News Update

China coronavirus outbreak: All the latest updates

Russia announced it will suspend entry for Chinese citizens from February 20, as daily infections on the Chinese mainland fell below 2,000 for the first time since January.

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in mainland China reached at least 1,868 with 72,436 infections confirmed, according to health officials.

United Nations Secretary-General  Antonio Guterres said the COVID-19 outbreak – which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province – is not yet out of control, but it has become a “very dangerous situation”.

Here are all the latest updates:

Table of Contents

Click here for February 19 updates.

Tuesday, February 18.

Ukraine plans to evacuate citizens from China

Ukraine is preparing to send a plane to evacuate some 49 of its citizens as well as up to 25 foreign nationals from China, Health Minister Zoriana Skalteska said.

Any foreigners evacuated will be monitored in Ukraine, she said.

It is not clear when the plane will depart but Skalteska said it was “almost ready”.

Russia to suspend entry for Chinese citizens from Thursday

Russia will suspend entry of Chinese citizens to its territory starting from Thursday, Russian authorities in charge of coronavirus prevention said in a statement.

The suspension will be for Chinese citizens entering Russia for employment, private, educational and tourist purposes.

The suspension will be temporary, the statement said.

CARD: Coronavirus timeline

China’s EU envoy says economic impact of outbreak ‘manageable’

China’s ambassador to the European Union hub Brussels has said that the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak would be “limited, short term and manageable” and that Beijing had enough resources to step in if needed.

“With business activity deferred and demand for services reduced, there is some impact on the Chinese economy but it is limited, short term and manageable,” Zhang Ming told a briefing in Brussels.

WHO reports 92 cases of human-to-human transmission outside China

There have been 92 cases of human-to-human spread of the coronavirus in 12 countries outside China but the World Health Organization (WHO) does not have the data to make comparisons with China, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

He added that the WHO had not seen sustained local transmission except in specific cases, such as on the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Japan.

Social media shows support for Chinese nurses

Chinese social media users have been showing their support for the mostly female nurses whose faces have been trending online in recent days.

Many of the women have deep lines on their faces from where surgical masks have dug into their skin. Some hospital staff in Wuhan have reportedly been wearing adult nappies to save time normally spent on bathroom breaks.

A now-deleted video posted by a Chinese newspaper showed female nurses having their heads shaved to combat cross infection and to cut down on the time it takes to put on and take off their protective suits. It drew criticism from users who said the action was sexist and unnecessary.

On Weibo, a topic called Sisters Go Fight The Virus We’ve Got Your Back has reached more than 220 million views and one organisation has raised money to provide female nurses with 180,000 sanitary pads, however a volunteer said those donations would only help one third of the women.

Asian stocks fall after Apple warns of low profit

Shares across Asia declined after smartphone maker Apple Inc warned that it would not be able to meet sales targets for the quarter due to production delays caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Japanese stocks slid to a two-week low as the benchmark Nikkei fell 1.2 percent by the midday break and the broader Topix dropped 1.2 percent.

Read the full story here.

Jaguar Land Rover to run out of parts for UK production in 2 weeks

Jaguar Land Rover has enough parts from China to maintain its UK production for the next two weeks but not beyond that at the moment, Chief Executive Ralf Speth said.

The head of the UK’s biggest carmaker also told reporters that sales were not currently happening in China.

Prada postpones fashion show in Japan

Italian fashion house Prada has put off a show in Japan in May due to the coronavirus outbreak, it said.

“Due to the current uncertainty related to the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Prada Resort fashion show originally scheduled for May 21 in Japan will be postponed,” the company said in an emailed statement.

It added that the decision had been taken as a precautionary measure as well as “an act of responsibility and respect” for all those working on and planning to attend the show.

“Japan remains one of Prada’s strategic markets and relevant events will be scheduled in the country at a more appropriate moment,” the statement said.

One Russian on cruise ship has virus: Embassy

Russia’s embassy in Japan has said that a Russian woman earlier said to have been diagnosed with coronavirus does not have the virus, but that her husband, who is also on board, had tested positive.

The couple has been hospitalised, the embassy said in a Facebook post.

UK PM offers sympathies to China’s Xi in phone call

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping and expressed his sympathies to those hit by the coronavirus outbreak, a spokeswoman for Johnson’s office said.

“He offered his sympathies for those affected by the outbreak of coronavirus in China, President Xi thanked the UK for its support and in particular welcomed the donation of vital medical equipment to China,” the spokeswoman said.

She added: “The Prime Minister and President agreed on the importance of the UK-China relationship and resolved to work together across a range of issues including strengthening the economic partnership to benefit the people of both China and the UK.”

Coronavirus: 2019-NCoV vaccine

Around 500 to leave quarantined Japan ship Wednesday: official

Around 500 passengers will leave the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined off Japan on Wednesday after testing negative for the new coronavirus that has infected hundreds on board, a health ministry official said.

“The number (who will leave Wednesday) is changing, largely because it is up to passengers (if they get off),” the official told reporters. “But it will be around 500 people.”

China cuts pension, insurance costs to help firms hit by coronavirus

China will cut some pension contributions and insurance fees to help companies affected to the coronavirus outbreak, state television quoted a cabinet meeting as saying.

Companies in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, will be exempted from paying pensions, jobless insurance and work injury insurance from February to June, it said. The government will keep the minimum purchase price for rice stable this year and will accelerate hog production and increase state reserves of frozen pork, it added.

Guterres: New virus outbreak is ‘a very dangerous situation’

The UN secretary general has told The Associated Press that the virus outbreak that began in China “is not out of control but it is a very dangerous situation”.

Antonio Guterres said in an interview that “the risks are enormous and we need to be prepared worldwide for that.” Guterres added the spread of the virus to countries with “less capacity in their health service” would require a great deal of international solidarity.

Taiwan to evacuate citizens from coronavirus-hit ship in Japan

Taiwan will charter a plane to evacuate its citizens on the Diamond Princess cruise liner docked in Japan that was hit by the coronavirus outbreak, the Taiwan government said.

Four Taiwanese onboard were confirmed to have the virus, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told reporters. He did not say when the evacuation will take place. More than 20 Taiwanese were on the ship, which contains the most coronavirus infections outside of China.

Thieves steal 6,000 hygiene masks in Japan

Thieves in Japan have made off with some 6,000 surgical masks from a hospital, with the country facing a mass shortage and a huge price hike online due to the coronavirus.

Four boxes containing the face masks disappeared from a locked storage facility at the Japanese Red Cross hospital in the western port city of Kobe, a hospital official said.

japan coronavirus
Visitors wearing masks amid concern over the spread of a new coronavirus take a selfie in front of a snow sculpture on the first day of the annual Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido, northern Japan. [File: Kyodo/Reuters]

“We still have a large number of masks – enough to continue our daily operations at the hospital, but this is so deplorable,” the official told AFP.

88 more people test positive for coronavirus on ship off Japan

An additional 88 people have tested positive for coronavirus on a quarantined cruise ship off the Japan coast, the health ministry said.

The new cases came from a total of 681 fresh results, the ministry said, taking the total number of positive cases on the Diamond Princess to 542.

Tour companies indicate North Korea looks to hold ‘Mass Games’ this year

Despite North Korea’s ban on foreign tourism over coronavirus fears, the isolated nation has announced plans to stage its “Mass Games”, featuring thousands of dancers, gymnasts and singers, as soon as August, tour companies said, according to the Reuters news agency.

North Korea has not reported any virus cases, but it stopped flights and train services with its neighbours, set up month-long mandatory quarantines, suspended tourism, and imposed a near-complete lockdown on cross-border travel.

New French health minister: ‘Credible risk’ of pandemic

New French health minister Olivier Veran said there is a “credible risk” the coronavirus outbreak could turn unto a pandemic.

“This is both a working assumption and a credible risk,” Veran told France Info radio, when asked about the possibility of the coronavirus becoming a pandemic. He said France was ready to deal with all the possibilities and its health system was sufficiently robust and well-equipped

Fukushima staff could use raincoats as virus threatens gear production

Workers at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant may need to wear plastic raincoats as the coronavirus outbreak threatens production of protective suits in China, the operator warned.

Staff cleaning up the plant wear special plastic overcoats to prevent radioactive dust settling on clothes or the body. They go through 6,000 per day. But a spokesman told AFP that they were having trouble stocking the items lately, and would be forced to resort to other commercially available products if there is a shortage.

UK working to organise flight for British nationals on cruise ship

Britain’s Foreign Office said it is working to organize a flight to Japan to evacuate its nationals from a cruise ship hit by the coronavirus, which has more than 400 people infected out of some 3,700 on board.

“Our staff are contacting British nationals on board to make the necessary arrangements”, the Foreign Office said in a statement, adding it hoped the flight can be arranged as soon as possible.

Diamond Princess
Diamond Princess cruise ship is docked in Yokohama, south of Tokyo [Franck Robichon/EPA]

‘Don’t be kidnapped by China’: Taiwan tells WHO

Taiwan urged the World Health Organization not to be “kidnapped” by China, as more countries put travel curbs on its citizens because the health agency groups the island’s coronavirus cases with China, despite only 22 reported infections.

The self-ruled island shares the agency’s classification of China as “very high risk”, since the WHO considers Taiwan as part of China. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou told reporters: “Taiwan is not ruled by China and certainly should not be labelled as an infected area”.

Shanghai says students won’t return to school

The Shanghai government has said that students will not return to schools now and the semester will start via online learning amid China’s coronavirus outbreak.

Online education for primary and secondary school students in Shanghai will begin on March 2, said Lu Jing, head of the Shanghai Education Committee, at a briefing. Shanghai had previously said schools would not reopen before the end of February.

coronavirus shanghai
People wear face masks and plastic raincoats as a protection from coronavirus at Shanghai railway station, in Shanghai, China. [Aly Song/Reuters]

Coronavirus infections slow in China first time since January

The number of new coronavirus infections in mainland China fell below 2,000 for the first time since January.

The number of new daily infections in mainland China had not been below 2,000 since January 30, while the daily death toll had not come under 100 since February 11. Chinese authorities say the stabilisation in the number of new cases is a sign that tough measures they have taken to halt the spread of the disease are having an effect.

“We can hope that the reports of falling numbers of new cases in China does show that the epidemic has peaked in Hubei province, but it is still too early to be sure that this is so,” said Jimmy Whitworth, professor of International Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

China arrests activist who criticised Xi over virus: rights group

Police in China arrested a prominent activist who had been a fugitive for weeks and criticised President Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic while in hiding, a rights group said.

Anti-corruption activist Xu Zhiyong was arrested on Saturday after being on the run since December, according to Amnesty International.

The death this month of a whistleblowing doctor who was reprimanded by police for raising the alarm about the deadly new virus before dying of it himself triggered rare calls for political reform and freedom of speech.

The “Chinese government’s battle against the coronavirus has in no way diverted it from its ongoing general campaign to crush all dissenting voices”, said Patrick Poon, China researcher at Amnesty International, in an emailed statement.

Japan to start trials using HIV treatment for coronavirus

Japan is aiming to start trials soon using an HIV treatment for the coronavirus, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

“We’re currently preparing to start clinical trials using HIV medication on the novel coronavirus,” Suga, the government’s top spokesman, said at a daily press briefing.

He added he could not comment on how long it would take for the new drug to be approved.

Japan now has seen over 500 coronavirus cases, with more than 450 of them from a cruise ship docked in Yokohama.

WHO warns against virus overreaction as death toll hits 1,868

The World Health Organization warned against a global overreaction to the new coronavirus epidemic following panic-buying, event cancellations, and concerns about cruise ship travel.

The WHO, which has previously said travel restrictions were unnecessary, rejected the suggestion that all cruises should be halted.

“Measures should be taken proportional to the situation. Blanket measures may not help,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.

China virus threatens global antibiotics supply

The world could face a shortage of antibiotics if the pharmaceutical industry’s supply problems posed by the coronavirus outbreak in China cannot soon be resolved, the head of a European business group in China warned.

EU Chamber of Commerce President Joerg Wuttke told a roundtable in Beijing the synchronisation of supplies in China was being hampered by the outbreak, also highlighting problems in the car industry, while inventories were surging.

He also noted companies were running out of packaging material and faced challenges with regulatory uncertainties.

Hospital director dies in China’s Wuhan

The head of a leading hospital in China’s central city of Wuhan, the epicentre of a coronavirus outbreak, died of the disease, state television said.

Liu Zhiming, the director of Wuhan Wuchang Hospital, died Tuesday morning.

As of February 11, a total of 1,716 health workers had become infected with the virus and five have died, according to the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

Coronavirus China
According to the Caixin news website, there are more than 3,000 healthcare workers who may have been infected [China Daily via Reuters]

Number of Filipinos with coronavirus in Diamond Princess cruise tops 35

Eight more Filipinos, on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, have tested positive of the coronavirus.

In as statement, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said a total of 35 Filipinos have been infected in the ship, which is docked in the Japanese port city of Yokohama.

There are an estimated 531 Filipino crew members and seven Filipino passengers in the ship.

At least 450 people on board the Diamond Princess cruise were infected.

On Monday, the United States evacuated hundreds of its citizens from the ship for fear of more infections.

Japan to start trials using HIV treatment for coronavirus

Japan is aiming to start trials soon using an HIV treatment for the coronavirus, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

“We’re currently preparing to start clinical trials using HIV medication on the novel coronavirus,” Suga, the government’s top spokesman said at a daily press briefing.

He added that he could not comment on how long it would take for the new drug to be approved.

Japan now has seen over 500 coronavirus cases, with more than 450 of them from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama.

Canada’s charter flight heads to Japan to evacuate citizens from cruise ship

A plane chartered by the Canadian government has left for Japan to evacuate its nationals aboard a virus-hit cruise ship off Yokohama, TV Asahi reported.

TV Asahi said the plane would return to Canada on Tuesday evening and head to a Canadian airbase in the eastern part of the country. The Canadian embassy in Tokyo was not immediately available for comment.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship has been under quarantine since early this month and around 400 people have tested positive with the virus that spread inside the ship.


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