February 15 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Steve George and Amy Woodyatt, CNN

Updated 7:51 p.m. ET, February 15, 2020
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8:53 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

A single patient in Egypt marks the first confirmed coronavirus case in Africa

Egyptian Quarantine Authority employees scan incoming travellers at Cairo International Airport on February 1.
Egyptian Quarantine Authority employees scan incoming travellers at Cairo International Airport on February 1. AFP via Getty Images

Egypt announced its first case of Wuhan coronavirus on Friday, according to a joint statement by Egypt’s Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The person who tested positive is a “foreigner,” the statement said. 

Egypt’s Ministry of Health spokesperson, Dr. Khaled Mujahid, said Egypt discovered the case by testing passengers coming from countries where infections have emerged. 

Mujahid added that WHO was immediately informed, and all preventive measures will be taken in cooperation with them.

The confirmed case marks the first in Africa since the virus was detected in December last year, in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

To date, a total of 605 cases have been confirmed outside of mainland China.

1:34 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

Diamond Princess captain does not confirm or deny US evacuation plans

From CNN’s Mick Krever and Matt Rivers in Yokohama and Sandi Sidhu in Tokyo

In an announcement to passengers on the virus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship this afternoon, Captain Stefano Ravera neither confirmed nor denied that the US Government is preparing to evacuate its citizens from the virus-stricken ship, which is currently docked in Yokohama, Japan.

“It’s been a very busy morning,” Ravera said in a recording made by a passenger and obtained by CNN. “We’ve been liaising with several agencies involved in this delicate situation.”

“US media is reporting the US government is considering a plan to evacuate American citizens and permanent residence from the Diamond Princess. Guests with questions about this should contact the US Department of State," said Ravera, in reference to an earlier report carried by the Wall Street Journal.

He said that he expected to be able to make further announcements “in the coming hours” as he receives more information from the Japanese authorities and “foreign embassies.”

“As you have seen throughout this period, and you continue to see, this is a very dynamic situation,” he said.

1:12 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

Travelers in Beijing are wrapping themselves in plastic to avoid getting infected

Travelers in a Beijing train station on February 15, 2019.
Travelers in a Beijing train station on February 15, 2019. Natalie Thomas/CNN

With coronavirus cases continuing to rise in mainland China, many people are locking themselves at home. And those who do go out, aren't taking any chances.

The Beijing South Railway Station today is filled with travelers wearing face masks, lab goggles, plastic ponchos, plastic visors, and other creative means of shielding themselves from potential infection.

There isn't a single person in sight without a protective face mask.
There isn't a single person in sight without a protective face mask. Natalie Thomas/CNN

Most people avoid sitting next to each other, instead sitting one or several empty seats away to minimize close contact.

Many are also wearing plastic and rubber gloves, and some form of head covering -- be it a hat, hood, or shower cap.

Travel has dropped across China as people stay home. Those who do go out, don't take any chances.
Travel has dropped across China as people stay home. Those who do go out, don't take any chances. Natalie Thomas/CNN

The extra precautions come as Beijing authorities order all people returning to the capital to stay at home, or under observation, for 14 days, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, according to China’s state-run news agency Xinhua.

 

8:55 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

State department says it will evacuate Americans stranded on Japan cruise ship

Passengers walk along the deck of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, docked in Yokohama, Japan, on February 14, 2020.
Passengers walk along the deck of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, docked in Yokohama, Japan, on February 14, 2020. Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images

The US State Department said earlier today that it would evacuate about 380 Americans who are currently on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked under quarantine in Japan, once the quarantine lifts next week.

"We continue to collaborate closely with Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Government of Japan, and Carnival Cruise lines on all aspects of this dynamic situation. The US Embassy remains in close contact with all relevant authorities to ensure US citizens aboard the ship, and their families, are fully informed as the situation develops," said the State Department in a statement.
"Our primary goal is to ensure the welfare and safety of all US citizens involved."

Stranded at sea: The cruise ship, carrying more than 3,700 people, has been moored in Yokohama Bay under quarantine since February 4.

So far, 219 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed on the ship. The quarantine is scheduled to end on February 19.

8:55 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

Hong Kong Disneyland will lend some of its sites for quarantine facilities

From CNN's Chermaine Lee in Hong Kong

A sign at Hong Kong Disneyland announcing the park's closure on January 26, 2020.
A sign at Hong Kong Disneyland announcing the park's closure on January 26, 2020. Ayaka McGill/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong Disneyland has agreed to lend vacant sites to the government as potential quarantine facilities, said city officials in a press conference yesterday.

“We need quarantine facilities for surveillance. We will leave no stones unturned … We have secured the company’s consent to use part of the site if it is needed,” said Edward Yau Tang-wah, head of the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau.

The government has not released any schedule or plans on whether or when the designated site will be used. There are currently 56 cases of confirmed novel coronavirus in Hong Kong.

A hard year for Disneyland: Hong Kong Disneyland, which welcomed 6.7 million guests in the 2018 fiscal year, announced it was temporarily closing in late January in response to the outbreak.

The coronavirus has served a second blow to the theme park, after it struggled throughout 2019. Violent political unrest in Hong Kong saw tourism numbers drop dramatically, and the park was often quiet and scarcely-populated -- even in summer, which is typically a peak season.

Take a look at the protest-hit Disneyland.

12:39 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

CNN visits an infectious diseases hospital in Beijing

CNN photojournalist Justin Robertson visited an infectious diseases hospital in Beijing this week, speaking with a survivor who had recovered from the coronavirus.

The CNN team had their temperature taken and hands sanitized before they entered the building, passing through heavy security.

This patient said that she thinks people shouldn't be afraid of the disease, and they should trust the country, trust the hospital, and trust the doctors," Robertson said.

The patient also claimed that after being fed traditional Chinese medicinal soup every day, she was recovered from the virus.

Safety measures increased: Robertson also documented his flight from Frankfurt to Beijing on Tuesday, as airlines ramp up safety measures over the coronavirus.

Everyone was wearing a mask on the Air China flight, and there were pre-recorded announcements warning people of the dangers of the virus.

Come mealtime, all food is served in disposable, one-time use packaging for hygiene reasons, he said.

Take a look at their hospital visit:

8:55 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

The world's biggest work-from-home experiment has been triggered by coronavirus

From CNN's Jessie Yeung

A woman walks along a shuttered business street in Beijing on February 4.
A woman walks along a shuttered business street in Beijing on February 4. Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images

In offices across Asia, desks are empty and the phones are quiet, as the region grapples with a deadly virus.

Instead, millions of people are holed up in their apartments, in what may be the world's biggest work-from-home experiment.

Frustrations at school: Many schools have been suspended, instead conducting classes remotely through digital learning tools -- but this has proved more difficult for children with special learning needs or disabilities, and their educators.

"We use a lot of hands-on learning, so it's been really challenging trying to make our online learning meaningful for the kids when we're not in a classroom environment," said Karen, a special education teacher in Hong Kong, who requested a pseudonym to avoid identifying the school.

Like other schools, Karen and her colleagues have relied on digital tools such as video calls and Google Docs -- but challenges are made harder because her students need a lot of adult support.

The parents are also working from home, and are having to also be teachers -- it's almost an impossible situation," she said.

Benefits in other sectors: For other digital-based sectors, working from home has instead been surprisingly effective.

"It's a test run that we didn't really choose to implement, but we're quite happy with it," said Brice Lamarque, sales and accounts director at a web and branding agency in Hong Kong. Nearly all the agency's employees have been working from home this month.

"Before (the epidemic) happened, we were not really keen on letting our team work from home because we value collaboration," said Lamarque. "But this experience actually showed us that the whole team collaborates quite well even if they're not in the same room, so we're looking at adding that into our employee benefits ... maybe two to three weeks a year."

Read the full story here.

8:56 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

Coronavirus numbers, broken down

From CNN’s Shanshan Wang in Beijing and Taylor Barnes in Atlanta

People line up to order food from a stall in Shanghai on February 14.
People line up to order food from a stall in Shanghai on February 14. Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

The coronavirus continues to spread, with the number of cases jumping after China broadened their definition of a confirmed case. It has now reached 28 countries and territories. Here are the key numbers, broken down:

Deaths

  • In mainland China: 1,523
  • Outside China: 3
  • Global total: 1,526

Cases

  • In mainland China: 66,492
  • Outside China: 605
  • Global total: 67,097

According to China's National Health Commission, a total of 8,096 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospital. 

11:42 p.m. ET, February 14, 2020

The coronavirus crisis is raising questions over China's relationship with the World Health Organization

Analysis from CNN's James Griffiths

Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the World Health Organization, and Chinese President Xi Jinping on January 28, 2020 in Beijing, China.
Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the World Health Organization, and Chinese President Xi Jinping on January 28, 2020 in Beijing, China. Naohiko Hatta - Pool/Getty Images

Sitting alongside Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing in January, World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was effusive in his praise of the country's response to the coronavirus crisis.

But even as Ghebreyesus lauded "the transparency (China has) demonstrated," revelations were emerging that officials in Hubei province and Wuhan -- the city where the virus was first detected -- had downplayed news about the virus, even threatening medical whistleblowers with arrest.

Days later, the WHO declared a global public health emergency, and once again Tedros praised Beijing's response -- leading some critics to question the relationship between the two entities.

What is the WHO? The WHO was founded in 1948 under the auspices of the still infant United Nations (UN), with a mandate to coordinate international health policy, particularly on infectious disease.

Is it independent? The agency relied on funding and the cooperation of members to function. This gives wealthy member states considerable influence -- and has renewed a longstanding debate about whether the WHO is sufficiently independent to allow it to fulfill its purpose.

Many of WHO's critics argue that it is overly bureaucratic, bizarrely structured, too dependent on a handful of major donors, and often hamstrung by political concerns. 

Is it an investigative body? The WHO does not usually have its own teams on the ground gathering information. Instead it relies on data provided by member states -- a structure that was blamed for the delays in declaring the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak an emergency.

This means that the WHO is only as informed as its member states want it to be. If a country where an epidemic is developing does not share data, there is little the WHO can do about it.

With a government like China's, with a historical aversion to transparency and sensitivity to international criticism, that can be a problem.

Read the full analysis here.