Published On: Ming, Feb 16th, 2020

China coronavirus outbreak: All the latest updates

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As death toll rises above 1,600, Chinese media disclose Xi was aware of epidemic two weeks before alarm was sounded.

The death toll from China’s coronavirus epidemic jumped past 1,600 on Sunday, as the World Health Organization (WHO) praised the country’s efforts to contain the new disease, saying they have “bought the world time” and that other nations must make the most of it.

France, meanwhile, reported Europe’s first death from the infection, a Chinese tourist from Hubei province, where the disease, known as COVID-19, emerged in December.

More than two dozen countries have confirmed cases and several have suspended trade and travel links with China in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of WHO, urged governments to step up their efforts to prepare for the virus, saying: “It’s impossible to predict which direction this epidemic will take.”

The agency is “concerned by the continued increase in the number of cases in China”, and by reports about the number of health workers who have been infected or died, Tedros said, criticising what he called a “lack of urgency in funding the response from the international community”.

Here are all the latest updates: 

Sunday, February 16

Hubei province bans vehicle traffic to curb spread of coronavirus

The government of Hubei province, the center of China’s coronavirus outbreak, said on Sunday a ban will be imposed on vehicle traffic across the province to curb the spread of the virus.

In a published document, it said police cars, ambulances, vehicles carrying essential goods, or other vehicles related to public service would be exempted.

It added that the province will carry out regular health checks on all residents in the province. It also stated that companies cannot resume work without first receiving permission from the government.

Nepal evacuates 175 citizens from Wuhan after coronavirus outbreak

Nepal on Sunday evacuated 175 of its nationals from the Chinese city of Wuhan, an official said, after protests by parents of students studying in the city.

A plane operated by state-owned Nepal Airlines carrying 134 men and 41 women, mostly students, landed at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport before dawn, Health Ministry spokesman Mahendra Shrestha said. All evacuees will be held in quarantine for two weeks in the nearby town of Bhaktapur.

“They will be under the close observation of doctors in quarantine and will be allowed to join their families if found healthy after two weeks,” Shrestha told Reuters.

Xi urged steps to combat new virus as early as January 7

After Chinese President Xi Jinping played a seemingly muted public role in the early days of the coronavirus epidemic, state media published a speech Xi delivered on February 3 in which he said he gave instructions on fighting the virus as early as January 7.

The disclosure on Saturday indicates top leaders were aware of the outbreak’s potential severity well before the public. It was not until late January that officials said the virus can spread between humans and public alarm began to rise.

In his speech, Xi also revealed that he ordered a lockdown of the virus epicentre: “On January 22, in light of the epidemic’s rapid spread and the challenges of prevention and control, I made a clear request that Hubei province implement comprehensive and stringent controls over the outflow of people.”

Another 70 people test positive for coronavirus on ship in Japan

Katsunobu Kato, Japan’s health minister, said 70 more people on board the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total to 355 cases. 

Some 3,700 passengers and crew were aboard the ship, where the most coronavirus infections outside China have occurred. Those testing positive are transferred to Japanese hospitals.

Canada to evacuate passengers from virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship

The Canadian government has chartered a plane to evacuate its citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise liner docked in Yokohama, Japan.

Canadian passengers who exhibit symptoms of the coronavirus infection will not be permitted to board the flight, however, the government said in a statement. They will instead be transferred to the Japanese health care system to receive appropriate care. 

After arriving in Canada, the passengers will undergo 14 days of quarantine, it added.

Hong Kong to fly its residents home from Diamond Princess ship

The government of Hong Kong will send aircraft to Japan to bring back some 330 of its residents from the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess. 

In a statement late on Saturday, the Security Bureau said chartered flights would return Hong Kong residents to the city for free once Japanese authorities had confirmed the plan.

The passengers will be required to undergo a further 14 days of quarantine after arriving in Hong Kong, the bureau added.

The cruise liner’s quarantine is set to end on Wednesday.

Coronavirus infections reach 68,500 in China

The death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in mainland China has reached 1,665 as of the end of Saturday, up by 142 from the previous day, the country’s National Health Commission said on Sunday morning.

Across mainland China, there were 2,009 new confirmed infections on Saturday. The figure amounts to a drop in new cases for the third straight day. 

The total accumulated number so far has reached 68,500

Cruise firm seeks new virus test for passenger from ship in Cambodia

The operator of MS Westerdam called for more tests to confirm that an American passenger from the cruise ship has the new coronavirus after she tested positive in Malaysia.

The 83-year-old woman was the first passenger from the MS Westerdam, currently docked in Cambodia, to test positive for the virus. She had flown to Malaysia on Friday along with 144 others.

“While the first results have been reported, they are preliminary at this point and we are awaiting secondary testing for confirmation,” Holland America said in a statement.

Cambodian authorities called on Malaysia to review its test results.

China virus death toll exceeds 1,600

The number of deaths from China’s coronavirus epidemic surged past 1,600 after 139 more people died in hard-hit Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak.

In its daily update, the province’s health commission also reported 1,843 fresh cases – the third day that reported new infections declined in the province.

At least 1,662 people have now died from the outbreak that first emerged in Hubei’s capital, Wuhan, in December and spiralled into a nationwide epidemic.

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