As we know, 83 Britons who were in quarantine in Wirral now have the all-clear. One of the group, Matt Raw, 38 from Knutsford, Cheshire, showed his elation as he left the Arrowe Park facility. “We’re free … and the sun’s shining … it’s absolutely lovely to be out and I’ll no doubt be going out for a pint a little bit later.” Read our full report.
As our story makes clear, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the huge jump in cases in Hubei – bringing the total to more than 60,000 worldwide – was caused by a change in the way Chinese authorities were counting them.
The WHO is now working hard to get further details on when the extra cases of “Covid-19” occurred to paint a true picture of the development of the epidemic in Wuhan and other cities in Hubei.
Reuters reports that Donald Trump has praised China over its handling of the outbreak, adding that the United States was working closely with Beijing.
“I think they’ve handled it professionally, and I think they’re extremely capable,” Trump, who has previously been at loggerheads with the Chinese authorities over trade issues, said in a podcast broadcast on iHeart Radio on Thursday.
In January, the US had angered China by banning foreign nationals who had recently visited the country.
A change in data collection methodology from the Chinese authorities has caused a huge jump in the number of registered cases of coronavirus. Here’s our report over the confusion about the full scale of the crisis, with more than 13,300 extra cases reported going back over an unknown number of days or weeks.
A nurse in Brighton who went into self-isolation as part of efforts to stop the coronavirus from spreading has criticised the way this method of prevention is being managed. The unnamed nurse, who was exhibiting some of the symptoms of the strain of coronavirus, says she was told to self-isolate by Public Health England (PHE) after coming into direct, sustained contact with a person who was being tested for the virus.
She said she was sent home in a taxi in which she was wearing a medical mask but the driver was not, and told the Brighton newspaper the Argus that self-isolation “is not being dealt with effectively”.
The nurse said she had been given little advice about how to try and stop the spread of the virus when she arrived home and had had to rely on grocery and takeaway deliveries which she picked up from her doorstep.
She told the newspaper: “Since I found out, I’ve had to get everyone out of my house to protect them. It’s scary, because I’ve got a compromised immune system. Some of these fears are over the top, but if I do get coronavirus, it could be fatal.”
She described how her family had “packed and gone” when she got home and that her children were “understandably upset” that they had been forced to leave.
The nurse said she had called NHS 111 but then had a 15-hour wait to get advice from PHE on how to get tested.
She added: “This is not being dealt with effectively. I thought there would be a plan in place for something like this, but in my case, I know there wasn’t one.”
PHE said it would not comment on individual cases.
Adding to the impact the virus is having on businesses, we have this story about possible disruption to a key motor show. The spread of the disease has already forced the cancellation of the Mobile World Congress, a tech trade fair in Barcelona that had been expected to host more than 100,000 delegates from about 200 countries.
Meanwhile, here is our full report on Japan’s first death from the crisis – a woman in her 80s – as well as more cases reported on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which is docked in Yokohama.
Businesses worldwide are feeling the effects of the crisis. For instance, JCB, the British digger maker, has cut working hours and suspended overtime for 4,000 UK employees after the outbreak prompted a shortage in parts coming from China.
Here’s a quick rundown of all the key coronavirus events from the past few hours:
- The first coronavirus case in London was confirmed, with the patient taking an Uber to Lewisham hospital against official health advice.
- Eighty-three Britons celebrated being released from their two-week quarantine in the Wirral.
- A surge in recorded cases in China’s Hubei province is caused by a new reporting method, not an increase in the severity or mortality of the disease.
- Japan recorded its first death, only the third coronavirus fatality outside mainland China.
- Meanwhile, Singapore recorded its biggest daily jump in cases, with eight new infected patients.
- A North London GP practice closed because of coronavirus but this later turned out to be a false alarm.
- A Wuhan evacuee became the 15th coronavirus case in the US.
Because of the coronavirus outbreak, oil demand is set to fall year on year in the first quarter for the first time since the depths of the financial crisis in 2009, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said.
Brent crude, the global benchmark, is down roughly 15% since the beginning of the year as the virus has spread.
Four liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers bound for North Asia have changed destination or diverted after the outbreak hit gas demand in China, Reuters reports.
Several analysts cut gas demand forecasts for China, expecting the outbreak to depress industrial, commercial and transportation appetite in the world’s top gas importer.
The early stages of the outbreak crisis led to a 70% fall in international air traffic in China while domestic air travel fell 50%, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies were in discussions to bring forward a policy meeting to this month from March, and to consider deepening oil supply curbs by an additional 500,000 barrels per day to 2.2m.
GP closure in north London false alarm
The alleged presence of coronavirus that led to the closure of a GP practice in north London was a false alarm, it is understood.
Ritchie Street surgery in Islington blamed the virus for its decision to shut in a notice on its door.
It said: “Practice is closed until 14/02/2020 due to the coronavirus. Any patients that have the symptoms should call 111 and not come to the practice.”
However, no patients from or staff at the practice have tested positive for the virus, it has now emerged.
It remains unclear why the surgery management took the decision to shut.
NHS officials believe that the management may have done so as a precaution after testing a patient who suspected that they may have contracted the virus.
No significant shift in mortality or severity of cases
The latest figures from China do not show a “significant shift in the pattern of mortality or severity” of the coronavirus, the World Health Organization’s Dr Michael Ryan has said.
He explained that while China reported an extra 13,332 clinically confirmed cases in Hubei province today, these “relate to a period going back days and weeks” and have been retrospectively classified based on diagnosis by medical professionals while awaiting laboratory test confirmation.
We’re not dealing with a spike of cases of 14,000 in one day. This does not represent a significant change in the trajectory of the virus.
It remains unclear whether the spike in deaths reported by China - an additional 254 fatalities - relate to these clinically confirmed cases or not.
Ryan, the executive director of the WHO health emergencies programme, said that apart from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which now has 218 confirmed cases, there has been no dramatic transmission outside China. “The iceberg may not be that great, but that’s not a guarantee,” he added.
The rest of a special WHO team is expected to arrive in China over the coming weekend to investigative the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, he announced.
When asked about the most urgent action need to tackle the epidemic, Ryan raised a few issues.
He said the clinical trials in China should be expanded to countries such as Japan and Singapore, in order to better understand which treatments are effective.
“Knowing which drugs work would be a wonderful gift,” he said, adding that antivirals used during the Sars and Mers epidemics are being trialled.
It is also important to identify the animal source of the disease to stop a similar outbreak happening in future, Ryan said.
He said that while vaccines and new drugs will take a lot longer to produce, there is no time to be wasted in investment and development.
He added that it will take hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in multiple drug candidates to find a solution, and states are going to have to support the private sector in this endeavour.
Finally, he said “we need a vaccine against misinformation” to better inform the public about the disease and communicate in a more effective way.
We reported earlier that the latest patient to be diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK took an Uber to hospital in south London after developing symptoms.
Commenting on the safety of the Uber driver who drove the woman, Dr Rachel Thorn Heathcock, consultant at Public Health England, said:
We are in contact with Uber to ensure the driver receives advice and information on what to do should they feel unwell in the coming days.
As the journey was less than 15 minutes, the driver did not have close sustained contact with the individual and are not considered high risk. We would like to thank Uber for their cooperation.
A Beijing florist is enclosing a special gift in her Valentine’s Day bouquets this year – a small bottle of hand sanitiser to ward off coronavirus.
It has been a tough month for Cai Xiaoman. Sales are down 90% in the midst of an outbreak that has infected more than 40,000 people in the country. People are staying at home, leaving shopping malls empty.
Wearing a face mask, Cai carefully sprays her hands with alcohol and puts on a pair of gloves before packaging her flowers and adding hand sanitiser to the bouquets.
She says she was inspired by a customer who asked her to sanitise a bouquet before she delivered it. Now she is now giving sanitiser to all her customers as a kind gesture.
“I think this is very heart-warming, and I want my customers to feel comfortable,” she says. “Because now the outbreak is severe, and everyone is scared. I hope this will end soon.”
US confirms 15th coronavirus case
Another coronavirus case has been confirmed in the US after an evacuee from China was diagnosed while in quarantine in Texas.
The infection was confirmed through a lab test on Wednesday night.
The patient, who had been flown to at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, is now in isolation at a hospital and reported to be in stable condition.
Two earlier US cases were confirmed in evacuees who were flown last week from the Chinese city of Wuhan to the Marine Corps air station Miramar in southern California.
The Catholic diocese in Hong Kong has announced that masses will be suspended for two weeks.
In a brief video announcement, Cardinal John Hon Tong wore a surgical mask as he urged the city’s 400,000-strong Catholic community not to panic.
He said masses would be halted from 15 to 28 February to avoid large gatherings, saying the next two weeks would be crucial for suppressing the epidemic.
He urged members to participate in online mass, share anti-epidemic materials and pray for each other.
Hong Kong, which has reported 51 cases including one death, has extended the closure of schools until 16 March.
A nurse in Brighton, where five people have been diagnosed with coronavirus, has spoken out against the way “self-isolation” is being managed.
The nurse has been told to self-isolate after coming into direct, sustained contact with a person being tested for the virus, and exhibiting some of the symptoms herself.
Public Health England has advised anyone who comes into contact with a coronavirus case to remain alone at home to stop the virus spreading.
The nurse, speaking anonymously to The Argus, said self-isolation “is not being dealt with effectively”.
She said she was sent home from her workplace wearing a medical mask, but was taken by a taxi driver who was not wearing one.
When I got home, my family had packed and gone. I’ve got kids, and they were understandably upset they had to leave. They didn’t understand.
I didn’t have any food in the house. I had to order a takeaway. It sounds ridiculous but I got fish and chips and asked the delivery person to leave it on the doorstep.
Now, I’m waiting for a Tesco delivery. I’m going to ask them to leave it outside. I don’t want to put signs outside my house saying I’m in isolation, but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do.
She also said she had to find a way of getting everyone out of her house without risking passing on the infection to them, and feels the advice she has been given was insufficient.
It’s scary, because I’ve got a compromised immune system. Some of these fears are over the top, but if I do get coronavirus, it could be fatal.
Earlier today, the NHS chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens, said many more people may need to self-isolate over the coming weeks to stop the virus spreading.
China is dragging its heels in accepting help on the ground from international health specialists, diplomats and experts have said.
Four days after a World Health Organization (WHO) advance team arrived in Beijing, no details have been released on how and when the full mission will deploy.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, won a pledge from Chinese president Xi Jinping during his trip there two weeks ago that an international team would be able to help investigate the virus’ origin and spread.
An “advance team” of three experts, led by Dr Bruce Aylward, a WHO official and public health emergency expert from Canada, as well as WHO’s Dr Maria van Kerkhove, arrived in Beijing on Monday.
Tedros said the full mission would include 10-15 experts, but has given no details of who they would be or when they would go to China.
“It would obviously have been better if the (mission) team had arrived without delay,” a senior Western diplomat in Geneva told Reuters, though he added they could still do effective work with Chinese colleagues when they arrive. He added:
It’s just been very worrying and troubling and we are not seeing as much of a substantive and independent role that we would expect at this point.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday it had not yet been invited to send experts to China to assist with the WHO investigation.
“Not only was China very late in inviting international partners to help with the response, but we still only have a skeletal advance team in Beijing, and not Hubei province,” Lawrence Gostin, professor of global health law at Georgetown Law, told Reuters.
“It appears that China has not accepted the US offer of on the ground CDC experts, which is unfortunate. CDC has among the most experienced first responders,” he added.
WHO officials have said that Chinese authorities have been open and cooperative, sharing data throughout the outbreak.
Stormzy has rescheduled the Asia leg of his Heavy Is The Head tour due to the coronavirus outbreak.
In a post on Instagram, the British rapper wrote:
I was seriously looking forward to bringing the #HITH World tour to Asia and playing some epic sold-out shows but due to the ongoing health and travel concerns surrounding the Coronavirus, I’m regrettably having to reschedule this leg of the Tour.
Information regarding the rescheduled dates will follow in due course. Please contact your local ticket vendor for any further queries. I promise I’ll be back.
North London GP surgery closed due to coronavirus
A notice on the website of Ritchie Street Health Centre, in Islington, says
Practice is closed until 14/02/2020 due to the coronavirus. Any patients that have the symptoms should call 111 and not come to the practice.
London announced its first case of coronavirus on Wednesday, after a woman presented at Lewisham hospital in south London with symptoms.
It is unclear whether this new case is connected with the closure of the GP surgery.
Dozen of Britons are celebrating the end of their two-week quarantine today, as they are finally allowed to leave the hospital facility in Wirral where they have been staying.
Matt Raw, 38, from Knutsford, Cheshire, shouted: “We’re free … and the sun’s shining”.
Some good fresh air and very, very, very happy that all 83 of us have tested negative for the virus and I guess now back to business as usual.
It is absolutely lovely to be out and I’ll no doubt be going out for a pint a little bit later.
He previously said of his time in the Arrowe Park facility in Wirral:
It has not been that bad because they have looked after us so excellently.
The wonderful, wonderful staff of the NHS, they have really done their very best to make us as comfortable as possible.
We’re not prisoners. They’re trying to make us feel like, if anything, we’re just on holiday for a couple of weeks, maybe without the swimming pool.
Summary of global cases
Here’s a recap of the number of recorded coronavirus cases across the globe:
Mainland China: 1,367 deaths among 52,526 cases, mostly in the central province of Hubei
Hong Kong: 51 cases, 1 death
Japan: 247 cases, including 218 from a cruise ship docked in Japan, 1 death
South Korea: 28
United States: 14. Separately, one US citizen died in China
United Kingdom: 8
United Arab Emirates: 8
Philippines: 3 cases, including 1 death
Sri Lanka: 1
The first person to be diagnosed with coronavirus in London travelled to a nearby hospital in an Uber taxi after falling ill, the Guardian has been told.
Two staff from Lewisham hospital in south London are now in isolation at home after coming into contact with the woman, who turned up at the A&E department unannounced.
She did not arrive by ambulance or her own private vehicle and went straight to the A&E reception desk to report her symptoms – both clear breaches of guidance aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.
The woman, who has now been taken to St Thomas’ hospital for treatment, is a Chinese national who had recently arrived in the capital from China.
US stock index futures slipped on Thursday, Reuters reports, a day after Wall Street closed at record levels, as a spike in the number of deaths and new cases related to the coronavirus outbreak in China sent investors scurrying to safe-haven assets.
Gold and the Japanese yen were in demand as a change in a diagnostic method pushed the number of new infections in Hubei province of China to 14,840 on Thursday, up from 2,015 cases reported on Wednesday, while the death toll climbed to 1,367.
Fresh uncertainty about the scale of the epidemic looked set to derail a rally in stocks, a day after investors bought on signs that the virus spread was slowing.
Latest figures show new coronavirus cases in Asian countries, as Japan records its first coronavirus death.
In Vietnam, official media reported that a village of 10,000 north-west of the capital, Hanoi, had been put in lockdown because of a cluster of cases there.
The online newspaper VN Express cited a senior official of Vinh Phuc province as reporting an increase in cases in the Son Loi commune.
Vietnam has confirmed 16 cases, most of them in the province.
Meanwhile Malaysia recorded its 19th positive coronavirus case - a 39-year-old woman who is a friend of the 14th reported case, a 37-year-old tourist from Wuhan.
Singapore records biggest daily jump in cases
Singapore has recorded its biggest daily jump in coronavirus cases, with eight new patients bringing the total number of infected people in the country to 58.
The health ministry said all the new cases had links to previous ones.
The Straits Times reports that five of the new cases are linked to the Grace Assembly of God church, including a 54-year-old man who works at the National University of Singapore.
Of the 58 confirmed cases reported, 15 have recovered and been discharged from hospital while seven are in critical condition in intensive care.
Japan reports first coronavirus death
Japan has recorded its first death from Covid-19 coronavirus, the country’s health minister, Katsunobu Kato, has announced.
The Japanese woman, in her 80s, did not come from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which is in quarantine in Yokohama port.
She was living in Kanagawa prefecture, which borders on Tokyo.
Japan has confirmed 247 cases of the virus, which include 218 from the cruise ship.
Outside of mainland China, only Hong Kong and the Philippines have previously confirmed fatalities, with one death each.
Face mask shortages could cause major disruption to UK dentists
A face mask shortage risks “imminent disruption” to UK dental services, the British Dental Association (BDA) has warned.
The association reports it has been inundated by calls from member practices unclear on their options, in the wake of panic buying and supply problems triggered by the coronavirus outbreak.
China is the world’s leading manufacturer of sanitary masks, and several suppliers have tripled their prices since January.
The BDA chair, Mick Armstrong, said:
In recent weeks dentists have been hit by panic buying, clumsy rationing and naked profiteering. Sadly a ‘one size fits all’ approach from suppliers is leaving many larger practices with few options.
Our abiding interest is the safety of our patients, who face imminent disruption to their care.
Unless we see a rapid increase in supply, dentists without face masks will have little choice but to down drills.
Based on contact with leading suppliers, the BDA says “one size fits all” rationing has already left practices unable to order more than two boxes of masks a day, irrespective of their size.
It estimates that a single surgery in a typical NHS practice, seeing around 28 patients a day, goes through five boxes of masks a week.
While smaller practices may be able to maintain viability on permitted orders of 10 boxes a week, even “two-chair” NHS practices are now likely to use up their allocation completely. The BDA is dealing with inquires from practices with up to 13 chairs.
The BDA has indicated it will ask NHS England and the Welsh government to invoke force majeure clauses in NHS contracts should the situation deteriorate further, in order to protect multiple practices left unable to meet their contractual targets in the event of disruption.
The coronavirus epidemic is set to cast a shadow over Valentine’s Day tomorrow, as restaurants in Shanghai report almost no reservations.
Reuters reports that Bill Hu, the owner of a French fine dining spot in a shopping mall, is preparing for an exceptionally quiet evening as most reservations have been cancelled.
The number of reservations this year is almost zero. This virus epidemic came all of a sudden. Many customers who had made reservations all called in to cancel.
Last year his restaurant served around 170 customers on Valentine’s Day.
Meanwhile Austin Hu, a chef at the high-end restaurant Heritage by Madison, said:
Valentine’s Day is kind of sad so far. We have one booking at the moment. It’s going to take a while for the confidence to come back. The real question is whether we can last long enough.
In another blow for the romantics, a virologist has advised physical contact such as hugging, kissing and handshaking could increase spread of the infection.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Prof John Oxford from Queen Mary University said:
I think we have to galvanise ourselves in our social actions – how we interact with people. And I think that is extremely important; more so than wearing a mask. I think that’s a total diversion.
What we need to do is less of the handshaking, hugging, kissing, that sort of thing, because this virus looks like it’s spread by ordinary tidal breathing, not necessarily colds and coughing.
A medical expert has said the latest coronavirus figures from China cannot be used to track the spread of the virus.
China reported nearly 15,000 new cases in Hubei province over a 24-hour period, as it started including “clinically diagnosed” cases in its figures – meaning cases diagnosed by a CT scan but not confirmed by a laboratory test.
Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the new figures do not point to a sharp increase in cases:
If the figure now included suspect cases, many of the suspect cases will ultimately be proven to be Covid-19 (a confirmed case), [while] others will actually be other illnesses altogether or remain lacking a laboratory diagnosis.
Of those suspect cases lacking a laboratory diagnosis, some but not all will be Covid-19.
He said the fact that the World Health Organization has not updated its dashboard with today’s Chinese figures suggests it has not yet decided how to deal with this.
In determining whether the epidemic is declining from day to day or not we have to be careful only to compare like with like.
Until we know more about the new method and how it compares to previous numbers we cannot use today’s figures of how the epidemic is progressing.
It almost certainly does not mean that there has been a resurgence of the epidemic overnight.
EU holds emergency coronavirus talks
European Union health ministers are holding an emergency meeting today on how to prevent the Covid-19 virus from further spreading across Europe.
Ministers from the 27 member states gathered in Brussels, while Mike Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organization’s emergencies programme, will also join the debate via video link.
More people have now died from Covid-19 than during the Sars outbreak, but no death has been reported in Europe so far. Fewer than 50 suspected cases have been registered in the continent but the EU said coordinated action was required to keep these figures low.
Janez Lenarčič, the commissioner for crisis management, said before the meeting that the risk of Covid-19 further spreading in Europe remained “low, but it may increase”.
The EU has so far organised the repatriation of about 500 of its citizens who were in China.
Ministers will also discuss how to facilitate the joint purchase of protective equipment by member states in an attempt to avoid potential shortages, and how to help third countries with less robust health systems.
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has thanked the 83 Britons leaving quarantine today for their “bravery and patience”.
This will not have been an easy time for them and I would like to express my gratitude for their bravery and patience.
Each individual has been given a clean bill of health, and the nation can be reassured that their departure presents no risk to the public.
I am incredibly proud of every dedicated healthcare professional who has looked after these individuals over the last 14 days – their tireless work in exceptional circumstances is a testament to our steadfast NHS.
Another update on the situation with the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan, after 44 new cases were confirmed onboard.
Japan’s health minister, Katsunobu Kato, said five of the patients sent to hospitals earlier have severe symptoms and are on artificial respirators or under intensive care.
The ship, which is still carrying about 3,500 passengers and crew members, now has 218 people infected with the virus out of 713 people tested, the largest cluster of infections outside China.
Kato also said the government has decided to allow passengers older than 80 to get off the ship after testing negative for the virus.
He said results of tests on about 200 eligible passengers are under way, and those with chronic health problems or in cabins without operable windows will be given priority.
Kato said the measure is to reduce health risks for passengers stuck in rooms under difficult conditions. Those who are released will be asked to stay at a designated facility through the end of the quarantine period.
“We are doing our utmost for the health of crew members and passengers who remain on the ship,” Kato told a news conference.
Some experts have questioned Japan’s strategy of isolating the passengers and crew in a potentially virus-affected environment on the ship while the disease is already slowly making its way into the country.
On the ship, infections are getting very dense, said Shigeru Omi, an infectious disease prevention expert and former regional director for the World Health Organization. He said:
It’s like we are seeing a very condensed version of what could happen in a local community.
Omi, who currently heads the Japan Community Health Care Organization, said those people who have tested positive for the virus are only a fraction of what could already be spreading outside of the ship. He added:
We should assume that the virus has already been spreading in Japan.
The NHS chief executive has thanked the Britons who have spent two weeks in quarantine and said many more people may need to self-isolate to stop the disease from spreading.
Sir Simon Stevens said:
As our first group of guests leaves Arrowe Park hospital, we want to thank them for the highly responsible, pragmatic and stoical way they have played their part in keeping both themselves and others safe.
They have set an important example, recognising that over the coming weeks many more of us may need to self-isolate at home for a period to reduce this virus’s spread.
He also thanked the NHS staff who helped make the stay “as safe and as comfortable as possible”.
With about 72 hours’ notice they, and subsequently their colleagues in Milton Keynes, have mobilised clinical teams, personal support and pastoral care to look after over 200 people returning to this country under extremely trying circumstances.
They have been hugely helped by the volunteers, residents, schools and those from local councils.
He added that while the NHS has played its part, everyone should take simple steps such as washing hands to prevent the spread of infection and calling NHS 111 first before going to the doctors or A&E if they have any concerns about or show symptoms of the virus.
A British honeymooner diagnosed with the new coronavirus has said a language barrier meant he mistakenly believed he had tested negative for the disease.
Alan Steele, who was taken to hospital from a quarantined cruise ship off the coast of Japan last week, said a second test came back negative and he will be released from quarantine if a third does the same.
“Seems that my 1st test was positive and I misunderstood due to language barrier,” Steele posted on Facebook.
“Anyway 2nd test showed negative so a third test is now been done. I need 2 negatives to be freed so all crossed on 3rd test.”
Steele had posted on Wednesday about the “great news” that he had received a negative result for the virus.
On Thursday, the Japanese health ministry said 44 more people onboard the Diamond Princess have been diagnosed with coronavirus, now known as Covid-19.
The ship is carrying more than 3,500 passengers, including Steele’s wife, Wendy Marshall Steele, and officials say a total of 218 people of the 713 tested have been infected.
The vessel has been quarantined at Yokohama port since 3 February.
Another British couple, David and Sally Abel, remain on the ship and said they have been given the option to leave and continue their quarantine on land if they test negative for the virus.
In a video posted on Facebook, Sally Abel said:
The Japanese health authorities have said if anyone tests negative, they will be given the option to either stay onboard and continue their quarantine onboard, or they could go to a Japanese housing unit or something and do it there.
But for us, if that was the case for us, we’re obviously going to be better off language-wise staying onboard than we are if we go into some sort of facility run by Japanese.
The couple, who are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain they fear being separated if only one of them tests positive for the virus. Sally said:
My biggest fear is we are going to be tested in the next couple of days because of our age. They’ve done over-80s, now they’re going to do over-70s.
We have been together 50 years and, if one of us is infected and the other one isn’t, we will be separated. And that I don’t particularly relish.
Jessica Murray here taking over from Alexandra Topping on the latest coronavirus developments – feel free to get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter (@journojess_) with your questions and comments.
After today’s news that the first London diagnosis has been confirmed it’s a good chance to take stock and consider how the outbreak might be affecting your mental health.
The Mental Health Foundation has issued some guidance on how to stay mentally healthy as you follow coverage of the outbreak.
Dr Antonis Kousoulis, director of the foundation, said:
Infectious disease outbreaks, like the current coronavirus, can be scary. While it is important to stay informed, there are many things we can do to manage our wellbeing.
The foundation suggests:
- Try to avoid speculation and look up reputable sources on the outbreak
Rumour and speculation can fuel anxiety. Having access to good quality information about the virus can help you feel more in control.
- Try to stay connected and remain calm
At times of stress, we work better in company and with support. Try and keep in touch with your friends and family or contact a helpline for emotional support.
- Try to anticipate distress
It is normal to feel vulnerable and overwhelmed as we read news about the outbreak, especially if you have experienced trauma or a mental health problem in the past.
It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and remind each other to look after our physical and mental health. We should also be aware of and avoid increasing habits that may not be helpful in the long term, like smoking and drinking.
- Try not to make assumptions
Don’t judge people and avoid jumping to conclusions about who is responsible for the spread of the disease. The coronavirus can affect anyone regardless of gender, ethnicity or sex.
A caring and supportive stance improves the chances of prevention and recovery. And remember that not every cold or cough is the coronavirus.
- Try to manage how you follow the outbreak in the media
There is lots of news coverage about the outbreak. If you find that the news is stressing you out, it’s important to find a balance.
It’s best that you don’t avoid all news and that you keep informing and educating yourself, but limit your news intake if it is bothering you.
- Talk to your children
We need to ask children what they have heard about the outbreak and support them.
Don’t avoid the “scary topic” but engage in a way that is understandable to them. The foundation has more advice on talking with your children about world news.
Chief medical officer says UK working on plans to delay any coronavirus outbreak
The chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, has told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the UK has a four-stage preparation plan, and while containment of coronavirus is the current aim the country is also preparing to delay the onset of an outbreak of the virus.
“Delay is the next stage of what we need to do,” he said. “Because if we are going to get an outbreak here in the UK, and it is an if, not a when, putting it back in time into the summer away from the winter pressures on the NHS, buying us a bit more time to understand the virus better and possibly gives us a seasonal advantage is a big advantage.”
He said that the future prevalence of coronavirus was heavily dependent on what happened in China.
“Broadly this goes one of two ways. The first way is that China gets on top of the epidemic […] and that there are spillover cases all over the world but those are contained and we will have cases in the UK, that is highly likely, we may even get a bit of onward transmission in the UK and then the epidemic goes away. That is possible. The two things that may do that are the extraordinary efforts of the Chinese government and possibly a change in the seasons,” he said.
“The alternative is this is not possible to contain in China and then this starts to spread, probably initially quite slowly around the world and at that point unless the seasons come to our rescue then it is going to come to a situation where we have it in the EU, and in the UK. “
But he added that we shouldn’t rely on the change of the seasons coming to the UK’s rescue “in any way”.
“At this point in time […] we have a strategy that relies on four tactical aims. The first is to contain, the second is to delay, the third is to do the science and the research, and the fourth is to mitigate so that we can actually brace the NHS.”
Asked about the new case in London, Whitty said that officials were not in touch with everyone who had been on the same plane as the person who is now confirmed to have the virus, just those who had been in close proximity. Further infection of people who were outside that vicinity was unlikely, he added.
Whitty added that finding a vaccine in the short term was unlikely and impractical, suggesting that work on exploring the use of anti-viral drugs was a better focus.
People talk about vaccines, it will in my view be a long while until we have a vaccine that is ready to deploy but we need to get on with that,” he said.
Asked about the use of anti-viral drugs he added:
“We need to look at existing drugs, like existing HIV drugs, and the Chinese are starting to do this, and test if the existing drugs work against this virus. Some may, some may not.
Biggest thing we have to do is around isolation and delay and trying to work out the patterns of that.
A large proportion having relatively mild disease, drugs are only likely to be useful for a minority […] There is clearly a lot of research we are having to do at the moment.”
Whitty said that people in the UK should not be changing their behaviour but taking sensible precautions to avoid getting any virus.
All the things that are going to make it more difficult to transmit this virus are good and sensible things we need to do to stop the transmission of any virus,” he said. Remember in the UK, roughly 8,000 people in the UK die of flu.
People should be covering their mouths when they sneeze, disposing of handkerchiefs.
What we should be doing is taking sensible precautions, we would normally take in the winter season.”
On the Today programme yesterday Professor Neil Ferguson, an infectious disease expert from Imperial College London, said he thought new cases of the virus could still rise and the world was in the “early phases of a global pandemic”. He estimated around 60% of the UK population in such a situation could be affected, which if the mortality rate was 1% could result in hundreds of thousands of deaths.
But Whitty said it was unhelpful to speculate on numbers without strong evidence. He said the fourth strand of the UK coronavirus plan was mitigation, and ensuring the NHS was able to cope.
“This epidemic, where it is to happen, we don’t know where the peak would be and absolutely critically we don’t know the proportion of people who have this disease without symptoms. Until we do [know] we really only have a best estimate,” he said.
“The best estimate for the number of people dying at the top end of the range is about 2%, in my view it could be considerably less than that, but we have to prepare for the worst.”
Asked about a potential death toll, Whitty said:
I think it’s a mistake to use numbers which are entirely speculative […] At the moment the numbers we are seeing out of China are so variable that it is really difficult to put a fixed figure.
If it looks like there is an epidemic rolling our way, which is possible, I would be delighted to come back and talk about real numbers instead of speculative numbers.
Whitty said that it it was very difficult for China to deal with the outbreak and any irregularity in the numbers coming out of the country were not “deliberately misleading” but instead the “reality is taking a long time to catch up with the facts”.
China updates number of cases
The latest coronavirus statistics from China’s National Health Commission are snapping on Reuters
- China reports 254 new deaths in the mainland from the coronavirus outbreak as of the end of 12 February.
- China reports 15,152 new coronavirus cases in the mainland as of the end of 12 February.
Doctors warn that the tube in London could be a hotbed for spreading coronavirus
The Press Association reports that the warning from doctors comes after a London woman became the ninth person in the UK to test positive for the deadly virus.
There are concerns the city’s status as a transport hub could exacerbate the spread of the virus, however doctors have said the risk of infection for residents in the capital remains low.
“In general, if an initial case is in a densely populated area, then the risk of sustained person-to-person transmission following is higher,” Dr Robin Thompson of Oxford University said.
This is exacerbated by the fact that London is a transport hub, and the underground could provide a network to spread the virus quickly.
As a result, given this case was in London, it might be expected that there is an increased risk posed by this case compared to the others we have seen.”
Dr Michael Head from the University of Southampton added:
“It should also be noted that of the 1,750 tests carried out so far in the UK, over 99% of those tested have been negative for the coronavirus.
“Thus, risks to Londoners and UK residents remain low, though people should continue to keep an eye on guidance for the general public.”
While the patient has now been quarantined, Dr Thompson says the risk of the virus spreading depends on the woman’s interactions prior to being placed in isolation.
“The key factor here is the number of contacts that this infected individual has had prior to being isolated,” he said.
“If this is low, then the risk of sustained human-to-human transmission is also low.”
As Public Health England investigates the patient’s movements, Dr Nathalie MacDermott from the National Institute for Health Research said London commuters should continue to go about their business as usual.
“Provided the individual followed the government’s advice (to self-isolate) there should be little concern of transmission to the general public in London,” she said.
What we know so far
Here’s a summary of the latest news on the coronavirus, now known as Covid-19.
- Hubei Health commission says there were 14,840 new cases of the virus diagnosed on Wednesday and 242 new deaths. The big jump in numbers is due to a change in the way cases are measured.
- Unusually, the National Health Commission has not reported a country-wide update of deaths and infections on Thursday.
- Big changes were unveiled in Hubei as both the party chief in the province and Wuhan’s Communist party chief were sacked and replaced with men considered to be proteges of President Xi.
- China also sacked the head of the powerful Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, after months of pro-democracy protests.
- The MV Westerdam cruise ship has arrived in Cambodia after spending two weeks at sea because no other country would allow the liner to dock over fears about the coronavirus.
- 44 more passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan were diagnosed with Covid-19, taking the total infections on the ship to 218.
- A district of the Chinese city of Shiyan, in central Hubei province, has implemented “wartime measures” to combat the virus.
- Australia has extended its 14-day ban on tourists travelling from China to Australia (due to expire on Saturday), for another week.
The South China Morning Post’s correspondent in Beijing, Jun Mai, says the changes to key leaders in personnel in Hubei don’t just bring in new leaders who are proteges of President Xi, but people with strong backgrounds in security.
Looks like I’m not the only person waiting for the Chinese government to update the latest national figures.
Scott Morrison acknowledges the impact on Australia from the curb on tourism from China because of the virus.
“In tourism (in Australia) it’s a double blow because of the bushfires,” Morrison says.
Brendan Murphy, Australia’s chief medical officer, says he wants to keep the travel ban for the moment because of the continued rise in cases inside and outside Hubei province.
He describes the jump in cases in Hubei today as “very significant”.
Australia’s health minister, Greg Hunt, is talking now. He confirms that there is no change to the 15 people confirmed as having the virus in Australia.
“That means the measures we have taken are protecting Australians,” he says.
Hunt also says there are no confirmed cases among the Australians evacuated from Wuhan.
Australia extends its travel ban for one more week
We are hearing from the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, on entry restrictions on travellers from China. He says the 14-day ban on tourists travelling from China to Australia, due to expire on Saturday, will be extended for another week.
Reuters has published a list of airlines that have cancelled all flights to China
- American Airlines – extends suspension of China and Hong Kong flights through 24 April, from 27 March earlier.
- Air France – said on 6 February it would suspend flights to and from mainland China for much of March.
- Air Seoul – the South Korean budget carrier suspended China flights from 28 January until further notice.
- Air Tanzania – Tanzania’s state-owned carrier, which had planned to begin charter flights to China in February, postponed its maiden flights.
- Austrian Airlines – until end of February.
- British Airways – 29 January-31 March.
- Delta Airlines – 2 February-2 April.
- Egyptair – 1 February until further notice.
- El Al Israel Airlines – said on 12 February it would suspend its Hong Kong flights until 20 March and reduce its daily flights to Bangkok. It suspended flights to Beijing from 30 January to 25 March following a health ministry directive.
- Finnair – suspended all flights to China between 6-29 February, to Guangzhou between 5 February-29 March.
- Iberia Airlines – the Spanish carrier extended its suspension of flights from Madrid to Shanghai, its only route, from 29 February until the end of April.
- JejuAir Co Ltd – Korean airline to suspend all China routes starting 1 March.
- Kenya Airways – 31 January until further notice.
- KLM - will extend its ban up to 15 March.
- Lion Air – all of February.
- Oman and Saudia, Saudi Arabia’s state airline, both suspended flights on 2 February until further notice.
- Qatar Airways – 1 February until further notice.
- Rwandair – 31 January until further notice.
- Nordic airline SAS – 4-29 February.
- Scoot, Singapore Airlines’ low-cost carrier – 8 February until further notice.
- United Airlines – 4 February-23 April. Service to Hong Kong suspended 8 February-23 April.
- Vietjet and Vietnam Airlines – suspended flights to the mainland as well as Hong Kong and Macau 1 February-30 April, in line with its aviation authority’s directive.
And Reuters have also published this list of airlines that have cancelled some China flights/routes:
- Air Canada – cancelled direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai 30 January-29 February.
- Air China – said on 12 February it will cancel flights to Athens, Greece, from 17 February to 18 March.
- Air China – state carrier said on 9 February it will “adjust” flights between China and the United States.
- Air New Zealand – suspended Auckland-Shanghai service 9 February-29 March.
- ANA Holdings – suspended routes including Shanghai and Hong Kong from 10 February until further notice.
- Cathay Pacific Airways - plans to cut a third of its capacity over the next two months, including 90% of flights to mainland China. It has encouraged its 27,000 employees to take three weeks of unpaid leave in a bid to preserve cash.
- Emirates and Etihad – the United Arab Emirates, a major international transit hub, suspended flights to and from China, except for Beijing.
- Hainan Airlines – suspended flights between Budapest, Hungary, and Chongqing 7 February-27 March.
- Philippine Airlines – cut the number of flights between Manila and China by over half.
- Qantas Airways – suspended direct flights to China from 1 February. The Australian national carrier halted flights from Sydney to Beijing and Sydney to Shanghai between 9 February-29 March.
- Royal Air Maroc – the Moroccan airline suspended direct flights to China 31 January-29 February. On 16 January, it had launched a direct air route with three flights weekly between its Casablanca hub and Beijing.
- Russia – all Russian airlines, with the exception of national airline Aeroflot, stopped flying to China from 31 January. Small airline Ikar will also continue flights between Moscow and China. All planes arriving from China will be sent to a separate terminal in the Moscow Sheremetyevo airport.
- Singapore Airlines – suspended or cut capacity on flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Xiamen and Chongqing, some of which are flown by regional arm SilkAir.
- UPS – cancelled 22 flights to China because of the virus and normal manufacturing closures due to the lunar new year holiday.
- Virgin Atlantic – extended its suspension of daily operations to Shanghai until 28 March.
- Virgin Australia – said it will withdraw from the Sydney-Hong Kong route from 2 March because it was “no longer a viable commercial route” due to growing concerns over the virus and civil unrest in Hong Kong.
Vietnamese media is reporting that a community near Hanoi has been quarantined after an eighth virus case was confirmed there. I’ll bring you more on this when I have the details.
This was quite a jolt from the state-run Global Times, given today’s purge of senior Hubei officials and the steep rise in virus numbers.
You can read our latest wrap on developments today. including leadership changes in Hubei and a big spike in virus numbers, below.
City in central Hubei implements wartime control measures
The Global Times is reporting that a district in central Hubei province has implemented wartime control measures for the next 14 days, including the full closure of all buildings, the first time during the virus outbreak.
The order, applying to a district in the city of Shiyan, says only those who are fighting the epidemic are allowed to leave their homes as of Thursday. All residential areas are being manned around the clock, it says.
The wartime control measures were put in place after the district reported 137 confirmed cases of infection with the COVID-19, the second highest number in the city of Shiyan, where 562 were reported as of the end of Wednesday.
Local neighbourhood committees will distribute basic necessities at a fixed time and fixed prices. The committees will help residents purchase medicines if they are urgently needed.
Those who force their way into or out of residential areas, courtyards, buildings and roads will be detained, it said.
Public security organs will help manage the campaign. Local Party officials must unconditionally obey the leadership and instructions of the local committees and participate in epidemic prevention work.
People suffering from fever or who have come into close contact with infected patients will be sent to a medical observation point in the district.
Hubei reported 48,206 confirmed cases, 32,994 of whom are from Wuhan, where the virus originated. Shiyan ranks 11th in Hubei.
The controls were implemented to reduce the flow of people, to force the sources of the disease to be exposed, to curb the epidemic spread and prevent a long-term war of attrition, said the announcement.
The announcement said the controls are in accordance with the law on public security management, the law on prevention and treatment of infectious diseases and regulations on urgent responses to public health emergencies.
Australia expected to extend 14-day travel ban on travellers from China
The ABC in Australia is reporting that the federal government is expected to extend its travel ban from mainland China due to the coronavirus or Covid-19 threat. It had been due to expire on Saturday. The current ban imposes a 14-day ban on tourists travelling from China to Australia. We’ll bring you more on that when we have it.
Vietnam Airlines losing $10m a week
Vietnam Airlines has given an early indication of the financial impact on the industry as it announced it is losing 250bn dong (US$10.8m) a week in revenue due to travel curbs resulting from the coronavirus.
The carrier said in an emailed statement it was reducing operations and trying to cut costs to “achieve a positive financial result” for this year.
All its flights to and from mainland China have been suspended since the end of January, taking out 70,000 visitors per month between the two countries.
The epidemic has significantly reduced the travel demand of domestic and international tourists in the Vietnam network.
Here’s some more confusing news on the numbers of infections.
This morning the Hubei Health Commission said as of midnight on 12 February, there were 14,840 new cases of coronavirus of Covid-19 (much higher than the previous day due to changes in how cases are counted).
I mentioned a couple of posts back that the National Health Commission is several hours late announcing the national figures today.
Now the state-run tabloid Global Times has tweeted that as of 5pm on 12 February, there were actually 16,568 confirmed coronavirus patients in Wuhan. This figure doesn’t seem to tally with anything else, which is very strange, considering it is state-run media.
On Thursday, Chinese state media announced several high profile firings, as the number of infections and deaths from the outbreak jumped.
- The party chief of Hubei province, Jiang Chaoliang was replaced by the former mayor of Shanghai, Ying Yong.
- Ma Guoqiang, the party chief of Wuhan, the city where the outbreak began, was also sacked and replaced by the former mayor of Jinan in Shandong province, Wang Zhonglin.
- Both Ying Yong and Wang Zhonglin are seen as close to Xi Jinping.
- The head of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Zhang Xiaoming, will be replaced by Xia Baolong, vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Zhang’s firing comes after more than seven months of anti-CCP and anti-government protests in Hong Kong.
What do the changes signal?
“I suspect Xi would have wanted the personnel change to project a sense that he is in control of the situation. The bad numbers undermine that message,” said Sam Crane who teaches Chinese politics and ancient philosophy at Williams College.
Earlier this week, senior officials from Hubei’s Health Commission – Zhang Jin, party secretary, and Liu Yingzi, the director, were also fired and replaced by an official from China’s National Health Commission.
Are the big changes in officials today related to the big jump in confirmed cases of Covid-19? The New York Times’ Asia tech columnist, Li Yuan, certainly seems to think so.
The Australian stock market has closed flat on Thursday afternoon. The ASX200 opened strongly in the morning but animal spirits were curbed by the terrible virus infection figures out of China.
They weren’t considered bad enough to send the index into the red for the day and it closed again just shy of the record high 7,090 points.
In Tokyo the Nikkei is also flat as is the Kospi in Seoul. The Hang Seng is down 0.23% in Hong Kong and the Shanghai Composite is off 0.7%.
Brent crude was up 15c to $55.94 a barrel and gold was also up.
Wuhan Communist party chief fired
Events are moving very quickly today. We now know that in addition to the sacking of Hubei’s provincial leader, Jiang Chaoliang, Wuhan’s party chief, Ma Guoqiang, has also been replaced,
North Korea increases quarantine period to 30 days – reports
North Korea has announced it will impose a 30-day quarantine for all foreign visitors and others suspected to have Covid-19, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reports.
“All the institutions and fields of the state and foreigners staying in the DPRK should obey it unconditionally,” KCNA says.
We are still waiting for China’s National Health Commission to give its daily update of figures across the country. By my calculations, it has been delayed by several hours, compared with when it has been published for the past 10 days.
Samoa’s decision to refuse entry into the country of eight of its citizens over coronavirus fears has been criticised as a violation of international law by a legal expert.
Eight people were denied entry into Samoa over the weekend as they returned home from India, travelling through Singapore. The day before their flight, Singapore was added to a list of countries from which the Samoan government said it would not accept travellers until they had been quarantined for 14 days.
The group included five patients who had been in India for medical treatment. They were returned to Nadi, Fiji, their last port of departure, along with 11 others and are now being quarantined at the Grand Melanesian hotel in Nadi.
“It is a violation of human rights international law for a country to deny the right of return of their own national. There is a human right to return to your home country and countries cannot deprive you of this right in a way that is arbitrary,” said Jorge Contesse, the director of the Center for Transnational Law in the US.
The decision has also been criticised in Fiji, where 19 people from the flight are now in quarantine. In an editorial on Wednesday, the Fiji Sun newspaper condemned the decision, saying it was “morally wrong for Samoa to refuse entry to eight of its citizens”, calling it “unacceptable and tantamount to dereliction of duty by a sovereign state”.
Members of China’s Uighur minority living in exile are sounding the alarm over the risk of the coronavirus spreading in camps inside the country, where it is believed up to 1 million people are being detained.
You can read our full story on it below:
China sacks head of powerful Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office
We’re now hearing that China is replacing the head of its office that oversees matters in Hong Kong.
Zhang Xiaoming would be removed as director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, the human resources ministry said, to be replaced by Xia Baolong, 67, a vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
It follows months of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Another 44 people onboard Diamond Princess cruise ship test positive to virus
Another 44 people onboard a cruise liner moored off Japan’s east coast have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the number of infections on the ship to 218.
The latest cases were confirmed after a further 221 people onboard the Diamond Princess were tested, the health minister, Katsunobu Kato, said on Thursday.
A quarantine officer who boarded the ship to conduct initial health checks last week has also tested positive for Covid-19.
The vessel, which will remain quarantined until at least 19 February, has the second largest number of infections outside mainland China.
Amid growing concern for the health of the Diamond Princess’s remaining 3,500 passengers and crew, older passengers and those with chronic illnesses could be allowed to leave the ship from Friday provided they test negative for the virus, Kato said.
The Diamond Princess has been moored off Yokohama, near Tokyo, since 3 February after it emerged that a former passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong last month had tested positive for the virus.
The president of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic committee said on Thursday that the Covid-19 outbreak would not affect this summer’s Games.
“I want to again state clearly that cancellation or postponement of the Tokyo Games has not been considered,” Yoshiro Mori said at the start of a two-day meeting in Tokyo with the International Olympic Committee.
The chairman of the IOC coordination commission, John Coates, said the coronavirus was an “unexpected issue”, adding that organisers would draw up appropriate measures to protect athletes and spectators, Kyodo news agency said.
Last week the organising committee’s chief executive, Toshiro Muto, said he was concerned about the impact the spread of the virus was having in the run-up to the Tokyo Games, which are due to open in 162 days. Several qualifying tournaments that were due to be held in China have been postponed or moved to other countries.
“I am seriously worried that the spread of the infectious disease could throw cold water on the momentum toward the Games,” Muto said. “I hope that it will be stamped out as soon as possible.”
Man diagnosed with coronavirus travelled to Bali – reports
Indonesia’s Jakarta Post is reporting that a man who flew from Wuhan to Bali on 22 January has tested positive for Covid-19 on his return to China.
It says authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Anhui announced the case on Weibo.
According to the post the man, who they identified as Jin, flew to Bali from Wuhan on 22 January, on Lion Air flight JT2618 and then took Garuda Indonesia flight GA858 from Denpasar (Bali) to Shanghai on 28 January.
Anhui authorities confirmed on 5 February he had tested positive to the virus, according to their Weibo account.
Covid-19 has an incubation period of up to 14 days.
On Wednesday, the Garuda Indonesia spokesman Dicky Irchamsyah told the Jakarta Post he had not yet received a report about the case but “will check up on it”. Lion Air’s spokesman Danang Mandala separately said he would also look into the case.
Bali’s Provincial Health Agency chief, Ketut Suarjaya, told 7NEWS it was unclear whether the tourist was carrying the virus while holidaying in Indonesia.
“I think there is a small possibility,” he said.
According to 7NEWS, he said Indonesia was trying to find out where the man had visited on the island so investigations could be carried out.
“I think there is a small possibility that he was infected by the virus before he visited Bali,” Suarjaya said.
“However, we will recheck all the facts. We will follow up the information.
“We will trace all the places he had visited. Of course, we will raise our alert.”
The Singapore Sevens rugby tournament is expected to be postponed until October due to the Covid-19 outbreak, Reuters reports, citing a source familiar with the matter.
The tournament is due to take place in the city-state on 11 and 12 April. Singapore has reported 50 cases of the virus.
Several international sports events in Asia have been cancelled, postponed or moved because of the virus, including the Chinese Formula One grand prix scheduled for Shanghai in April and the indoor world athletics championships in Nanjing from 13-15 March.
Hubei province's party chief is replaced
Another big change in Hubei province. It’s been announced that Jiang Chaoliang, the party chief of Hubei province (effectively the leader of the province), has been replaced by the deputy party chief in Shanghai, Ying Yong.
Earlier this week two other senior Hubei officials were replaced: Zhang Jin, the Communist party chief of Hubei’s Health Commission, and Liu Yingzi, its director, were both fired. They were replaced by a national-level official, Wang Hesheng, the deputy director of China’s National Health Commission.
A team of officials will board the MV Westerdam to conduct health checks as the cruise ship remains anchored 1km (0.6 miles) off the coast of Sihanoukville port in Cambodia, the regional governor, Kouch Chamrouen has told Associated Press.
The ship, which has 1,455 passengers and 802 crew onboard, arrived at the port early on Thursday. The passengers, who are mostly American, Canadian, British and Dutch, will not be allowed off until the checks are done.
The US ambassador to Cambodia, W Patrick Murphy, said he sent an embassy team to work with the ship’s representatives and Cambodian officials to help Americans disembark and transfer to their onward destinations.
The ship’s operator, Holland America Line, said no cases of the Covid-19 illness have been confirmed among the people onboard.
A state-run tabloid, the Global Times, is reporting that Hubei has now adopted a stricter standard than other parts of the country in terms of recording cases, by adding the “clinically diagnosed” cases to those who have tested positive.
This seems to be the opposite of what Hubei’s Health Commission said – that it was changing its classifications “in order to be consistent with the classification of case diagnosis used by other provinces across the country”. Only one of them can be right.
A Chinese state media outlet, the People’s Daily, is reporting the “great work from home experiment in China” as a result of the virus. I assume it is not being ironic.
Hubei says counting changes are to bring province in line with rest of the country
The Hubei Health Commission has said the change in counting figures is to speed up treatment of patients. The rise comes from the daily “suspected cases” figures. The statement on their website says this is “in order to be consistent with the classification of case diagnosis used by other provinces across the country, starting today (Thursday), Hubei province will include the number of clinically diagnosed cases into the number of confirmed cases for publication”.
Suspected cases in China as listed by the National Health Commission over the past few days are as follows:
- 8 February: 28,942 suspected cases (reported on 9 Feb).
- 9 February: 23,589 suspected cases (reported on 10 Feb).
- 10 February: 21,675 suspected cases (reported on 11 Feb).
- 11 February: 160,67, which I assume was missing a digit (reported on 12 Feb).
I am still waiting on the latest update from the commission for the national figures for the last 24 hours. When we get them we will be able to tell if the rate of “suspected cases” has fallen, as those who have been “clinically diagnosed” are now being counted as confirmed cases.
The New York Times is reporting that experts have been surprised by the change in the way cases are counted.
“We’re in unknown territory,” Dr William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, told the NYT.
“They’re talking about using this as another diagnostic test, but we haven’t seen it validated by data,” Schaffner said.
Hong Kong schools to stay closed for another month
Children in Hong Kong have been told that schools in the city will remain closed until at least the middle of March.
The education minister Kevin Yeung Yun-hung made the announcement on Thursday. Schools were due to open again on 2 March after a month-long closure due to the lunar new year holiday and then the Covid-19 outbreak.
The government might also extend work-from-home arrangements for civil servants, the South China Morning Post said.
Hubei province details changes to counting of virus cases
We’re getting some clarification from the Hubei Health Commission on the changes in the way they are counting new cases of Covid-19.
A statement says it has added “clinical diagnosis” to the way of confirming cases, so that patients who have been “clinically diagnosed”, presumably by a doctor, can receive the same treatment as those who have tested positive to the virus.
It says of the 14,840 new cases reported in Hubei province on Thursday, 13,332 of them were “clinically diagnosed cases”.
The release says 33,693 patients are being treated in hospital in Hubei, “of which 5,647 are critically ill and 1,437 are critically ill”. I assume the two statements of “critically ill” are to do with the translation of this page. I’ll try to clarify this, but either way it’s a reasonable proportion of the total number of patients in hospital..
AFP has more on officials in Hubei saying they were broadening their definition for Covid-19 cases by including people “clinically diagnosed” with the virus in the daily tally.
This means officials can use lung imaging on suspected cases to diagnose the virus, rather than the standard nucleic acid tests.
China has placed some 56 million in virtual quarantine in Hubei and its capital, Wuhan, since late last month and restricted movements of millions more in cities far from the centre of the outbreak in an unprecedented effort to contain the virus.
Hong Kong police have arrested a man for stealing eight boxes of face masks from a car.
Earlier, the chief of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, praised Cambodia for allowing the Westerdam to dock.
“This is an example of international solidarity we have been consistently calling for,” Tedros said before the ship’s arrival. “Outbreaks can bring out the best and the worst in people.”
MV Westerdam arrives in Cambodia
The cruise ship MV Westerdam has arrived in Cambodia after spending two weeks at sea because no other country would allow the liner to dock over fears about coronavirus.
The ship, which was turned down by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand after its original destination of Shanghai was closed, is moored in the Cambodian port town of Sihanoukville.
“We’ve had so many near moments we thought we were going home only to be turned away,” Angela Jones, an American tourist onboard the ship, told Reuters.
“This morning, just seeing land was such a breathtaking moment,” said Jones. “I thought: Is this real?”
But, with the ship still moored in the sea outside port, passengers will not be allowed to disembark before Cambodian health officials had carried out health checks onboard, according to a letter to passengers from the Westerdam captain, Vincent Smit, seen by Reuters.
Only then would passengers be able to disembark and begin their journey home via chartered flights from Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, according to the letter.
“We are very pleased to have our final plan,” Smit said in the letter.
Share prices across Asia Pacific are showing little sign of stress today despite the alarming jump in new Covid-19 cases in China.
Australia’s ASX200 has soared to a record high this morning, climbing by 0.2% to 7,100 points, although it has come down a bit from earlier highs. In Tokyo, the Nikkei is flat and the Kospi index is up 0.37% in Seoul.
However, safe havens such as the Japanese yen and gold rose in response to the news from China. The yen last traded at 109.91 per dollar while gold rose 0.3% to $1,570.30 per ounce. The Australian dollar, a proxy for the Chinese economy, fell 0.2% to US$0.6725c.
I mentioned earlier that Hubei authorities had begun including cases diagnosed through new clinical methods from Thursday in its daily figures.
Reuters is reporting that Chinese state media said last week that Hubei would start recognising computerised tomography (CT) scan results as confirmation of infections, allowing hospitals to isolate patients more quickly.
The total number of confirmed patients in China is just under 60,000.
We have confirmation now that the latest person to be diagnosed with the virus in the US (bringing the US total to 14), was an evacuee from Wuhan.
The patient was among 232 individuals who had been placed under quarantine at the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar after being airlifted from Wuhan.
A previous case of coronavirus was documented a few days earlier among the same group of evacuees.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said it appeared that the two San Diego patients were separately exposed to the virus in China before arriving in the United States. The two arrived on different planes and were housed in separate facilities.
The big rises in figures today cast a shadow on Beijing’s touted “positive results” from efforts to contain the virus.
President Xi Jinping had chaired a meeting of the ruling Politburo Standing Committee after figures showed that the number of new cases dropped on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Xi said there were “positive results” but warned that the country “must not relax” its epidemic control efforts, according to state media.
Daily death toll rises sharply
In addition to the rise of new cases, there has also been a significant rise in the death toll in the past 24 hours.
More than 240 deaths were recorded on Wednesday (figures published on Thursday). This compares with 97 deaths the previous day.
There has been no change to the way deaths are recorded, so this really is a significant increase in one day.
Huge increase in new cases of virus
First up let’s have a look at the massive jump in reported new cases of coronavirus.
Nearly 15,000 new cases have been reported in a 24-hour period, taking the total number of cases to just under 60,000.
To get an idea of the significance of this, the figure for confirmed new cases for Wednesday was 2,015.
The Hubei Health Commission noted that it had begun including cases diagnosed through new clinical methods from Thursday.
You may know that there has been a lot of debate in the media in recent days about a change in the way of counting figures by the National Health Commission.
There was a suggestion that from 7 February, people who had tested positive but showed no symptoms, were not counted as confirmed cases. It has been very difficult to pin down the exact changes, and I’ll try to do that today.
But from my reading, it’s likely that this huge jump in new confirmed cases reflects an adjustment of calculations, rather than a massively steep increase in actual new cases. I’ll keep updating you on this as we get more information on it.
Second US patient in San Diego tests positive
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said a second patient in San Diego, California, has tested positive for coronavirus, according to CNBC.
Earlier in the week another patient in San Diego who had been evacuated from Wuhan tested positive.
We’ll try to bring you more on that as soon as we can but that would take the US positive cases to 14.
Welcome to our rolling coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. These are the top developments today:
- The number of deaths in China has increased sharply by at least 242 as of midnight on Wednesday, according to health officials in Hubei.
- New cases in Hubei have also leaped by 14,887, a sevenfold increase on the day before. The national total is now nearly 60,000 cases.
- The WHO chief has said the outbreak could still go in “any direction”.
- UK health chiefs are preparing for more cases after confirmation of the first case in London – a woman who flew into the UK from China at the weekend.
- A second patient has been diagnosed with Covid-19 in California.
- A cruise ship refused by four countries, the MV Westerdam, will be allowed to dock in Cambodia.
- The annual gathering of the tech industry in Barcelona – the Mobile World Congress – has been cancelled over fears of contagion at the huge event.
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