WHO chief calls new emergency talks Thursday on China coronavirus as deaths rise to 132

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Wearing surgical masks, Takeo Aoyama, center left, and Takayuki Kato, center right, employees at Nippon Steel Corporation’s subsidiary in Wuhan, China, speak to journalists after returning home by a Japanese chartered plane at Haneda international airport in Tokyo Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP)
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People wear protective facemasks at the city's commuter train station in Bangkok on January 28, 2020. Thailand has detected 14 cases so far of the novel coronavirus, a virus similar to the SARS pathogen, an outbreak which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan. (AFP)
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This handout from Thai Airways taken and released on January 28, 2020 shows staff disinfecting an aircraft at the airline's hangar in Bangkok, as a measure aimed at preventing the spread of novel coronavirus. (AFP)
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Updated 29 January 2020

WHO chief calls new emergency talks Thursday on China coronavirus as deaths rise to 132

  • Malaysia reports three new cases of virus infection, total now at seven
  • British Airways suspends all flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect

LONDON: The head of the World Health Organization on Wednesday called a new emergency meeting of experts to discuss whether the SARS-like virus outbreak that began in China constitutes an international health emergency.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who visited China this week and held talks with President Xi Jinping, said the meeting was needed because of cases of onward transmission of the virus outside of China.

"I have decided to reconvene the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on the new #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) tomorrow," Tedros aid on Twitter.
Tedros said most people who contract the virus exhibit "milder symptoms" but about one in five have severe illness, including pneumonia and respiratory failure.

Since it was first identified on December 31, the virus has killed 132 people and spread to more than a dozen countries since emerging in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Germany and Japan have both reported cases of human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus in their countries.
The WHO's Emergency Committee met for two days last week but stopped short of calling an international health emergency, saying that more information was needed about the virus.
The designation is reserved for the worst outbreaks and has only been used five times before by the Geneva-based UN health agency, including for Ebola and swine flu.
"The world is pulling together to end the outbreak, building on lessons learned from past outbreaks," Tedros said.

“China needs the world’s solidarity and support,” he said, adding that he had held “frank talks” with Xi.
Tedros also said the WHO “deeply regrets” a mistake in three of its reports last week in which it referred to the global risk of the outbreak as “moderate” instead of “high.”
Meanwhile, the US and Japan on Wednesday began evacuating their citizens from the Chinese city hardest-hit by the outbreak that has infected more than 6,000 on the mainland and abroad.
China’s latest figures cover the previous 24 hours and add 26 to the number of deaths, 25 of which were in the Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan. The 5,974 cases on the mainland were a rise of 1,459 from the previous day. Dozens of infections of the new type of coronavirus have been confirmed outside mainland China as well.
Malaysia’s Health Ministry said on Wednesday three more people had been infected with the new coronavirus, taking the total to seven, all of whom are Chinese citizens.
The new cases involve a 4-year-old girl, a 52-year-old man and the mother of two children confirmed infected earlier, the ministry said in a statement.
Authorities said the mother had initially tested negative and had stayed in Malaysia to take care of her children – grandsons of a 66-year-old man who tested positive in Singapore for the coronavirus last week.




Passengers wearing face masks queue at the immigration counter upon arrival at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 in Sepang on January 29, 2020. (AFP)

A Japanese chartered flight carrying 206 evacuees from Wuhan included some who had coughs and fever on the plane, Kyodo News reported, citing health ministry officials. They were expected to be taken by ambulances to a Tokyo hospital specializing in infectious diseases.
A plane carrying Americans who had been in Wuhan left for Anchorage, Alaska, where they will be rescreened for the virus. Hospitals are prepared to treat or quarantine people who may be infected. Then the plane is scheduled to fly to Ontario, California.
The British government is warning against “all but essential travel” to mainland China amid the outbreak of the new type of coronavirus. British Airways on Wednesday has suspended all flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect.
And Hong Kong’s leader said the territory will cut all rail links to the mainland and halve the number of flights to stop the spread of the virus.
South Korea also said it will send a plane, and France, Mongolia and other governments also planned evacuations.
China has cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities in Hubei province to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further. The lockdown has trapped more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease control measures ever imposed.




Workers in protective gear are seen on the apron near the first charter flight from the Chinese city of Wuhan, which was arranged by Japan’s government to evacuate its citizens, on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AFP)

The Japanese plane carried into China 20,000 face masks as well as protective gear, all in short supply as Chinese hospitals treat a growing number of patients. Wuhan is building two hospitals in a matter of days to add 2,500 beds for treatment of patients with the virus.
The sharp rise in infections recently suggests significant human-to-human spread of the virus, though it could also be explained by expanded monitoring efforts, said Malik Peiris, chair in virology at the University of Hong Kong.
The source of the virus and the full extent of its spread are still unknown. However, experts worry the new virus may spread more easily than originally thought, or may have mutated into a form that does so. It is from the coronavirus family, which also can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as SARS and MERS, which both emerged in the past two decades and are thought to have come from animals.
(With AP and AFP)


China asks recovered patients to donate plasma for virus treatment

Updated 25 min 5 sec ago

China asks recovered patients to donate plasma for virus treatment

  • Drugmakers are racing to develop a vaccine and treatment for the epidemic

BEJING: Chinese health officials Monday urged patients who have recovered from the coronavirus to donate blood so that plasma can be extracted to treat others who are critically ill.
Drugmakers are racing to develop a vaccine and treatment for the epidemic, which has which killed 1,770 people and infected over 70,500 people across China.
Plasma from patients who have recovered from a spell of pneumonia triggered by COVID-19 contains antibodies that can help reduce the virus load in critically ill patients, an official from China’s National Health Commission told a press briefing Monday.
“I would like to make a call to all cured patients to donate their plasma so that they can bring hope to critically ill patients,” said Guo Yanhong, who heads the NHC’s medical administration department.
Eleven patients at a hospital in Wuhan — the epicenter of the disease — received plasma infusions last week, said Sun Yanrong, of the Biological Center at the Ministry of Science and Technology.
“One patient (among them) has already been discharged, one is able to get off the bed and walk and the others are all recovering,” she said.
The call comes days after China’s state-owned medical products maker reported successful results from its trial at Wuhan First People’s Hospital.
China National Biotec Group Co. said in a post on its official WeChat account that severely ill patients receiving plasma infusions “improved within 24 hours.”
“Clinical studies have shown that infusing plasma (from recovered patients) is safe and effective,” Sun said.
Blood doners will undergo a test to ensure that they are not carrying the virus, said Wang Guiqiang, chief physician at Peking University First Hospital.
“Only plasma is taken, not all the blood,” he said.
“Other components of the blood including red blood cells and platelets will be infused back into the donors.”