February 20 coronavirus news
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The Hubei health authority in China reported that 115 more people died of the coronavirus in Hubei province on Thursday, raising the death toll in the epicenter since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak to 2,144.
Hubei authorities confirmed an additional 411 cases of the virus in Hubei on Thursday. The total number of cases in the epicenter of the outbreak is now 62,442.
By the numbers: The Hubei report brings the total number of deaths in mainland China to at least 2,233. The global death toll is at least 2,244, with 11 deaths outside of mainland China.
Japan has reported three deaths from the coronavirus, while Hong Kong and Iran have each reported two deaths from coronavirus. Taiwan, the Philippines, South Korea and France have each reported one death.
The global number of confirmed coronavirus cases now exceeds 76,154 with the vast majority of cases in mainland China.
China’s National Health Commission is expected to release numbers for all of China’s provinces later today.
Two passengers evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Australia.
Brendan Murphy, chief medical officer for the Australian government, said in a statement that 164 people from the Diamond Princess arrived to the Howard Springs Quarantine Facility on Thursday to begin their 14-day quarantine.
Upon arrival, six passengers were identified to have minor respiratory symptoms and/or fevers. The six symptomatic passengers were moved into isolation and tested, two of those people have since tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Murphy said both patients "remain well" and are being housed in a special isolation unit at the quarantine facility. Murphy added that "the development of positive cases after return to Australia is not unexpected" since there was continued evidence of spread of infection on board the Diamond Princess.
Murphy reassured other passengers and the crew on the Qantas evacuation flight saying that "all measures were taken to ensure their protection" and that "the small number of passengers on the plane meant passengers could be spread out higher risk passengers were seated in separate sections."
The Department of Health reiterated that the two new cases pose no risk to the Howard Spring community and the surrounding communities around the quarantine facility.
Australia now has 17 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.