February 24 coronavirus news

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7:50 a.m. ET, February 24, 2020

Chinese government approves decision to ban consumption of wild animals

From journalist Isaac Yee and CNN’s Yong Xiong in Shanghai

Guards patrol on January 24 outside the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, believed to be the source of the virus.
Guards patrol on January 24 outside the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, believed to be the source of the virus. Credit: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

China's top political body approved the decision on Monday to ban the consumption and the illegal trade of wild animals, which some experts believe to be the source of the virus.

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee approved the ban on Monday in a bid to help “safeguard public health and ecological security," according to Chinese state media.

The move aims to “completely ban the eating of wild animals” while also “cracking down on illegal trade of wildlife,” state media reports.

The use of wild animals for scientific research, medicine and exhibition will now need to go through “strict examination and approval” by the supervising department in accordance with relevant regulations. 

This comes after Chinese authorities suspended the trade of wild animals on January 26th in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus.

7:34 a.m. ET, February 24, 2020

Japan says it's found the cruise ship passengers who were released by mistake

From CNN’s Yoko Watasuki and Brent Swails in Tokyo

A general view shows the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship at Daikoku pier cruise terminal in Yokohama, Japan on Monday.
A general view shows the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship at Daikoku pier cruise terminal in Yokohama, Japan on Monday. Credit: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

Japanese authorities are in contact with all 23 passengers who were released from the Diamond Princess cruise ship by mistake, the country's health ministry told CNN, adding that at least three of those passengers have retested negative for the coronavirus.

According to the ministry, the 23 passengers in question were required to have a second test because their initial test came before February 5, when a ship wide quarantine was mandated.

Passengers who were in close contact with an infected person after their first test were also required to have a second test and a reset 14 day quarantine since last contact before receiving certification to disembark. 

In terms of timing of the second test, the Japanese health ministry told CNN that there was no specific time window for those tests to take place, they just needed to be conducted during the passenger’s quarantine period. 

7:34 a.m. ET, February 24, 2020

Italy is still a safe place to travel to as the outbreak is contained, official says

From Barbie Latza Nadeau in Rome

Tourists wearing protective face masks visit the Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy on Monday.
Tourists wearing protective face masks visit the Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy on Monday. Credit: Andrea Pattaro/AFP/Getty Images

The outbreak in Italy remains in a contained area and has not spread outside of it, the head of the country’s civil protection agency said Monday, adding that it remains safe to travel to Italy.

Angelo Borrelli, the agency's head, said the hotspots where the virus has been found are not expanding, and that those areas are under quarantine.

8:36 a.m. ET, February 24, 2020

Germany is not planning to cut travel links with Italy

From Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

Germany is currently not considering cutting travel links with Italy due to the coronavirus outbreak, its foreign ministry said Monday.

This comes as Italy's outbreak saw confirmed case numbers increase from three to more than 200 over the weekend.

“There is no travel warning for Italy and at this very moment and we are not intending to issue one,” Maria Adebahr, spokeswoman for the ministry, told reporters at a regular news conference.

Adebahr said that Germany updated its travel and security advice on travel Monday morning. It now reads: “If necessary, enquire at the Italian embassy or consulate responsible for you before starting your journey.”

Germany’s health ministry said Monday that the danger to the German population from the coronavirus remained low. However, the health ministry also said that this “assessment could change at short notice.” 

Read more.

This post has been corrected to more accurately describe Germany's announcement.

6:57 a.m. ET, February 24, 2020

Iranian lawmaker says 50 people are dead, but health ministry says official toll is 12

From CNN's Sara Mazloumsaki in Atlanta

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei speaks about Iran's coronavirus cases and last week's elections in Tehran, Iran on Sunday.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei speaks about Iran's coronavirus cases and last week's elections in Tehran, Iran on Sunday. Credit: Handout/Iranian Supreme Leader Press Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Conflicting claims emerged on Monday about the number of people who have died as a result of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran.

An Iranian lawmaker has claimed that 50 people have died, and blamed Iran's health ministry for failing to tackle the spread of the virus.

Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani, a lawmaker from Qom -- the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran -- suggested that the outbreak was far larger than previously reported.

“10 people are dying in Qom daily, the number of people who have died from coronavirus until last night (Sunday night) is up to 50 people," Farahani told the semi-official News Agency Ilna on Monday.

"The minister of health is to blame,” Farahani added. “Qom is not doing well in terms of the spread of the coronavirus, and I think the government's performance in controlling the virus has failed."

But the health ministry denied his claims during a news conference, with a ministry spokesman saying there were 12 confirmed deaths and 61 confirmed cases across the country.

"No one has access to our information, sometimes there is a misunderstanding, because the symptoms of the flu and [the coronavirus] are similar," Iraj Harirchi, the health ministry spokesman, said Monday.

On Sunday, Iran’s government announced that universities and schools in 14 provinces, including in the capital Tehran, would be closed for a week.

Soccer matches in different leagues will continue but without audiences at the stadiums, according to state news agency IRNA. 

6:34 a.m. ET, February 24, 2020

There are now 219 confirmed cases in Italy and five deaths

From CNN’s Hada Messia in Rome

An ambulance leaves the municipal hospital in Codogno, southeast of Milan, on February 22.
An ambulance leaves the municipal hospital in Codogno, southeast of Milan, on February 22. Credit: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

Italy has now confirmed 219 cases of the virus, Angelo Borrelli, head of the country's civil protection agency, said during a press briefing Monday.

Of the 219 tally, five people have died and one person has recovered, he said.

Borrelli said 91 of the cases were currently in isolation at their homes.

The northern region of Lombardy is the hardest hit, with 167 of the cases and four of the deaths, he added.

Fears in Europe: After the rise in numbers over the weekend, nearby European countries are getting nervous. Austrian authorities said they will meet today to study the situation and analyze if border controls with Italy are necessary. 

6:20 a.m. ET, February 24, 2020

Hundreds of East Asian tourists in Israel to be flown back home

From CNN’s Michael Schwartz and Oren Liebermann

South Korean tourists leaving Israel are pictured at a pavillon separated from the main terminal of Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on Monday.
South Korean tourists leaving Israel are pictured at a pavillon separated from the main terminal of Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on Monday. Credit: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of foreign nationals from East Asian countries who are visiting Israel will be flown back to their home countries in the coming days, the Israel Airport Authority said in a statement Monday.

There are currently between 800 and 900 such foreign nationals visiting Israel. 

There is no specific number of how many are from South Korea, but authorities said a representative of the South Korean embassy will be available, based on the list of foreign nationals provided by the Ministry of Tourism.

Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport has been prepared for the departure of these foreign nationals. 

As of last night, 622 South Korean citizens who were visiting Israel have returned to South Korea. Another 879 foreign nationals from other East Asian countries have also returned home, the airport authority said.

Israel has restricted entry for any foreign national who has been to China, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore in the last 14 days.

6:07 a.m. ET, February 24, 2020

Vietnamese airline Bamboo Airways suspends flights to South Korea

From CNN's Isaac Yee in Hong Kong

A plane operated by Bamboo Airways stands on the tarmac on the first day of the airline's operations at Phu Cat Airport in Qui Nhon, Vietnam, in January 2019.
A plane operated by Bamboo Airways stands on the tarmac on the first day of the airline's operations at Phu Cat Airport in Qui Nhon, Vietnam, in January 2019. Credit: Maika Elan/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Vietnamese airline Bamboo Airways is suspending all flights to South Korea starting from February 26th due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement published on Monday, Bamboo Airways said that all flights to and from South Korea will be suspended "due to the latest development of the epidemic and to ensure the absolute safety for passengers and the community."

The statement added that Bamboo Airways will resume flights once the "epidemic is under control."

5:25 a.m. ET, February 24, 2020

Italy reports its 4th coronavirus-related death

From CNN’s Hada Messia in Rome

A fourth person has died in Italy after catching the virus, a hospital in the north of the country said Monday.

The man had been transferred Sunday from the village of Val Alzano Lombardo to the Papa Giovanni XXIII hospital in Bergamo, near Milan.

The hospital told CNN the man was 83 and had underlying serious health problems, but did not say what they were. Italian media have variously reported his age as 84 or 85.

He did not know how he became infected, the hospital told CNN.

Why this matters: More than 150 cases have been confirmed in Italy, renewing fears that the virus is spreading globally despite numerous travel restrictions placed on China.

Italian authorities have announced sweeping closures across the country's north and emergency measures Sunday as they scramble to contain Europe's largest outbreak.