China fires senior officials over coronavirus outbreak
From CNN’s Steven Jiang in Beijing and Nectar Gan in Hong Kong
China has moved to dismiss key party officials as the coronavirus outbreak shows no sign of abating in the country.
Jiang Chaoliang will be replaced by Shanghai mayor Ying Yong as Hubei Communist Party chief in a major shakeup of provincial leadership, according to China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency.
Wuhan Communist Party chief Ma Guoqiang has also been replaced by Wang Zhonglin, party chief of Jinan city in Shandong province, according to Xinhua.
These moves come after two officials in charge of the provincial health authority were sacked early this week.
8:05 a.m. ET, February 13, 2020
EU health ministers call for "common response" to coronavirus
From CNN's James Frater in Brussels and Niamh Kennedy in London
European officials stressed the need for a coordinated European Union (EU) response to the coronavirus at a meeting of the Health Council in Brussels Thursday.
Janez Lenarčič, the European Commissioner for Crisis Management, emphasized a focus on "preparedness."
Lenarčič also underlined the need for cooperation, adding that “in this situation we have to act as a union.”
He said ministers will discuss the necessity of border checks, and said that although the number of cases in Europe is still low, the EU has "to be prepared in case this situation gets worse."
German health minister Jens Spahn addressed questions about the potential closure of the Schengen free movement area by stressing the need for a "common approach."
Spahn said unilateral decisions regarding Schengen make "no sense."
Maggie De Block, Belgium's minister of social affairs and public health, said the coordinated efforts of European health agencies have also been important in preventing shortages.
"For the moment we don’t see any reason to have shortages in the following months, said De Block.
7:53 a.m. ET, February 13, 2020
Singapore confirms 8 new coronavirus cases, all linked to previous infections
From journalist Isaac Yee in Hong Kong
Singapore's Ministry of Health has confirmed an additional eight cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number in the city to 58.
In a press statement released Thursday, the ministry confirmed all eight of the new infections are linked to previously confirmed cases in the city.
At least five of the new cases are linked to a cluster at the Grace Assembly of God church, a further two are linked to a cluster at a construction site, and the remaining case was detected in a relative of a previous coronavirus patient.
All of the new cases have no history of travel to China.
Fifteen coronavirus patients have fully recovered and been discharged from hospital, according to the ministry.
Of the remaining 43 confirmed cases still being treated in hospital, seven are in critical condition in intensive care units.
7:31 a.m. ET, February 13, 2020
“We don't know where this outbreak will go,” WHO spokesperson tells CNN
From CNN Health's John Bonifield
The World Health Organization (WHO) says it’s too early to make any predictions on when the novel coronavirus will be contained.
"We don't know exactly where this outbreak will go. It can go either way," WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic told CNN's John Berman on New Day Thursday.
"One of the reasons why it's difficult to predict is we still don't know much about the virus."
China reported 15,000 new cases of coronavirus Thursday, and Jasarevic explained the dramatic spike is a result of how cases are being tallied.
"Now not only people who are confirmed by laboratory testing are being reported but also people who presented clinical symptoms and have been diagnosed clinically without going through testing," said Jasarevic.
The change allows untested patients to get the same treatments as those who have been confirmed, he added.
Jasarevic said more studies are needed on the spread of the virus in the population in order to determine whether the outbreak is bigger than previously thought.
"There may be more [mild] cases. People who do not see the doctor or people who see a doctor but are not necessarily tested," he said.
7:20 a.m. ET, February 13, 2020
Some quarantined cruise ship passengers could disembark early, says captain
From CNN's Sandi Sidhu and Mick Krever in Tokyo
Vulnerable passengers aboard the quarantined cruise liner Diamond Princess will be notified today if they can disembark earlier than planned.
The ship is currently quarantined in the Japanese port of Yokohama, and the restrictions are scheduled to end on February 19.
"Guests who are identified by Japanese officials as potential passengers for disembarkation will get a notice tonight," said Captain Stefano Ravera in an announcement. "Please follow the instructions."
Ravera told passengers that a video message would be broadcast on the entertainment system on Thursday evening with valuable advice about staying healthy, adding that the vessel would remain in Yokohama until further notice.
The captain's message ended by reassuring the passengers.
"Rest assured that everything is being done to bring this trying time to an end," he said. "We only have 6 days to go. Good night."
Grant Tarling, chief medical officer for cruise operator Princess Cruises, told passengers in a message that the situation is “very dynamic.”
While Japanese authorities said the quarantine period will end on February 19, it is not clear what further measures may be taken, said Tarling.
He said Princess Cruises would keep passengers updated on developments, and reiterated that authorities believe newly identified cases were infected before the quarantine began.
“I understand you may be very anxious when you hear about more confirmed cases,” Tarling added.
“However, health authorities expected additional cases to be identified given the original case likely exposed others and their close contacts between January 20 and February 4.”
7:05 a.m. ET, February 13, 2020
First Japanese death from coronavirus reported and victim was not from cruise ship
From CNN’s Junko Ogura in Tokyo
Japan has recorded its first death from the novel coronavirus, the country's health minister Katsunobu Kato said Thursday evening local time.
The Japanese woman, in her 80s, did not come from the Diamond Princess cruise ship which is in quarantine in Yokohama port, near Tokyo.
12:25 p.m. ET, February 13, 2020
Asian students in UK face discrimination following coronavirus cases
By CNN's Lauren Kent in London
University students across the UK have criticized xenophobia against Asian students following multiple incidents involving discrimination related to the coronavirus outbreak.
Chinese students at Newcastle University spoke out about being targeted with verbal abuse or being ostracized in the community during a rally against coronavirus discrimination Tuesday.
“Some students spoke about friends and family members who have experienced racism," said Sara Elkhawad, the Newcastle student union’s equality officer.
"Other students talked personally about having gotten verbal abuse walking down Northumberland Street in Newcastle or people moving away from them on the metro.”
Elkhawad said every report has been taken very seriously and the university has a zero tolerance policy on discrimination.
“It’s our duty to come forward and support people of different communities even when it doesn’t affect us directly,” Elkhawad told CNN.
“One student actually from Wuhan spoke and expressed how moved she was that people from all backgrounds came out to give support.”
The first UK cases of coronavirus were diagnosed in Newcastle.
Students at the University of Leicester condemned similar discrimination at the institution.
“There is absolutely no place for racism on our campus and we are deeply sorry to our students who have had to endure this,” said Leicester Students’ Union in a statement.
“The incidents unfortunately involved comments regarding coronavirus, which highlights how sensationalized the discourse surrounding the virus generally has been, where people have used ‘health concerns’ as a very thin veil for their racism.”
Two high school students from southeast Asia were accused of bringing the virus into the UK and had eggs thrown at them in a separate incident near Leicester on February 3.
Leicestershire Police are investigating that incident as a “racially aggravated assault.”
At Bath University, where one person is being tested for coronavirus as a precaution, the student union also released a statement urging students to treat each other with tolerance and reject rumors surrounding the coronavirus.
Next week, students in Newcastle are partnering with Chinese student societies to hand out pamphlets dealing with myths about coronavirus and information on cultural norms surrounding surgical masks.
“Can I please ask you to take a minute to consider the impact that the current situation is likely to be having on those who have traveled back to Newcastle from China in recent weeks and find themselves in the middle of this situation that is completely outside their control?" Newcastle University President Chris Day wrote in a letter to staff and students.
"This is a particularly difficult time for them and no doubt many of them will also be worrying about family and friends who are still in China."
More than 120,000 Chinese students, and about 225,000 students from Asia in total, attend British universities, according to the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency.
This story has been updated to correct the name of Sara Elkhawad.
6:48 a.m. ET, February 13, 2020
Taxi driver in Japan tests positive for coronavirus
From journalist Isaac Yee in Hong Kong
A taxi driver in the Japanese capital Tokyo has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Japanese state broadcaster NHK reported on Thursday.
According to NHK, the taxi driver said he had driven one customer that appeared to be Chinese. Japan's health ministry is currently investigating how the taxi driver was infected.
Japan now has a total of 248 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 219 cases from the Princess Diamond cruise ship.
6:40 a.m. ET, February 13, 2020
The coronavirus will cause global oil demand to shrink for the first time in a decade
Global oil demand in the first three months of 2020 is expected to drop by 435,000 barrels per day compared to a year earlier, according to the International Energy Agency, the first quarterly decline in more than a decade.
The agency also marked down its forecast for oil demand growth for the whole of 2020. It is now expected to increase by just 825,000 barrels per day, the weakest annual pace since 2011.
The IEA said in its monthly oil report that the impact from the coronavirus was difficult to measure at this stage.
"The onset of [the coronavirus] will likely have a large impact on both the world's economy and oil demand," said the agency. "Consequences will vary over time, with the initial economic hit on transportation and services, likely followed by Chinese industry, then eventually exports and the broader economy."
However the IEA did say there is "little doubt" that coronavirus will have a bigger impact on oil demand and the global economy than the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003.
"While steps taken in China to reduce its spread were adopted earlier than in the SARS crisis and have been far more extensive, the profound transformation of the world economy since 2003 means China's slowdown today is bound to have a stronger global impact," it said.