Coronavirus Outbreak: China Has Not Accepted US Aid

Philippines reports first death outside China, as the death toll from the virus reaches 305.

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Coronavirus
Coronavirus

The first death outside of China from the new coronavirus was confirmed in the Philippines on Sunday – a 44-year-old man from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.

The death toll in China has jumped to at least 304, the Chinese government said, while some 14,380 more are infected. 

Other countries have rushed to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan and the wider Hubei province, while many have also imposed extraordinary travel restrictions and airlines have suspended flights to and from China.

Here are the latest updates:

Coronavirus
Coronavirus

Sunday, February 2

Netanyahu: Israel preparing for ‘unavoidable’ coronavirus

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country was preparing for “unavoidable” cases of coronavirus.

“Our foremost goal is to postpone the arrive of the virus to Israel. I say ‘postpone’ because its arrival is unavoidable,” he said in a statement.

“We will then identify, treat, isolate and deal with those infected,” Netanyahu said.

One person with coronavirus visited Mexico, has left country: Health ministry

Mexico’s health ministry said it had received international notification that one person carrying the new coronavirus had visited Mexico City but has since left the country.

None of the people so far identified as having been in contact with the infected individual has so far shown symptoms, more than 10 days after exposure, the ministry said in a statement.

Situation in Hubei province ‘severe and complicated’: Vice governor

The situation in Hubei province remains “severe and complicated” and medical resources at country level are relatively weak, Vice Governor Xiao Juhua told a news conference. 

Wang Wei, director of Hubei’s Science and Technology Department told the briefing that the time needed to confirm the cases with test kits had halved to no more than two hours, and that the kits’ accuracy had improved.

Plane repatriating 250 Europeans lands in France

A plane repatriating 250 French and other European nationals from Wuhan has landed at a military airbase in Istres, southern France, BFM TV footage showed.

About 65 French nationals will be quarantined either at a holiday resort at Carry-Le-Rouet, in the south of France, or at a firefighters’ training centre near Aix-en-Provence, Secretary of State for Child Protection Adrien Taquet told reporters. 

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the plane was carrying nationals of 30 countries. Non-French nationals will travel on to their home countries, he added.

Military planes to evacuate Russians from China

Five military airplanes will evacuate Russian citizens from China, Russian news agencies reported, citing the Defence Ministry. 

TASS news agency reported that about 130 Russians were ready to leave Hubei province. 

Coronavirus
Coronavirus

North Korea says its is virus free amid tight restrictions

North Korea has had no cases of the new coronavirus that is spreading in neighbouring China, a health ministry official said on state media. 

North Korea has ended most flights with neighbouring Chin and Russia, imposed mandatory quarantines on any foreigners arriving in the country and ended international tourism programmes, among other measures. 

“Just because there is no case of the new coronavirus in our country, we should not be too relieved, but have civil awareness and work together for prevention,” health ministry official Song In Bom said.

Cocktail of flu, HIV drugs may help fight virus: Thai doctors

Thai doctors have seen success in treating severe cases of the new coronavirus with a combination of medicines for flu and HIV, with initial results showing vast improvement 48 hours after applying the treatment. 

The doctors from Rajavithi Hospital in Bangkok said the technique has improved the condition of several patients under their care but stressed it was “not a cure”. 

Chinese health officials have already been administering the HIV and flu drugs to help fight the virus.

Iraq bans foreigners’ arrival from China

Iraq has banned the entry of all foreigners coming from China over fears about the coronavirus outbreak, the interior ministry said.

Bangladesh suspends on-arrival visas for Chinese visitors

Bangladesh has temporarily suspended visa-on-arrival services for travellers from China in an attempt to halt the coronavirus.

Chinese nationals can usually acquire visas on reaching Bangladesh, but now will have to obtain visas before travelling, Foreign Minister Abul Kalam Abdul Momen told reporters in Dhaka. 

“We have suspended the privilege for a month,” he said. 

Potential Chinese visitors will have to submit health certificates when applying for Bangladeshi visas, Momen added. 

Coronavirus

More UK citizens flown back from China

A further 11 British nationals are being flown back to Europe from China on a French flight, foreign minister Dominic Raab said.

“It’s correct that there is a further French flight that is expected back in Europe today and that will carry some UK nationals,” he told Sky News.

Afghanistan sets up isolation wards

Afghan health authorities are establishing isolation wards across the country ahead of a potential influx of coronavirus cases, an official said.

In the capital, Kabul, authorities have created a 100-bed isolation ward and another 200 or so beds will be made available across the country, public health minister Ferozuddin Feroz said.

No cases have been recorded in Afghanistan so far, but the war-torn country’s health services have set up screening units at airports and borders. 

“We have put serious measures in place,” Feroz told reporters.

Indonesia to stop flights to and from China

Indonesia will temporarily stop flights to and from mainland China starting Wednesday and bar visitors who had been in China in the past 14 days from entering or transiting in the southeast Asian country, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said.

The government will temporarily stop visa-free entry for Chinese nationals and visas-on-arrival for those who live in mainland China, she said, asking Indonesians not to travel to China amid the coronavirus epidemic.

A total of 243 Indonesian citizens living in Hubei province were also repatriated back to the country, and transferred to the Natuna Islands military base to be quarantined, Indonesia’s foreign ministry said

New coronavirus may spread through the digestive system: Experts

The new strain of coronavirus in China may be spreading from person to person via the digestive system, Xinhua news agency reported, citing medical experts.

Researchers from the Renminbi Hospital of Wuhan University and the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Science reported their findings after studying patient stool samples and rectal swabs, the news agency said.

Xinhua reported that many coronavirus patients suffered only from diarrhea instead of classic viral symptoms like fever.

UBER driver wearing a hazmat suit against coronavirus outbreak
UBER driver wearing a hazmat suit against coronavirus outbreak

Uber suspends 240 user accounts in Mexico over possible virus contact

Uber has suspended the accounts of 240 users in Mexico who may have been in contact with drivers who ferried a person suspected of having the deadly coronavirus.

The ride-hailing app said Mexico City health authorities had requested information in January on a possible carrier of coronavirus and Uber had been able to find two drivers who transported the suspected individual before driving a further 240 people.

“We have proceeded to send information to these two drivers and the 240 users regarding the temporary deactivation of their accounts,” the company said in a statement posted on Twitter.

So far, Mexico has not reported a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus.

Oman, Saudi airlines suspend flights to China

Oman and the state airline of Saudi Arabia, Saudia, both suspended flights to China in reaction to the coronavirus epidemic.

Chinese economy gets $173bn boost 

China’s central bank has announced that it will inject 1.2 trillion yuan ($173bn) into the economy to help deal with the outbreak of coronavirus.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said in a statement it would launch a 1.2 trillion-yuan reverse repurchase operation on Monday to maintain “reasonable and abundant liquidity” in the banking system, as well as a stable currency market, during the epidemic.

Kazakhstan evacuates 83 citizens from Wuhan

Kazakhstan has evacuated 83 of its citizens, mostly students, from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of a new coronavirus epidemic, Kazakhstan’s government said.

The Kazakh aeroplane also took an undisclosed number of Kyrgyz, Belarusian and Armenian citizens, the cabinet said in a statement. The evacuees would be quarantined and tested, it added.

South Korea ‘to ban entry’ from China’s Hubei province

South Korea will bar entry to foreigners who have visited China’s Hubei province, South Korea’s prime minister said on Sunday, according to Yonhap news agency.

The entry ban will go into effect on Tuesday, Yonhap reported, citing Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun.

India confirms second coronavirus case 

India’s health ministry confirmed the country’s second case which, like the first, is in the southern state of Kerala.

The patient is a young woman who returned to India from China on January 24.

“The patient has a travel history from China,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the new case is being treated in isolation at a hospital. 

Wuhan field hospital delivered to medics

A 1,000-bed field hospital under construction by the military in Wuhan has been completed and handed to health workers, according to the China Daily.

The Huoshenshan Hospital will be staffed by 1,400 military medics.

US military in S Korea imposes quarantine for soldiers returning from China

The US military command in South Korea said it had imposed a 14-day self-quarantine effective Sunday for any soldiers who recently traveled to China, adding that the coronavirus outbreak there could harm military readiness.

US Forces Korea (USFK) said it knew of no troops who had been in the hardest-hit provinces of China and that its quarantine measures were a precaution.

“USFK continues to stress the overall risk to USFK personnel remains low, but that the quarantine measures implemented are out of an abundance of caution to mitigate risk to the USFK population,” the command said in a statement.

The policy only applies to US troops, but the command encouraged military family members, civilians working for the defense department and contractors to take similar voluntary steps.

Saudi Arabia evacuates students from Wuhan – Saudi state television

Saudi Arabia has evacuated 10 students from Wuhan, Saudi state television reported on Sunday, citing a Saudi diplomat.

Chinese authorities approved the special flight that flew the students to Saudi Arabia, the report said. It did not say when the evacuation took place.

Separately, Saudi Arabian Airlines said it would suspend flights to Guangzhou in southern China from Sunday night.

Taiwan scrambles diplomats to keep flights going 

Taiwan is asking its diplomats to talk to governments where its airlines fly to ensure more flights are not cut after the WHO included the island as part of China.

Taiwan has only reported 10 cases but because the WHO considers the self-ruled Taiwan part of China, it has been included in the organization’s advice that China is “very high risk”.

China considers self-ruled Taiwan part of its territory. Taiwan is not a member of the WHO due to Chinese objections.

“Taiwan is Taiwan. Taiwan is not a part of the People’s Republic of China,” Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told reporters in Taipei on Sunday, adding that the two had totally separate health and airline management systems.

“This simple reality the WHO should not get wrong.”

Chinese city outside virus epicenter shuts down

Wenzhou, an eastern Chinese city of nine million, on Sunday restricted the movement of residents and closed roads in the most drastic steps yet taken by authorities outside the epicenter of the coronavirus.

Only one resident from each household will be allowed to go out every two days to buy necessities, authorities said. Some 46 highway toll stations have been closed.

Zhejiang province has the highest number of confirmed cases outside central Hubei province, with 265 in Wenzhou.

New Zealand to bar entry to foreigners travelling from mainland China

New Zealand joined a slew of other countries around the world on Sunday in barring entry to all foreign nationals arriving from mainland China.

The ban will take effect from Monday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade also raised its travel advice to New Zealanders for all of mainland China to “Do not travel”, the highest level.

“We have been advised by health officials that while there are still a range of unknowns in the way the virus is being transmitted, we should take a precautionary approach,” New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement.

New Zealand citizens and permanent residents returning to New Zealand can still enter the country, as can their immediate family members, but will be required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival back in the country.

The ban will be in effect for up to 14 days, reviewed every 48 hours and includes all foreign travellers who leave or transit through mainland China after February 2.

The Philippines reports first coronavirus death outside China

The Philippines on Sunday reported the first overseas death from the coronavirus; a 44-year-old man from Wuhan city in central Hubei province who died after developing severe pneumonia

The man had traveled to the Philippines on holiday with his partner, who was diagnosed with the infection earlier.

City officials fired over coronavirus response

Six officials in the city of Huanggang, which neighbors Wuhan, have been fired over “poor performance” in handling the outbreak, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Xinhua cited the mayor as saying the city’s “capabilities to treat the patients remained inadequate and there is a severe shortage in medical supplies such as protective suits and medical masks.”

In the smaller cities around Wuhan, doctors have told Al Jazeera that they have resorted to using disposable rain ponchos and plastic bags to protect themselves because there is not enough equipment to go around. 

Cremation, no funerals: health authorities

China’s health authorities are advising that the bodies of those who have died from the coronavirus should be cremated immediately and that there should be no funerals.

Uber suspends scores of Mexico accounts to curb virus spread

The ride-hailing company Uber said on Saturday it suspended 240 accounts of users in Mexico who may recently have come in contact with someone possibly infected with the new coronavirus.

There are no confirmed cases in Mexico and all nine suspected cases were later declared negative.

Uber said in a statement posted on its Twitter account that two drivers may have transported a user who is possibly infected with the new coronavirus. It added the suspended users should contact health authorities if they develop symptoms.

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