February 4 coronavirus news

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9:40 p.m. ET, February 3, 2020

Xi Jinping: The coronavirus is a “major test” for China

Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on December 23, 2019.
Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on December 23, 2019. Noel Celis - Pool/ Getty Images

In a Monday meeting with top Chinese officials, President Xi Jinping called the coronavirus outbreak a “major test” for China’s government, according to an article in state media outlet Xinhua.

The outbreak is a major test of China's system and capacity for governance, and we must sum up the experience and draw a lesson from it," Xi said, according to Xinhua.

The meeting resulted in a call to improve China's public health and emergency management system, an “overhaul of environmental sanitation,” and a “crackdown on illegal wildlife markets and trade.”

Some context: Activists and international experts have long called for greater regulation on China's wildlife trade, which has led to previous outbreaks as well.

This coronavirus is believed to have originated from wild bats, while the 2003 SARS epidemic began from civet cats, which are considered a delicacy in some parts of South China.

China has also faced criticism for its initial handling of the outbreak, with accusations of a coverup inside of Wuhan resulting in a slow response.

Read more here.

9:32 p.m. ET, February 3, 2020

241 Australians have been evacuated from Wuhan to Christmas Island

A total of 241 Australians have reached the Australian territory of Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean after being evacuated by plane from Wuhan, said Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday.

Most will be placed under quarantine on Christmas Island, site of a former off-shore immigration detention center, for two weeks; one pregnant woman and her partner have been sent to Perth for isolation.

Morrison added that the government is also working with Chinese authorities on a second repatriation flight from Wuhan, and the New Zealand government about possibly repatriating its nationals on the same flight.

The announcement that Wuhan returnees would be housed on the island sparked controversy in Australia. Christmas island is best known for its off-shore immigration detention center -- with the site previously facing criticism due to its allegedly poor conditions.

12:32 a.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Here's the latest on the coronavirus

Travellers arriving at the Beijing Railway Station on February 3, 2020.
Travellers arriving at the Beijing Railway Station on February 3, 2020. NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images

The death toll from the Wuhan coronavirus has topped 400, and authorities in China and across the world are working to contain the disease.

If you're just joining us, here's the latest:

  • The numbers: 426 people have died, with the first death outside of mainland China confirmed in the Philippines. There are well 20,620 confirmed cases globally, the vast majority of which are in mainland China.
  • Accelerating spread: The number of Wuhan coronavirus deaths in mainland China has overtaken the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in the country, which infected 5,327 and killed 349 in the mainland.
  • Travel restrictions: Countries and airlines internationally have placed travel restrictions on traveling to and from the mainland. Yesterday, China criticized the US response to the coronavirus outbreak, accusing Washington of feeding mass hysteria.
  • Evacuations continue: Countries like the US, UK, Japan, and South Korea have already flown out citizens from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Other countries are continuing evacuation plans and preparations.
  • Vaccine: There is no vaccine available yet, but researchers say there are promising signs. Thai doctors say they have successfully treated one coronavirus patient with a combination of antiviral drugs, and efforts to treat a second are ongoing.