February 15 coronavirus news

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8:51 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

First coronavirus patient dies in Europe

A picture taken on January 25, 2020 shows the entrance of the Infectious and Tropical Diseases Unit of the Bichat Hospital in Paris.
A picture taken on January 25, 2020 shows the entrance of the Infectious and Tropical Diseases Unit of the Bichat Hospital in Paris. Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

A Chinese tourist who tested positive for the novel coronavirus has become the first person to die in the outbreak in Europe.

The patient, who was 80 years old, had been receiving treatment at the Bichat Hospital in Paris since January 25, according to a statement from French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn.

8:51 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

Diamond Princess cruise ship has 67 more coronavirus cases

Another 67 people onboard the Diamond Princess have tested positive for novel coronavirus, Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said on Saturday -- bringing the number of cases from the ship to 286.

More than 3,600 people, including 428 Americans, have been stuck on the cruise ship, which became a floating quarantine zone after dozens of people tested positive for the coronavirus.

Elsewhere in Japan, there are 39 confirmed cases of the virus, bringing the country's total to 325 -- the highest number of cases outside of mainland China.

One Japanese woman in her 80s, not from the ship, has died. The Health Ministry did not report any new cases on Friday.

Passengers are seen on balconies of the Diamond Princess cruise ship at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 14.
Passengers are seen on balconies of the Diamond Princess cruise ship at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 14. Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images

Disembarking: Passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship will be disembarked over several days beginning February 21, said the president for the cruise operator.

Crew on board will likely begin their own quarantine once all passengers have left the ship, said Princess Cruises President Jan Swartz in a letter read to passengers by the ship’s captain.

This does not apply to the Americans taking the US government evacuation charter flight on Sunday.

Delay on testing: According to Swartz, the Japanese government said they may start a new testing process starting February 18 -- which may push back the disembarkation. The quarantine originally was set to lift on February 19.

“We understand there is a limit to the number of tests the Japanese government can complete each day, so testing all of our remaining guests could take a few days to complete," Swartz said. Because each test takes several days to process results, the first guests would not disembark until February 21.

8:52 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

If you're just joining us now, here's what you need to know

The novel coronavirus outbreak, which began in Wuhan, China, in December, has now infected more than 67,000 people and killed over 1,500, the vast majority in mainland China.

Beijing quarantine: Beijing has ordered a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers returning to the city, with novel coronavirus cases continuing to rise in China and international experts warning there's no immediate end in sight.

A woman wears a wear face mask as she rides on a bus in Beijing on February 13.
A woman wears a wear face mask as she rides on a bus in Beijing on February 13. Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

Global spread: The coronavirus has now spread to 28 countries -- with Japan reporting the highest number of cases outside China.

There has been one death and 258 confirmed cases in Japan, 219 of which are from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that is currently docked in Yokohama Bay under quarantine.

First case in Africa: Friday marked the first confirmed coronavirus case in Africa, with a single patient in Egypt.

Impacts felt by the global economy: The coronavirus has also sent reverberations through the global economy. China is struggling to return to work after businesses were shut and schools suspended for weeks. Millions are now working from home, with Chinese President Xi Jinping warning on Monday that the country needed to stabilize its economy and avoid mass layoffs.

But it's not just China affected -- the closing of Chinese plants has disrupted supply chains globally, threatening to cause a recession in Germany and smartphone shortages worldwide.

4:05 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

Malaysia confirms two more coronavirus cases

Malaysia has confirmed two new novel coronavirus cases, raising the total confirmed cases in the country to 21, according to a report from state media Bernama on Saturday.

The two cases are both Chinese nationals. A 27-year-old businessman from Guangzhou showed symptoms during a screening on Friday at the Bukit Kayu Hitam Customs in Kedah, near the country’s border with Thailand. He was then taken to an isolation ward and tested positive for Covid-19.

The other case is a 32-year-old female resident in Malaysia, who was reported to have visited China from Jan 22 to 30.

4:35 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

These bonds were supposed to help fight diseases like coronavirus. They've never paid out

Three years ago, the World Bank issued new bonds to raise funds that could be used to help poor countries fight pandemics. The money is still sitting on the sidelines.

The bank was responding to an Ebola outbreak in 2014 that killed more than 11,000 people. It sold two sets of bonds that, under certain conditions, would release capital to fight the spread of disease.

One $225 million bond covers influenza and coronavirus outbreaks and now pays interest of over 8% a year. A second $95 million bond covers ailments such as Ebola and Lassa Fever, as well as coronavirus, paying investors interest of nearly 13% annually. Both are scheduled to mature on July 15.

Investors are now preparing for the possibility that the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China will continue to spread, triggering a payout to the World Bank's Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility. That would leave bond owners with much less to show for their investment.

Read more here.

8:52 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

Diamond Princess president outlines plans for cruise disembarkation

Passengers on balconies of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, docked in Yokohama, Japan, on February 14.
Passengers on balconies of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, docked in Yokohama, Japan, on February 14. Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images

Passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has been docked in quarantine in Japan since February 4, will be disembarked over several days beginning February 21, said the president fo the cruise operator.

Crew on board will likely begin their own quarantine once all passengers have left the ship, said Princess Cruises President Jan Swartz in a letter read to passengers by the ship’s captain.

This does not apply to the Americans taking the US Government evacuation charter flight on Sunday.

Delay on testing: According to Swartz, the Japanese government said they may start a new testing process starting February 18 -- which may push back the disembarkment. The quarantine originally was set to lift on February 19.

“We understand there is a limit to the number of tests the Japanese government can complete each day, so testing all of our remaining guests could take a few days to complete," Swartz said. Because each test takes several days to process results, the first guests would not disembark until February 21.

Extra quarantine for crew: Crew members were not quarantined from the start because “the Japanese government view the guests as more susceptible to the virus due to age, health profiles, among other factors. Therefore, guests were potentially at higher risk, for this reason a different quarantine protocol was implemented.”

“Once the final guest leaves the ship, we believe that most if not all members of our team onboard may be required to begin a formal quarantine,” he said. “Of course, all teammates will continue to be compensated throughout the entire period, and two months of paid time off they receive will begin after they are released from quarantine.”

“It is disappointing for all of us,” Swartz said.

8:53 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

Thai medical worker is confirmed with coronavirus, bringing national total to 34 cases

Travelers walk through a thermal scanner at Suvarnabhumi International airport in Bangkok, Thailand on February 10.
Travelers walk through a thermal scanner at Suvarnabhumi International airport in Bangkok, Thailand on February 10. Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

A Thai medical worker was confirmed with the novel coronavirus today, bringing the national total to 34 cases, according to health officials.

The new confirmed case is a 35-year-old woman, said Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, Director General to Disease Control Departments.

She is a medical staff, and she has a record of having close contact with another confirmed patient who is receiving treatment at Bamrasnaraduna Infectious Disease Institute,” he said.

No further information was released about the medical worker to avoid any stigma on the profession, he added.

Of Thailand’s 34 confirmed cases, 20 patients are still hospitalized. 14 patients have recovered and been discharged.

3:10 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

International experts will arrive in China this weekend

A World Health Organization-led joint mission to China is expected to touch down this weekend, with about a dozen international and WHO experts meeting a similar number of Chinese expert counterparts.

The experts will be reviewing data and making field visits to several Chinese provinces, to determine next steps for both China and the world in terms of response and containment.

The experts will stay as long as they are needed, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday.

US offers expert help: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered to send experts to China, but the offer has not yet been accepted. 

"It's dependent on the Chinese to make their decisions and facilitate that," Azar said. "The World Health Organization, we believe, has secured agreement to deploy a WHO team with our US public health experts as part of that team. We are ready to go and we are waiting for final clearance from the Chinese government to make that happen."

2:52 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

Europe's stagnant economy is vulnerable to a shock from China

Recession fears are stalking Europe again after Germany's economy flatlined at the end of 2019 -- and now, the coronavirus outbreak could slam exports to China.

The German economy did not grow in the final three months of last year, setting up the country for a difficult 2020 just when it was meant to begin experiencing a revival.

Across the eurozone, growth slumped to a seven-year low of 0.1% in final quarter of last year -- making Europe especially vulnerable to the looming hit from the coronavirus outbreak.

"The (eurozone) economy should be about to turn a corner, but the coronavirus now means that (the first quarter) could well be a write-off," Claus Vistesen, chief eurozone economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in a research note.

Recession looms: Germany was already in a feeble condition, logging growth of just 0.6% for the whole of 2019 amid weak global auto sales, the US-China trade war and uncertainty over Brexit.

Now economists are once again talking about the prospect of a recession, or two consecutive quarters of negative growth -- Germany relies heavily on exports to China, whose economy has been paralyzed by the outbreak.

That doesn't bode well for the rest of Europe. Should the situation continue to deteriorate, the European Central Bank may need to step in, pushing interest rates further into negative territory or increasing monthly bond purchases.

Read more here