February 3 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Brett McKeehan, Adam Renton and Amy Woodyatt, CNN

Updated 1:57 p.m. ET, February 4, 2020
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11:01 p.m. ET, February 2, 2020

Xi Jinping is directing China's response to the virus. But he's been AWOL from news reports

Analysis by CNN's James Griffiths

Since he intervened in the Wuhan coronavirus crisis on January 22, ordering "all-out efforts" to contain its spread, Chinese President Xi Jinping has been personally directing the country's response.

As state media has repeatedly emphasized in recent days, all decision making has been centralized under the Communist Party's Standing Committee and the national State Council, both of which Xi heads. The military is also playing a major role in relief and containment efforts, under Xi's direction.

Xi's face may be missing from news reports, but state media is making sure everyone knows who is in charge.
Xi's face may be missing from news reports, but state media is making sure everyone knows who is in charge.

But while his hand is purportedly being felt in all aspects of the response, Xi's face has been weirdly missing. He has not appeared on state broadcaster CCTV's main newscast or on the front page of the People's Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, in several days.

This is strange not only because a country's leader is normally front and center during a crisis, but because Xi is rarely missing from front pages and TV broadcasts during normal periods. Under Xi's rule, the People's Daily has become notorious for running multiple headlines about Xi and plastering not only the front page but several after it with nearly identical pictures of him meeting various officials.

The December 4, 2015 front page of the People's Daily had 11 headlines mentioning Xi Jinping (习近平).
The December 4, 2015 front page of the People's Daily had 11 headlines mentioning Xi Jinping (习近平).

So what's behind Xi's recent absence? The internal workings of the Chinese Communist Party can be a black box at the best of times, but speculation has been rife that Xi is retreating from the spotlight in order to set up other officials to take the inevitable blame for a crisis that -- even if the government maintains control over it -- is already causing major economic and societal misery.

Xi is the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, but he's also uniquely vulnerable due to the way he has centralized control -- absolute power brings with it absolute responsibility.

Officials in Wuhan are the most obvious fall guys for the crisis, and several have already offered to resign. But as the virus continues to spread across China and the world, they might not be a big enough scalp to allay public anger.

One figure who might be feeling nervous at the moment is Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Most analysts agree that Li has been majorly sidelined by Xi in recent years, stripped of many responsibilities and pushed into more of a ceremonial role. Yet he has suddenly been pushed to the fore of this crisis, helming a national response group and visiting Wuhan itself.

Chinese social media has been full of speculation over whether Li has been placed under quarantine since returning from the stricken city. That may turn out to be the least of his worries.

10:51 p.m. ET, February 2, 2020

Japan plans fourth evacuation flight from Wuhan

From CNN’s Emiko Jozuka and Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

The second charter flight arranged to evacuate Japanese citizens from Wuhan lands at Haneda airport in Tokyo on January 30.
The second charter flight arranged to evacuate Japanese citizens from Wuhan lands at Haneda airport in Tokyo on January 30. STR/AFP/Getty Images

The Japanese government plans to send a fourth evacuation flight to Wuhan to collect about 140 people still in the city and nearby areas, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Sunday.  

Since the first evacuation flight arrived in Tokyo’s Haneda airport Wednesday, 565 Japanese citizens have returned to the country. The Japanese Embassy in China notified the remaining Japanese citizens of the evacuation plan by email Saturday, adding that Tokyo is still negotiating with Beijing to allow spouses with Chinese citizenship to join the fourth evacuation flight.

“We are putting in maximum efforts to make these speedy evacuations possible,” the Japanese Embassy said. 

In Japan, coronavirus has infected a total of 20 people, with three returnees testing positive over the weekend. Among the confirmed cases is a man aged in his 30s who was diagnosed as a disease carrier without symptoms.

10:40 p.m. ET, February 2, 2020

More people have died in mainland China from Wuhan coronavirus than from SARS

The Wuhan coronavirus has killed more people inside mainland China than the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak in 2003.

China's National Health Commission (NHC) reported the Wuhan outbreak was responsible for 361 deaths by the end of day Sunday. SARS killed 349 people in mainland China, according to the NHC.

SARS was responsible for the deaths of 774 people worldwide. To date, only one person has been killed outside mainland China from the Wuhan coronavirus.

10:33 p.m. ET, February 2, 2020

11 cases have now been confirmed in the US

From CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian

A husband and wife, both aged 57, have been diagnosed with Wuhan coronavirus in California's San Benito County, according to a statement from local officials.

This raises the number of confirmed cases in California to six, and 11 in the United States.

The husband recently traveled from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, epicenter of the outbreak. However the wife did not -- a case of person-to-person transmission.

The San Benito County Public Health Services has provided guidance to the couple for home isolation and is closely monitoring their medical condition, according to the statement. Neither patient is in hospital.

These are the states where the coronavirus has been confirmed:

Arizona: 1 case

California: 6 cases

Illinois: 2 cases

Massachusetts: 1 case

Washington: 1 case

10:25 p.m. ET, February 2, 2020

Hong Kong's medical workers want the government to completely close the border to mainland China. So they're going on strike

Members of various Hong Kong unions hold slogans as they pose for pictures for the media during a news conference on the latest update of the strike actions in Hong Kong on Sunday.
Members of various Hong Kong unions hold slogans as they pose for pictures for the media during a news conference on the latest update of the strike actions in Hong Kong on Sunday. Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands of Hong Kong public medical staff voted to go on a five-day strike today if the city's government does not fully close the border with mainland China.

Hong Kong is a semiautonomous city and operates its own immigration system separate from Beijing. The city's leader, Carrie Lam, announced last week the city would temporarily close some of its border crossings to the mainland.

But some members of the medical community want the government to do more, and thousands of medical staff are calling on the HKSAR government to ban all visitors from mainland China to prevent the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus to Hong Kong.

The Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, which has 13,000 members, voted in favor of a strike Saturday. The union said however that the majority of frontline staff will not take part in the strike in order to keep serving the public, but support and backroom staff will walk out.

Hong Kong's government said in a statement Sunday it will meet with members of the union who voted to strike.

10:14 p.m. ET, February 2, 2020

Australia and New Zealand's travel ban could be bad for their universities

Australia and New Zealand have both placed temporary travel bans on visitors coming from China in response to the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.

The measures are meant to stop the spread of the virus, but they could impact universities in both countries as Chinese students return from summer vacation.

International education was worth $21.7 billion (32.4 billion Australian dollars) to the Australian economy in 2017-2018 and $3.3 billion (5.1 billion New Zealand dollars) to New Zealand's.

The biggest group of international students in both countries are Chinese nationals.

Wuhan resident Helen Chen is one of them. She's currently stuck inside her parent's apartment in the city, and said she's been keeping busy in part by doing her work assignments.

9:55 p.m. ET, February 2, 2020

The Wuhan coronavirus, by the numbers

9:48 p.m. ET, February 2, 2020

What you should know about the virus

Cells infected with coronavirus taken from a patient sample, and grown by scientists in Hong Kong.
Cells infected with coronavirus taken from a patient sample, and grown by scientists in Hong Kong. University of Hong Kong Faculty of Medicine

There's still a lot we don't know about the coronavirus, and scientists internationally are racing to gather data and develop a treatment.

Here's what we can tell you so far:

  • Is there a cure? Not at the moment. Researchers have successfully grown the virus in a lab, an important step towards developing a vaccine -- but it could be a year or more until it's available.
  • What are the symptoms? Coronavirus symptoms can look like the flu -- fever, cough, trouble breathing. If you show these symptoms and recently went to China, or have been in contact with someone who visited, experts advise going to the doctor.
  • How does the virus spread? The virus is thought to spread from person to person through respiratory droplets emitted by coughing or sneezing -- but it's not clear exactly when a person becomes contagious. There's currently no evidence that the virus is airborne -- meaning, for instance, it doesn't travel across a large room.
  • Who is at risk of infection? People of all ages can be infected with the virus, but older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions are especially vulnerable to severe complications.
  • How can I protect myself? Take the same precautionary measures you would during flu season. Wash your hands often with soap and water, cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough, avoid close contact with people or large gatherings, and wear a face mask.
  • Is it safe to travel? Airlines have suspended flights, and thousands of foreign citizens in the Chinese city of Wuhan have been evacuated back to their home countries. Many countries including the US have advised against travel to China.

9:34 p.m. ET, February 2, 2020

Chinese markets opened for the first time since Lunar New Year today, with big losses

From CNN Business' Laura He in Hong Kong

Chinese stocks plunged Monday on the first day investors could react to the coronavirus outbreak in more than a week.

The Shanghai Composite opened 9% lower. The Shenzhen Component Index also plummeted 9% at open. Both are still down more than 7%.

Stock exchanges in Shanghai and Shenzhen had been closed since January 24 for the Lunar New Year. Markets elsewhere fell sharply last week as fears about the virus escalated. More than 14,300 people have been infected, the vast majority of them in mainland China.

China said before markets opened that it would pump billions of dollars into its markets to keep them stable. The People's Bank of China said Sunday that it would inject $1.2 trillion yuan ($173 billion) into the Chinese markets using the purchase of short-term bonds to shore up banks' ability to lend money. The measure will help maintain "reasonably ample liquidity" in the banking system and keep currency markets stable.

The net amount of liquidity being injected into the markets will be much lower. According to Reuters calculations using central bank data, more than $1 trillion yuan worth of other short-term bond agreements will mature Monday. That brings the net amount of cash flooding into the markets down to 150 billion yuan ($22 billion).

Read more here