s last post on Weibo reported that the doctor was in critical condition.

WHO expressed its condolences on Twitter, saying that everyone needs to “celebrate” the work he did on the virus.

Britain says citizen infected with coronavirus outside China

The third case testing positive to coronavirus in the UK was infected in an Asian country other than China,  authorities said, telling  doctors to be vigilant to those showing symptoms from a wider range of countries.

“Because of that, it is probably now prudent to slightly widen the geographical area where doctors in the UK and NHS know they should test people if they come with the right symptoms,” said England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.

He did not name the country from where the patient had returned. He said a wider list of countries would be released shortly from which people who developed symptoms should self-isolate if they showed any of the coronavirus symptoms. 

WHO says too early to say coronavirus peaking in China

The health agency said it was too early to say that China’s coronavirus outbreak was peaking, but noted that Wednesday was the first day that the overall number of new cases in the Asian country had dropped.

WHO official Mike Ryan said there had been a constant increase in cases in Hubei province but that that increase had not been seen in other regions.

Executive Director of the World Health Organization's (WHO) emergencies program Mike Ryan speaks at a news conference on the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Geneva, Switzerland February
Executive Director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) emergencies program Mike Ryan speaks at a news conference on the novel coronavirus in Geneva [Denis Balibouse/Reuters]

New case in Germany brings number of infected to 13

Germany confirmed its 13th case, with all the cases centred on people working for the same company, auto parts supplier Webasto, whose headquarters outside of Munich was visited by a Chinese trainer.

The new confirmed case is the wife of an employee who was previously diagnosed with the virus. Among those infected there are two children of the company employees.

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US expects China to maintain trade commitments

Washington expects Beijing to maintain its commitment to increase purchases of US goods and services by at least $200bn over the next two years, despite the coronavirus outbreak, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

China made the commitment to buy US goods as part of a Phase 1 trade deal with the US.

“Based on current information, I don’t expect there will be any issues in them fulfilling their commitments,” Mnuchin said in an interview with Fox Business Network.

Total rejects ‘force majeure’ notice from Chinese buyer

A Total executive said the French energy giant rejected a force majeure notice from a buyer of liquefied natural gas in China/

“Some Chinese customers, at least one, is trying to use the coronavirus to say I have force majeure,” said Philippe Sauquet, head of Total’s gas, renewables and power division, said as the company presented its annual results.

Sauquet referred to a clause that is included in contracts to remove liability for unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone to fulfill a contract.

UK confirms third case of coronavirus

A third person in the United Kingdom tested positive for coronavirus, according to health officials.

“We are now working quickly to identify any contacts the patient has had,” Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said.

The patient is being transferred to a specialist health service centre. The first two people in the UK to be diagnosed with the virus were being treated at a hospital in Newcastle.

Vietnam confirms number of coronavirus rises to 12

Vietnam has confirmed two new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total to 12.

Both the new cases are Vietnamese nationals from the northern province of Vinh Phuc and had close contact with previously detected patients, the health ministry said in a statement.

Stop the hype over Taiwan, China tells US

China angrily accused the US and allied countries of hyping the exclusion of the Taiwan authorities from WHO meetings on the coronavirus emergency.

“Stop hyping-up about the so-called Taiwan issue. Don’t waste our time,” China’s delegate told the health agency’s executive board.

Taiwan is not a WHO member because China, which views the island as a wayward Chinese province and not a country, says it adequately represents it in the organisation.

UK over-reacted to coronavirus outbreak: Chinese ambassador

Britain’s advice to its nationals to leave China because of the coronavirus outbreak in Hubei province was an over-reaction, the Chinese ambassador to London said.

Asked during a news conference if the Chinese authorities had been consulted about the advice, Liu Xiaoming said: “We did tell them over-reaction is not helpful. We asked them to take the advice of the WHO to make a reasonable response. Do not over-react.”

Chinese city accused of stealing virus masks from hard-hit neighbour

A Chinese city with only eight confirmed cases of a new coronavirus has been accused of intercepting a shipment of surgical masks bound for a municipality with 400 cases, prompting outrage on social media.

The government of Dali city, in the southwestern province of Yunnan, was accused this week of making an “emergency requisition” of a shipment of masks bound for the hard-hit municipality of Chongqing, state media reported.

People wearing facemasks as a preventative measure following a coronavirus outbreak which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan, line up to purchase face masks from a makeshift stall after queueing for h
People in Hong Kong also cleared supermarkets of toilet rolls and queued for hours to buy face masks. [File: Anthony Wallace/AFP]

Tokyo 2020 Olympics organisers set up task force to counter coronavirus

Tokyo Olympics organisers have set up a task force to coordinate with public health authorities on how to respond to the growing coronavirus epidemic.

Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said at a press briefing that he chaired the newly created Novel Coronavirus Countermeasures Task Force, which held its first meeting on February 4.

A second briefing would be held as early as tomorrow, he said.

Virgin Atlantic extends suspension of London-Shanghai flights until March 28

Virgin Atlantic airlines extended its suspension of daily operations to Shanghai until March 28 due to the outbreak of coronavirus and increased travel restrictions to mainland China.

“Given this new FCO advice, the increasing entry restrictions on recent visitors to mainland China, and our rigorous focus on safety, Virgin Atlantic has opted to extend the suspension of Heathrow-Shanghai operations until March 28,” the UK-based airline said in a statement.

Virgin had previously suspended the flights from London Heathrow to Shanghai for two weeks from February 2.

New coronavirus incident in Malaysia first known person to person case in country

The sister of a 41-year-old Malaysian man who attended a meeting in Singapore last month has tested positive for the new coronavirus, the first known person-to-person transmission in the country, authorities in Malaysia said.

The 40-year-old Malaysian woman had direct contact with the man, who had returned to his hometown for the Chinese New Year holidays on Jan. 23, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said in a statement.

Others in the man’s family have tested negative for the coronavirus.

“We are calling this the first Malaysian-transmitted local case,” Dzulkefly said.

Coronavirus outbreak: China’s neighbours brace for economic impact

China air force to appear at Singapore show despite virus

China’s air force will take part in the Singapore Airshow for the first time next week, organisers said, despite the city-state having banned travellers from China due to the coronavirus outbreak.

An aerobatics team from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force had been given permission to take part in Asia’s biggest air show, which opens Tuesday.

“The Ba Yi aerobatics team has taken proactive measures like health checks and temperature screenings to ensure that they are healthy before they fly into Singapore,” organiser Experia Events said in a statement late Wednesday.

Singapore last week barred passengers who had recently travelled to mainland China from landing or transitting through the city in a bid to contain the virus that has killed hundreds and infected tens of thousands.

China may delay annual meeting of parliament due to virus outbreak – Reuters

China is considering delaying the annual meeting of its top legislative body, five people familiar with the matter told Reuters, as it grapples with the coronavirus epidemic.

The National People’s Congress (NPC), made up of about 3,000 delegates, typically gathers for a session lasting at least 10 days in Beijing, beginning on March 5, to pass legislation and unveil key economic targets for the year.

A postponement would be the first since China adopted the current March schedule in 1995.

“The focus remains on taking steps forward towards meeting on schedule, but we are discussing a range of options as the (virus) situation doesn’t look likely to be contained by March,” a senior government official told Reuters, declining to be identified given the sensitivity of the matter.

“A delay is one of those options,” the official said. “It should come as no surprise given that we are in a very difficult time.”

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The ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the coronavirus that is officially known as 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) [Alissa Eckert, MS, Dan Higgins, MAM/CDC/Handout via Reuters]

China’s State Council Information Office and the NPC media centre did not immediately respond to faxed requests for comment.

Emergency lab opens in Wuhan to test 10,000 samples a day

A 2,000-square-metre emergency test laboratory has opened in Wuhan to accelerate the testing of samples and allow cases of suspected infection to be eliminated or confirmed more quickly.

The Huo-Yan or “Fire Eye” Laboratory is operated by BGI and designed to handle 10,000 samples a day, the company said in a statement.

The lab was established by BGI with a number of partners including the Wuhan Municipal Government.

WHO investigates Singapore conference linked to virus spread

The WHO has begun investigating a meeting in Singapore of more than 100 international staff from a multinational company after three employees contracted the coronavirus.

Malaysia and South Korea have confirmed three cases of the virus related to the mid-January meeting held at the Grand Hyatt hotel. Singapore said late on Wednesday four other attendees were showing symptoms.

Authorities have not revealed the name of the company that held the meeting or said what business it is involved in.

“WHO is coordinating with relevant ministries of health in relation to it,” Olivia Lawe-Davies, a spokeswoman for the WHO, said in response to questions from Reuters.

“As countries are stepping up surveillance, the detection of more cases of local transmission can be expected.”

Taiwan bans all international cruise ships

The government of Taiwan said it was banning all international cruise ships from docking on the island effective from Thursday.

It earlier turned away the World Dream liner that is now docked in Hong Kong. Three passengers on board have shown symptoms of coronavirus.

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The 151,000-tonne World Dream cruise liner docked in Hong Kong after it was denied port call in Taiwan [Jerome Favre/EPA]

Korean Air flight diverted to Los Angeles for virus screening

A Korean Air flight headed to Las Vegas from the South Korean capital, was diverted to Los Angeles on Wednesday over concerns that some of the passengers might have been exposed to a new virus, the airline said.

The flight was diverted after it was determined that the three passengers had been in China within 14 days of their departure from Incheon International Airport in Seoul. 

The three passengers, all US passport holders, were allowed back on the flight after showing no symptoms during a screening at Los Angeles International Airport, the airline said in statement. 

Officials didn’t say if the three had been to Wuhan

China’s Nanchang city to limit access to villages, compounds to prevent virus spread

The Chinese city of Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi province, which neighbours Hubei, will strictly monitor the entry and exit of residents from villages and residential compounds as it steps up its efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.

The city, which has a population of 5 million people, said on its official Weibo social media account that each family should assign one member to go out once every two days, and that people running fevers must go to a medical facility.

Jiangxi province is separated from Hubei by the Yangtze river

10 more on cruise ship in Japan test positive for coronavirus – NHK

Ten more people on a cruise ship in the port of Yokohama, south of Tokyo, have tested positive for the coronavirus, NHK said on Thursday, citing the health ministry.

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Thousands of people are quarantined on the Diamond Princess as the authorities test for the coronavirus [Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters]

About 3,700 people are facing at least two weeks quarantined on the cruise ship. 

Al Jazeera’s Fadi Salameh, who is in Yokohama, said the authorities would be delivering 7,000 masks to the ship.

“Experts are worried the virus could spread in such a congested and enclosed space,” he said. “They have also advised passengers not to leave their rooms.”  

The ship was caught up in the outbreak after an 80-year-old Hong Kong man tested positive for the virus after disembarking from the ship late last month. Ten people were diagnosed with the virus on Wednesday.

Hundreds of US evacuees from Wuhan placed under quarantine at military bases

Another 350 Americans airlifted from Wuhan were placed under quarantine at two military bases in California on Wednesday, as the number of confirmed US cases of the disease rose to 12.

The people on board two State Department-chartered cargo jets were met by officers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for immediate screening, and are to remain under mandatory quarantine for 14 days, the incubation period of the virus.

The two planes arrived at Travis Air Force Base in northern California, where 178 passengers from one plane disembarked to begin two weeks of quarantine subject to round-the-clock health screening.

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The people brought out of Wuhan by the US are being confined to airforce bases in California for 14 days [Eric Gay/AP Photo]

None of the group showed signs of disease, except for a small child who developed a fever during the flight and was taken to a nearby hospital with its mother for further testing and medical treatment in isolation, officials said. The other evacuees at Travis will be housed in a hotel on base.

After refuelling, the second evacuation plane flew on to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, near San Diego, where about 170 passengers were placed under quarantine at two housing sites there.

The US has now evacuated nearly 400 people from Wuhan.

Read updates from Wednesday, February 5 here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies