China coronavirus outbreak: All the latest updates

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Mainland China had 118 new deaths from the coronavirus outbreak by the end of Thursday, the national health commission reported on Friday, pushing the number of deaths nationwide to at least 2,236.

Beijing also reported 1,109 new confirmed cases of the disease during the same period, sharply up from 349 cases the previous day, reversing three days of decline.

At least 631 of the new cases were from the epicentre of the epidemic in Hubei, including 220 cases from the province’s prison system. Most of the latest deaths were also from the province.

The latest number of infections nationwide has now reached 75,685.

Earlier, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing in Geneva that the recent decline in the number of new cases was encouraging, but added that it was too early to know if this trend would continue.

“We are encouraged by this trend but this is no time for complacency,” he said.

Here are the latest updates:

Friday, February 21

South Korea’s confirmed cases rise to 204

South Korea has reported additional 48 cases of a new virus, raising its total to 204.

Italy’s Lombardy region confirms new coronavirus case

An Italian national has tested positive for the new coronavirus, a statement of the Lombardy region said.

The 38-year old man has been admitted to a hospital in the Northern town of Codogno and further medical tests are still under way, the region said.

It would be the fourth case confirmed in Italy after two Chinese tourists and another Italian tested positive.

China police handle 274 cases of price gouging, hoarding

China’s police authorities have handled 274 cases of illegal commercial practices such as price gouging and hoarding during the coronavirus outbreak, said an official with China’s public security bureau.

Li Jingsheng, the director of the public security administration at the Ministry of Public Security, also said they have dealt with a total of 1,787 cases of illegal wildlife trafficking during the outbreak.

China has temporarily banned all such wild animal trade, as the coronavirus is believed to have originated in a seafood market in Wuhan.

Qatar accuses Saudis of hampering access to Gulf meet on coronavirus

Qatar has accused Saudi Arabia of allowing a protracted dispute to hinder Gulf Arab coordination over the coronavirus outbreak by denying the Qatari health minister timely access to a meeting of regional health ministers in Riyadh.

Qatar’s foreign ministry said in a post on its official Twitter account that Saudi Arabia had only granted an entry permit to Public Health Minister Hanan al-Kuwari after the meeting at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) General Secretariat on Wednesday had already started.

“We are surprised to see that Saudi is politicising a humanitarian sector, that requires close collaboration and coordination due to the urgency of the situation,” the English-language statement issued on Thursday said.

Japan to let off last healthy cruise travellers, isolate rest

Japan’s health minister said the last cruise ship passengers who tested negative for a new virus will leave the Diamond Princess on Friday after a much-criticised quarantine of the vessel ended.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told a news conference the mass disembarkation into Japan of passengers from the ship is set to end on Friday, while dozens of foreign passengers are flying back to their home countries on flights chartered by their governments.

Most crew members and other passengers who have not completed their 14-day quarantines because they had more recent contact with infected people are staying on the ship for now, but they will be transported to a government facility to be quarantined in isolation.

Tokyo criticises suggestion that London could host 2020 Olympics

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said it was inappropriate for candidates in London’s mayoral election to propose their city host the 2020 Olympic Games if the coronavirus outbreak forces organisers to look for an alternative site.

Shaun Bailey, the Conservative Party candidate for mayor of the British capital, has said London would be ready to host the event if needed.

The International Olympic Committee has said the World Health Organization advised it that there was no case for contingency plans to cancel or relocate the Games from Tokyo.

South Korea’s K-League football team postpones matches

South Korea’s top professional football league said it had postponed next week’s opening home matches for Daegu FC and Pohang Steelers due to a surge of coronavirus cases in the southeastern region.

After a meeting of league executives and representatives from the 12 clubs, the K-League said Daegu’s season opener against Gangwon FC on February 29 and Pohang’s meeting with Busan IPark on March 1 would be played later in March or in June.

“We all recognise the gravity of the situation regarding COVID-19,” K-League Secretary General Han Woong-soo was quoted as saying by Yonhap.

Iraq temporarily closes border with Iran

Iraq banned border crossings by Iranian nationals for three days from Thursday amid fears of the coronavirus, Iraq’s state news agency said on Thursday.

The decision came after Iraqi Airways suspended flights to Iran.

Two Iranians who tested positive on Wednesday for the disease have died, while three tested positive on Thursday, taking the total number of confirmed cases in Iran to five, the Iranian health ministry said.

China: Earliest vaccine to be submitted for trials in late April

The earliest vaccine for the coronavirus that has killed more than 2,000 in China alone will be submitted for clinical trials around late April, China’s Vice Science and Technology Minister Xu Nanping said on Friday.

Xu made the remarks during a press briefing.

Zhou Qi, deputy secretary-general of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, also told reporters companies which have resumed operations should ensure proper ventilation and maintain a safe distance among workers.

South Korea reports 52 new cases; Seoul bans rallies

South Korean capital Seoul has banned rallies in major downtown areas in efforts to fight the viral outbreak.

The news comes as the country reports 52 new cases of infections, raising its total to 156, after declaring the southern city of Daegu a special zone following an explosion of infections.

South Korea declares Daegu city as ‘special management zone’

South Korea declared Daegu city as a “special management zone” following an explosion in new virus infections.

On Thursday, Daegu reported 23 new cases which were traced to a church that a 61-year-old coronavirus patient had attended.

South Korea currently has at least 82 cases of the infection.

Australia reports two coronavirus cases from Diamond Princess

Two evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan have tested positive for coronavirus in Australia, according to authorities.

Australia on Thursday evacuated 170 citizens from the cruise ship owned by Carnival Corp, who had been confined to their cabins since February 3, when the vessel was quarantined at Yokohama, south of the capital, Tokyo.

After arriving in Australia’s tropical north all passengers were screened and those complaining of being unwell were tested for coronavirus. They will spend the next 14 days in quarantine.

Virus may end ‘by end of March’: Chinese diplomat

China’s Consulate General in Karachi, Pakistan said experts in China believe the “peak of the epidemic (had) already arrived” and it could be over by the end of March.

“I have seen that according to the experts in China, they are saying the peak of the epidemic has already arrived and it will come down no matter from the epicentre and across the whole of China,” Li Bijian said.

“This will [be] coming down this week and next week and the epidemic maybe go over by the end of March,” he added.

Ukraine protesters clash with police over China evacuees

Dozens of people clashed with police outside a hospital in central Ukraine over government plans to quarantine evacuees from coronavirus-hit China in the facility.

Six buses with the evacuees arrived at the medical centre, accompanied by law enforcement officers, a video published by Ukrainian media showed.

The policemen had to disperse the protesters to unblock a road that leads to the hospital and to create a cordon for the vehicles.

WHO says ‘no time for complacency’ as China virus cases fall

A continued decline in the number of new cases of coronavirus infections in China is encouraging, the World Health Organization said but it is too early to know if this trend will continue.

“We are encouraged by this trend but this is no time for complacency,” the WHO’s Ghebreyesus told a briefing in Geneva.

He noted that the number of coronavirus cases in the rest of world was very low compared inside China, but added: “That may not stay the same for very long”.

China backs Pakistan decision not to evacuate students

A Chinese diplomat backed Pakistan‘s decision not to evacuate Pakistani students from the province at the centre of China’s coronavirus outbreak, a day after parents confronted government ministers demanding their children be brought home.

Pakistan has ruled out bringing back more than 1,000 students in Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, where three-quarters of the more than 2,000 deaths from the outbreak have been recorded.

“If such large number of students come back, this will cost huge health operations for the Pakistani government. If the isolation facilities are not ready, this can cause another outbreak of this virus in Pakistan,” Li Bijian, Consul General of China in Karachi, told reporters.

China sees drop in new virus cases: ‘Control efforts working’

China touted a big drop in new cases of the coronavirus as a sign it has contained the epidemic, but fears grew abroad after two former passengers of a quarantined cruise ship died in Japan and a cluster of infections increased in South Korea.

Chinese officials said this week their drastic containment efforts including quarantining tens of millions of people in Hubei and restricting movements in cities nationwide have started to pay off.

“Results show that our control efforts are working,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a special meeting on the virus with Southeast Asian counterparts in Laos.

“China’s forceful action has contained the spread of the virus inside China and also the spread of the virus to other parts of the world,” Wang said, adding the country “has the capacity and determination to overcome this outbreak at an early date”.

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