February 4 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Steve George and Amy Woodyatt, CNN

Updated 9:21 p.m. ET, February 4, 2020
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12:12 a.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Chinese authorities want this to be a positive story about resilience in the face of crisis

Analysis by CNN's James Griffiths

China's propaganda authorities have struggled with how to handle the Wuhan coronavirus, perhaps the biggest domestic crisis to face President Xi Jinping since he assumed power.

Knee-jerk censorship and downplaying of any danger by local authorities in the days and weeks which followed the first diagnoses appear to have greatly increased the spread of the virus. Xi himself has been largely missing from front pages and news reports in recent days, even as state media has been clear to emphasize that he is working away in the background and directing the national response.

The most likely explanation for this is that the authorities are keen to ensure that Xi does not become the focus of the public's anger and frustration, and can instead be framed as the person to take charge and solve the crisis.

That shift in the narrative has begun this week, as state media has played up positive stories -- particularly about a hospital built in Wuhan in less than a week -- and emphasized Xi's personal control of the crisis.

According to a report by state news agency Xinhua, in a meeting Monday Xi "demanded resolute opposition against bureaucratism and the practice of formalities for formalities' sake in the prevention work."

As well as working to contain the virus and provide relief, however, another key point officials need to keep in mind, Xi said, was "public opinion guidance," which would "better strengthen confidence, warm people's hearts, and gather people's hearts."

"We must thoroughly publicize the major (decisions) of the (Communist) Party Central Committee, fully report on the effectiveness of the joint prevention and control measures in various regions and departments, vividly tell the touching stories of the front line of epidemic prevention and epidemic prevention, tell the story of China's fight against the epidemic, and show the Chinese people's spirit of unity and togetherness," Xinhua reported.

Rui Zhong, a China expert at the Wilson Center, told CNN that she understands the value of boosting positive stories so that people, especially those under lockdown for weeks, don't despair. However, she expressed concern that a desire to avoid negative coverage may lead to very real problems being ignored.

"(I'm) really worried that the stories of people struggling to get resources or (coronavirus) treatment will take a back seat to the ever present priority of political stability, positive energy, etc," she said.

"Since the quarantine is challenging people's endurance, maintaining long-term social confidence is probably a top priority (for the government)."

12:02 a.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Wuhan to create three additional new hospitals for coronavirus patients

From CNN’s Steven Jiang in Beijing

Stringer/Getty Images
Stringer/Getty Images

Authorities in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus outbreak began, are building three additional new field hospitals to help respond to the crisis, state-run newspaper Changjiang Daily reported Monday.

Existing spaces, including a stadium and exhibition hall, will be converted into the hospitals, located in the city's Jianghan, Wuchang, and Dongxihu Districts.

These are just the latest in a series of specially-built coronavirus-focused hospitals in Wuhan. One new hospital, Huoshenshan Hospital, was handed to the military to begin operations on Monday and a second facility, the Leishenshan Hospital, is due to be complete this week -- both built in a matter of days.

11:55 p.m. ET, February 3, 2020

A Chinese doctor tried to save lives, but was silenced. Now he has coronavirus

From CNN's Yong Xiong and Nectar Gan

Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang in an intensive care bed on oxygen support after contracting the coronavirus.
Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang in an intensive care bed on oxygen support after contracting the coronavirus.

On December 30, Li Wenliang dropped a bombshell in his medical school alumni group on the popular Chinese messaging app WeChat: seven patients from a local seafood market had been diagnosed with an illness similar to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and quarantined in his hospital.

"I only wanted to remind my university classmates to be careful," Li said.

But within hours, screenshots of his messages -- containing his name -- went viral. Soon after, Li became one of several whistleblower medics targeted by Wuhan police.

From an intensive care bed in hospital, Li told CNN he was confirmed Saturday to have contracted the virus.

His diagnosis has sparked outrage across China, where a backlash is growing against state censorship around the illness and an initial delay in warning the public about the deadly virus.

Here's a look at how things unfolded:

  • December 30: Li Wenliang sends the warning message to his former classmates. That same day, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission warned the city's medical institutions of an "unknown pneumonia" linked to a seafood market.
  • December 31: Wuhan's health authorities discuss the outbreak in an emergency meeting, and alert the World Health Organization. Li is summoned by officials to explain how he knew about the cases.
  • January 3: Li is reprimanded by police for "spreading rumors online" and "severely disrupting social order," and asked to sign a statement promising not to commit further "unlawful acts."
  • January 10: Li begins coughing and develops a fever after unwittingly treating a patient with the Wuhan coronavirus.
  • January 12: Li is hospitalized, and is admitted to the intensive care unit in the following days.
  • January 20: President Xi Jinping orders "resolute efforts to curb the spread" of the virus -- the first time he publicly addresses the outbreak.
  • January 23: Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, is placed under lockdown.
  • January 28: China's Supreme Court criticizes Wuhan police for punishing the "rumormongers." The next day, Wuhan police issued a statement saying the targeted people had only committed "particularly minor" misdemeanors.
  • February 1: Li tests positive for coronavirus.

Read more about Li and the public uproar here.

11:38 p.m. ET, February 3, 2020

A 1-month-old baby has the coronavirus in China

A 1-month-old baby girl in China's southwestern Guizhou province has been diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus, Guizhou’s health commission confirmed in a news release.

The baby had come to Guizhou from another province, and is currently living in the provincial capital of Guiyang, according to the news release. She was diagnosed yesterday, and is currently being treated in isolation at the People's Hospital of Guizhou Province.

Her condition is stable, the news release said.

11:22 p.m. ET, February 3, 2020

Japanese PM dispels rumors that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics may be canceled

From CNN's Emiko Jozuka and Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (right) attends a parliament session in Tokyo on February 3.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (right) attends a parliament session in Tokyo on February 3. STR/Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has dismissed rumors circulating online that the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo would be cancelled over the coronavirus outbreak.

“We will take appropriate measures so that the preparation for the Olympic games will proceed without affecting them,” Abe told a parliamentary committee yesterday.

He added the government was in close contact with international bodies like the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Olympics are scheduled to start on July 24. Japan has so far confirmed 20 coronavirus cases.

Online rumors: Rumors of a potential cancellation grew after a German news outlet published a story about discussions between the IOC and WHO.

“Countermeasures against infectious diseases constitute an important part of our plans to host a safe and secure Games,” Olympics organizers told CNN in a statement. 

“Tokyo 2020 will continue to collaborate with all relevant organizations which carefully monitor any incidence of infectious diseases and we will review any countermeasures that may be necessary with all relevant organizations.”
11:09 p.m. ET, February 3, 2020

Chicago mayor slams Trump administration for "lack of clarity" on new coronavirus rules

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot​ at the ​US Conference of Mayors' Winter Meeting in Washington on January 23, 2020.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot​ at the ​US Conference of Mayors' Winter Meeting in Washington on January 23, 2020. Cliff Owen/AP

Chicago's mayor is the latest of several state leaders to criticize the federal government’s new travel and quarantine rules as opaque and confusing.

“I have been communicating to seek clarity on the new federal guidance that was announced on Friday and we will continue pressing the federal government from the White House to the CDC for clear operational guidance and financial commitments,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Sunday.

She also questioned guidelines about quarantine procedures -- for instance, what does self-quarantining mean? How often should self-quarantined people check in with public health officials? These are questions the federal government need to answer clearly and specifically, she said.

"Despite this lack of clarity from federal leadership, Chicago remains prepared to implement the latest guidelines to protect our residents from coronavirus," she said.

New measures in Chicago: Local authorities have added additional screenings at Chicago's O’Hare Airport, are partnering with airlines and the CDC, and mobilizing first responders, among other new measures to respond to the outbreak, Lightfoot said.

Total cases nationwide: As of February 3, the US had confirmed 11 cases of the coronavirus.

10:54 p.m. ET, February 3, 2020

Japan screens cruise ship for coronavirus 

From CNN’s Junko Ogura, Emiko Jozuka and Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

An elderly man who traveled on a cruise aboard the Diamond Princess was found to be infected with the Wuhan coronavirus.
An elderly man who traveled on a cruise aboard the Diamond Princess was found to be infected with the Wuhan coronavirus. Kyodo News/ Images

Japan has quarantined a cruise ship that arrived at a port in Yokohama on Monday evening after a former passenger was found infected with Wuhan coronavirus on Saturday. 

The passenger: The 80-year-old man had visited mainland China for a few hours on January 10, but was not exposed to any wild animals or wet markets. He then flew from Hong Kong to Tokyo on January 17.

He reportedly started coughing on January 19. On January 20, he boarded the Diamond Princess cruise in Yokohama, and disembarked in Hong Kong on January 25.

He sought medical care on January 30 after he started experiencing fever symptoms. He is currently in a stable condition. 

Quarantine on cruise: The ship is currently quarantined for 24 hours. 

Japanese authorities are working to identify the identities of passengers and crew who came into contact with the infected passenger. Quarantine officers are checking the health of all 2,666 passengers of different nationalities and 1,045 crew members onboard.

Several people on the ship said they felt ill, were tested for the virus, and are in separate rooms to avoid contact with each other.

The cruise ship also made stops at Kagoshima in Japan,  Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, and Okinawa before docking in Yokohama.

10:47 p.m. ET, February 3, 2020

Macao and South Korea announce more confirmed cases

From CNN’s Sandi Sidhu and Yoonjung Seo

South Korea confirmed its 16th case of the Wuhan coronavirus today, according to Kim Gang-lip, the country's Health and Welfare vice minister.

Macao also confirmed its 9th case of Wuhan coronavirus. The patient is a 29-year-old female resident of Macao, according to a statement from Macao's Health Bureau.

The woman had not traveled outside of Macao recently, but is said to have visited the home of the 8th reported case on January 24.

10:42 p.m. ET, February 3, 2020

A “large number” of Hong Kong hospital staff absent as strike continues

From CNN's Chermaine Lee in Hong Kong

Medical workers hold a strike near Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong, on February 3.
Medical workers hold a strike near Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong, on February 3. Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

A “large number” of hospital staff in Hong Kong are absent today due to a labor union strike, said the city's Hospital Authority.

Why they're striking: The Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, a medical workers' union with over 13,000 members, began striking on Monday to demand the government completely close all borders with China.

As the group and the authorities failed to reach a compromise, the group kicked off the second stage of strike on Tuesday to further limit services.

The move comes as Hong Kong announced the death of a 39-year-old man from the Wuhan coronavirus on Tuesday. The man had previously visited Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. To date, Hong Kong has recorded a total of 15 confirmed coronavirus cases.

What this means: Emergency services in public hospitals have been “affected to a certain extent” by the strike, said the Hospital Authority.

Public hospitals now only have “limited number of staff on duty” to provide emergency services, while specialist outpatient clinics can only provide “limited services.” The authorities advised patients to reschedule appointments.

Government response: Chief Executive Carrie Lam criticized the strike, saying critical patients like cancer patients still needed their services. Now, medical staff who are still working will have heavier workloads because of the strike, she said.

The government has already imposed several travel restrictions and closed many borders with the mainland; only three crossing points, including the city's international airport, remain open.

Closing all borders would also mean shutting out Hong Kong residents traveling in the mainland, who would be stranded and unable to return home, Lam said.