February 20 coronavirus news

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4:31 p.m. ET, February 20, 2020

Kuwait Airways suspends flights to Iran over coronavirus

From CNN's Hamdi Alkhshali

A Kuwait Airways Boeing 777-300ER lands at London Heathrow airport on January 19.
A Kuwait Airways Boeing 777-300ER lands at London Heathrow airport on January 19. Fabrizio Gandolfo/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images/FILE

Kuwait Airways suspended all flights to Iran on Thursday until further notice and advised its citizens not to travel to Qom following the emergence of coronavirus cases in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kuwait Airways and state news said in a statement.

“Kuwaiti Airlines announces that, upon instructions from the Ministry of Health and the General Administration of Civil Aviation, it has been decided to suspend the operation of all its flights to the Islamic Republic of Iran from starting today until another notice due to the discovery of a number of cases infected with coronavirus and to avoid any possibility of transmission of the virus between passengers,” the airline said.

Kuwaiti Health Ministry said in a statement that it is advising citizens not to travel to the Iranian city of Qom. Those returning from Qom will be put into 14-day quarantine to ensure they do not carry the virus.

1:21 p.m. ET, February 20, 2020

Coronavirus could cost international airlines billions

From CNN's Chris Liakos

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) the total global lost revenue for airlines could be $29.3 billion due to coronavirus.

IATA announced that its initial assessment of the impact of the novel coronavirus 2019 outbreak — also known as COVID-19 — shows a potential 13% full-year loss of passenger demand for carriers in the Asia-Pacific region. 

“The sharp downturn in demand as a result of COVID-19 will have a financial impact on airlines — severe for those particularly exposed to the China market,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.

Here's how the group explained it in a press release:

“Considering that growth for the region’s airlines was forecast to be 4.8%, the net impact will be an 8.2% full-year contraction compared to 2019 demand levels. In this scenario, that would translate into a $27.8 billion revenue loss in 2020 for carriers in the Asia-Pacific region—the bulk of which would be borne by carriers registered in China, with $12.8 billion lost in the China domestic market alone. In the same scenario, carriers outside Asia-Pacific are forecast to bear a revenue loss of $1.5 billion, assuming the loss of demand is limited to markets linked to China. This would bring total global lost revenue to $29.3 billion (5% lower passenger revenues compared to what IATA forecast in December) and represent a 4.7% hit to global demand."

 

12:12 p.m. ET, February 20, 2020

US health officials issue coronavirus-related travel advisory for Japan

From CNN's Michael Nedelman

An official in protective gear stands near the Diamond Princess cruise ship, quarantined at Yokohama Port in Yokohama, Japan, on Thursday, February 20.
An official in protective gear stands near the Diamond Princess cruise ship, quarantined at Yokohama Port in Yokohama, Japan, on Thursday, February 20. Kyodo/AP

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new travel advisory today for Japan due to the coronavirus outbreak — the second coronavirus-related travel advisory the agency has issued outside of mainland China.

The CDC advises travelers to “practice usual precautions,” in accordance with a “Watch - Level 1” notice out of three possible levels. 

Yesterday, the agency listed the first travel notice outside of mainland China — for Hong Kong, which also carries the “Level 1” advisory.  

These precautions include avoiding contact with sick people and cleaning hands. The agency also advises people to seek medical advice if they have spent time in Japan during the last two weeks and feel ill with fever or respiratory symptoms.

"At this time, CDC does not recommend canceling or postponing travel to Japan,” the agency posted on its website. 

The agency currently lists mainland China as “Warning - Level 3” and advises travelers to “avoid nonessential travel.” The notice excludes Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

10:54 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

China claims it has taken prudent action during coronavirus outbreak

From CNN's Alexandra Lin and Akanksha Sharma in Hong Kong

Chinese officials say the government has taken prudent action in the handling of the novel coronavirus. China's State Council Information Office held a news conference today to lay out this case.

Yu Xiangyang, the deputy secretary general of State Council, said the city of Wuhan was put under travel restrictions and the Lunar New Year holiday was extended after President Xi Jinping instructed a senior adviser to "supervise efforts to contain the novel coronavirus." 

"It’s not easy for us to make these decisions," Yu said. "It’s known that for infectious disease, whatever treatment used, the most economically friendly measure is to isolate the population."

Yu also said the government mobilized resources and imports after finding daily demand was 15,000 protective suits a day when the supply was only 10,000 suits a day.

Yu said there were not enough hospital beds at first but it was not acceptable to turn suspected cases away. He said the government established an "accountability mechanism" to ensure that "officials and governments at all levels are held accountable in a city and a province". 

In a bid to ensure accountability, Yu said, "We will exercise maximum penalty to all those not doing their job well while working on prevention and control of the epidemic” and said the government was conducting “undercover investigations in communities.” 

Yu went on to say all reported missed cases covered in the media have been investigated by Xi’s adviser, Sun Chunlan, and that all patients involved have been treated.

11:45 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

US health experts are part of the team investigating coronavirus outbreak in China

From CNN Health’s Jamie Gumbrecht

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks at a news conference on Tuesday, February 18.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks at a news conference on Tuesday, February 18. Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg/Getty Images

US health experts are part of a World Health Organization team in China investigating the novel coronavirus outbreak, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday during a press briefing.

Tedros said the team on the ground in China includes experts from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US National Institutes of Health, as well as experts from Singapore, Korea, Japan, Nigeria, Germany and Russia. The team includes experts in epidemiology, virology, clinical management, outbreak control and public health, he said.

Team members are working with Chinese counterparts to study transmissibility of the virus and the impact the of measures taken in China, Tedros said.

US health officials have said they made repeated offers, starting in early January, to send health experts to China, and expressed frustration that US experts had not yet been invited in.

10:40 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

Plane carrying evacuees from Wuhan arrives in Ukraine and prompts local protests

From CNN’s Anastasia Graham-Yooll and Nathan Hodge

Airport crew members check the fuselage of a SkyUp Airlines plane during a refueling stopover at Kiev's Boryspil International Airport in Ukraine, following the evacuation of Ukrainians and foreign nationals from the Chinese city of Wuhan on Thursday.
Airport crew members check the fuselage of a SkyUp Airlines plane during a refueling stopover at Kiev's Boryspil International Airport in Ukraine, following the evacuation of Ukrainians and foreign nationals from the Chinese city of Wuhan on Thursday. Credit: Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images

A plane carrying Ukrainian citizens and other nationals evacuated from Wuhan, China, arrived today at Kharkiv Airport in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior said in a statement.

The statement said border guards provided clearance for 94 people arriving on the special flight: 22 crew members and accompanying medical personnel, along with 72 passengers. The ministry said the passengers included 45 Ukrainian citizens and 27 citizens of other countries, including Argentina, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Montenegro, Panama and Israel.

Video released by the ministry showed border control inspectors carrying out their inspections in full protective gear.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky defended the move, describing security measures on the flight as “unprecedented.” Passengers on board the aircraft, he added, were all healthy but would be quarantined and monitored over a period of 14 days at a medical facility belonging to the Ukrainian National Guard in the town of Novi Sanzhary.

Video circulating on social media showed local residents in the town protesting the arrival of evacuees, blocking roads and confronting police. In a Facebook post, Zelensky called on citizens to stop “attempts to block routes, block hospitals, not allow Ukrainian citizens into Ukraine."

“The evacuees will live at the National Guard's private medical center in Novi Sanzhary,” he said. “It will be completely isolated and put into strict bacteriological safety. Within two weeks it will probably be the safest object in the country. I sympathize with our evacuees, because I already know what it is like to be under personal protection, and their protection will be much more serious than that of the president.”

There are currently no diagnosed cases of coronavirus in Ukraine.

10:18 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

Coronavirus-positive Americans from cruise in Japan must meet these 3 criteria to return home

From CNN's Michael Nedelman

American citizens board a Kalitta Air aircraft, chartered by the U.S. government, at Haneda airport on February 17 in Tokyo, Japan.
American citizens board a Kalitta Air aircraft, chartered by the U.S. government, at Haneda airport on February 17 in Tokyo, Japan. Credit: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

US citizens who were on board the Diamond Princess cruise and tested positive for the novel coronavirus must be cleared per US guidelines before returning home, according to letters sent by the US embassy in Tokyo to these passengers. 

These guidelines were sent to at least one American passenger who is still in Japan. The US began evacuating some passengers earlier this week.

In order to be eligible to board a US-bound flight, three key criteria must be met:

  1. Any fever must have resolved in the absence of medication.
  2. There must also be an improvement in any signs and symptoms of illness.
  3. Patients must test negative on two sets of nasal and throat swabs 24 hours apart.

This is in line with existing guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on when to release patients from isolation in hospitals.

"You will not be cleared to travel simply by waiting 14 days,” the embassy specified. Fourteen days is the upper estimate of the virus’ incubation period.

These criteria are set by the CDC and the US Department of Health and Human Services. Carnival Corporation, which owns and operates the Diamond Princess cruise ship, has agreed to cover testing costs for these passengers if the Japanese government doesn’t, according to the letters.

After submitting test results to the CDC, passengers must wait to receive notification by a US embassy representative notifying them they are cleared to fly to the US. 

For the rest of those aboard, CDC said on Tuesday that "all passengers and crew of the ship have been placed under travel restrictions, preventing them from returning to the United States for at least 14 days after they had left the Diamond Princess.”

8:53 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

He's in isolation in Japan, she's quarantined on a US base. The couple divided by the virus outbreak

From CNN's Matt Rivers

John Haering and his wife Melanie were on a six-month world trip. He’d just retired. But shortly after the Diamond Princess quarantine began, John’s temperature spiked, and he was taken off the ship and into isolation in a local hospital.

Now, the couple are thousands of miles apart. Melanie isn't sick, but she’s in quarantine -- on a California military base -- one of several hundred Americans evacuated Monday on charter flights.

“There’s a strange feeling of loneliness that you’re by yourself, that there’s nobody else here to take care of you,” John told CNN.

Japan says its decision to quarantine the ship was the best option.

But the US Centers for Disease Control says people on board that ship during quarantine were of higher risk to catch the virus -- but the US didn’t evacuate its people for nearly two weeks after it began. Both John and Melanie are grateful the flights happened.

John only wishes they’d done it sooner.

"If that were the case, I would be sitting in a U.S. facility with U.S. doctors. My wife would be there and I would get the best care that I possibly get on my home soil,” he said.

8:13 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

Japan reports 12 new cases of novel coronavirus

From CNN’s Junko Ogura and Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

A worker wears a protective suit in front of the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan on Thursday.
A worker wears a protective suit in front of the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan on Thursday. Credit: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Japan announced 12 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus on Thursday, including two government officials who worked onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Both of the officials helped with administrative work onboard.

The remaining 10 new cases originated on land, according to the Japanese health ministry.

Among the cases on land is one taxi driver in Okinawa who drove a tourist from the Diamond Princess and has now tested positive. The vessel stopped at a port in Okinawa on February 1, just days before the coronavirus cases were confirmed onboard.

The total tally of confirmed coronavirus cases in Japan now stands at 78 on land and 626 on the Diamond Princess.