China virus toll nears 500, airlines cut Hong Kong flights, cases found on cruise ship

China virus toll nears 500, airlines cut Hong Kong flights, cases found on cruise ship
1 / 4
A passenger checks herself with a digital infrared forehead thermometer measurement device at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on February 4, 2020. (AFP)
China virus toll nears 500, airlines cut Hong Kong flights, cases found on cruise ship
2 / 4
Workers set up beds at an exhibition centre that was converted into a hospital in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on February 4, 2020. (AFP)
China virus toll nears 500, airlines cut Hong Kong flights, cases found on cruise ship
3 / 4
This handout from the Royal Thai Navy taken and released on Feburary 4, 2020 shows navy officials preparing for the arrival of a plane carrying Thai nationals who had been evacuated from Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, at U-Tapao Airport in Rayong. (AFP)
China virus toll nears 500, airlines cut Hong Kong flights, cases found on cruise ship
4 / 4
This photo taken on February 3, 2020 shows a doctor being disinfected by his colleague at a quarantine zone in Wuhan, the epicentre of the new coronavirus outbreak, in China's central Hubei province. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 05 February 2020

China virus toll nears 500, airlines cut Hong Kong flights, cases found on cruise ship

China virus toll nears 500, airlines cut Hong Kong flights, cases found on cruise ship
  • The WHO's statement came as Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand all reported new infections not imported from China

BEIJING: The death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in China passed 490 on Wednesday, as two US airlines suspended flights to Hong Kong following the first fatality there and 10 cases were confirmed on a quarantined Japanese cruise ship.
China’s National Health Commission said another 65 deaths had been recorded on Tuesday, bringing the toll on the mainland to 490, mostly in and around the locked-down central city of Wuhan where the virus emerged late last year.
There have been two deaths outside mainland China. A 39-year-old man in Hong Kong with an underlying illness who had visited Wuhan city, the epicenter of the virus, died on Tuesday. A man died in the Philippines last week after visiting Wuhan, the first virus-related overseas fatality.
Across mainland China, there were 3,887 new confirmed infections, bringing the total accumulated number to 24,324.
Ten people on a cruise liner under quarantine at the Japanese port of Yokohama tested positive for coronavirus, Japan health minister said, a figure that could rise as medical screening of thousands of patients and crew continued.
The 10 confirmed cases were among 31 results from 273 people tested so far. There are around 3,700 passengers and crew aboard the Carnival Corp. ship.
Another 176 cases have been reported in 24 other countries and regions, according to the World Health Organization.

Two Malaysians who were flown back from the Chinese city of Wuhan have tested positive for the coronavirus, the Southeast Asian nation’s health ministry said on Wednesday, raising the tally of confirmed cases in the country to 12.
Malaysia sent a flight to Wuhan on Monday to bring back over 100 of its citizens who were stranded there since the city was locked down in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.
The two cases, a 45-year-old woman and her 9-year-old son, did not show any symptoms when subjected to health screening on arrival in Kuala Lumpur but lab tests confirmed on Wednesday they had contracted the virus, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said at the ministry’s daily news conference on the coronavirus.
"Both are receiving treatment in an isolation ward... and they are in stable condition," Dzulkefly said.

ECONOMIC IMPACT SPREADS
As the economic impacts of the virus spread, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the epidemic would delay a surge in US exports to China expected from the Phase 1 trade deal set to take effect later this month, the first time a Trump administration official has said the outbreak would hamper the deal.
“It is true the trade deal, the Phase 1 trade deal, the export boom from that trade deal will take longer because of the Chinese virus,” Kudlow said, adding he did not believe the virus would have a catastrophic effect on business supply chains.
Global markets stabilized on Tuesday after days of selling triggered by fears about China’s econmic growth, with many factories closed, cities cut off and travel in and out of China severely restricted.
The financial and health impacts of the epidemic were increasingly being felt in Hong Kong, with American Airlines Group and United Airlines suspending flights to and from the Asian financial hub after this week.
Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, which relies heavily on passengers who change flights in the financial center, said it plans to cut around 30% of its global capacity over the next two months, including around 90% of its flights to mainland China as it grapples with the coronavirus.

The airline has asked its 27,000 employees to take three weeks of unpaid leave, saying preserving cash was key for the carrier and that conditions were as grave as during the 2009 financial crisis.
Thousands of medical workers in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous region of China, held a second day of strikes on Tuesday to press for complete closure of borders with the mainland after three checkpoints were left open.
“We’re not threatening the government, we just want to prevent the outbreak,” said Cheng, 26, a nurse on strike.
Hong Kong has confirmed about 17 cases. It was badly hit by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a coronavirus that emerged from China in 2002, killed almost 800 people worldwide and cost the global economy an estimated $33 billion.
Neighbouring Macau, also a special administrative region of China lying across the Pearl River estuary from Hong Kong, ordered its casinos to suspend operations on Tuesday, effectively closing off the lifeblood of its economy in a drastic measure to contain the epidemic.
Asian stocks steadied on Wednesday on hopes of additional Chinese stimulus to lessen the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.3%. Australian shares were up 0.58%, while Japan’s Nikkei stock index rose 1.19%.

CHINA EVACUATIONS CONTINUE
Beijing has criticized US travel restrictions, barring foreign nationals who have visisted China, as an overreaction and has called on Washington to do more to help China.
US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex said he hoped China would accept an offer from the United States and the WHO to send epidemiological experts to China.
“We have been requesting this since January 6. The World Health Organization sent names over today. We’re hoping the Chinese will act quickly on that,” Azar told Fox Business Network in an interview.
“This is a novel strain. That’s why we’ve got to get on the ground with the world’s best experts and run the studies to get to the bottom of what is the incubation period. We’ve got to confirm what is the risk of asymptomatic transmission,” he said.

The WHO has declared the flu-like virus a global emergency and experts say much is still unknown, including its mortality rate and transmission routes.
Chinese data suggests the new virus, while much more contagious, is significantly less lethal although such numbers can evolve rapidly.
Several countries including Australia and New Zealand continued to evacuate citizens from Wuhan city. The United States said it may stage additional evacuation flights for private US citizens in China’s virus-hit Wuhan on Thursday.
Wuhan authorities are converting an additional eight buildings, including gymnasiums, exhibition centers and sports centers, into hospitals, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.
The latest announcement adds to plans revealed earlier this week to convert three other venues in the city into hospitals. Once all 11 buildings are converted, a process that is expected to be completed later on Wednesday, they will be able to accommodate 10,000 patients.
A specially constructed hospital in Wuhan, designed with 1,000 beds, opened to patients on Monday, while the building of a second hospital, with 1,600 beds, is also scheduled to be completed on Wednesday

For a graphic comparing coronavirus outbreaks, see https://tmsnrt.rs/2GK6YVK.


Global virus death toll passes 1.5 million as nations plan for vaccine

Updated 46 min 57 sec ago

Global virus death toll passes 1.5 million as nations plan for vaccine

Global virus death toll passes 1.5 million as nations plan for vaccine
  • US registers record of more than 210,000 new Covid cases in 24 hours
  • UN chief warns that even if vaccines are quickly approved, the world would still be fighting the pandemic’s aftershocks

WASHINGTON: The world passed the grim milestone of 1.5 million coronavirus deaths on Thursday, as several nations planned to deliver much hoped-for vaccines early next year to break the cycle of lockdowns and restrictions.

The total number of cases worldwide jumped to 65,127,355, according to the John Hopkins University of Medicine's coronavirus monitoring center.

US President-elect Joe Biden said that on his first day in office he would ask Americans to wear masks for 100 days to help reduce transmission of the virus that is again surging in the country with the world’s highest number of deaths and infections.
“I’m going to ask the public for 100 days to mask. Just 100 days to mask — not forever,” Biden said in excerpts of an interview to be broadcast on CNN later Thursday.
But even as the latest positive news about a vaccine was announced, with the Moderna candidate showing it confers immunity for at least three months, several countries marked new Covid-19 records.
The US, for instance, posted an all-time high of more than 210,000 new cases in a 24-hour stretch to Thursday evening, meanwhile notching more than 2,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
And Italy registered 993 deaths, topping its previous record of 969 earlier in the year when it was the first European country to be affected by the pandemic.

To build trust in vaccines after they are approved, the 78-year-old Biden said he was willing to be vaccinated in public — following up on similar commitments from former US presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Biden also used the interview to say he had asked the government’s top infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci to join his Covid team and serve as a chief medical adviser.
But in a sign of the difficult work ahead, California announced new statewide bans on gatherings and non-essential activities, as hospitals in the nation’s most populous state face being overwhelmed.

The pandemic is showing little sign of slowing, with more than 10,000 new deaths recorded worldwide every day since November 24 — a rate never reached before, according to an AFP tally.
As the world tires of economically crippling restrictions, attention has turned to the race for a vaccine.
Britain on Wednesday became the first Western country to approve a Covid-19 vaccine for general use, piling pressure on other countries to swiftly follow suit.
But Fauci said Britain “rushed” its approval process.
“In all fairness to so many of my UK friends, you know, they kind of ran around the corner of the marathon and joined it in the last mile,” he told CBS news.
He later walked back his comments, saying he had “a great deal of confidence in what the UK does both scientifically and from a regulator standpoint.”
Also on Thursday, a study showed that the Moderna vaccine, which was recently demonstrated to have 94 percent efficacy, causes the immune system to produce potent antibodies that endure for at least three months.
In anticipation of such vaccines being approved, France announced that its vaccinations will be free and begin in January for one million elderly in retirement homes, February for 14 million at-risk people and spring for the rest of the population.
France was also mourning the latest high-profile figure to succumb to Covid-19, former French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing, who died at the age of 94.
Belgium’s government also said it intends to start vaccinating its most vulnerable in January.
But the raised hopes didn’t only garner the attention of governments — IBM said Thursday that hackers are targeting the Covid-19 vaccine supply chain.
The tech giant said it was “unclear” if a series of cyberattacks it uncovered against companies involved in the effort to distribute doses around the world had been successful.
IBM could not identify who was behind the attacks, but said that the precision of the operation signals “the potential hallmarks of nation-state tradecraft.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that even if vaccines are quickly approved, the world would still be fighting the pandemic’s aftershocks.
“Let’s not fool ourselves. A vaccine cannot undo damage that will stretch across years, even decades to come,” Guterres said while opening a special UN summit on the virus.
Guterres reiterated his call that vaccines be considered a “global public good” that are shared around the world.
More than 180 countries have joined Covax, a global collaboration initiative by the World Health Organization to work with manufacturers to distribute vaccines equitably.
A reminder of the pandemic’s society-altering effects came again Thursday with a landmark announcement from Warner Bros. studio, which said it will release its entire 2021 slate of movies on HBO Max streaming and in theaters simultaneously.
But some British football supporters were given a reminder of pre-pandemic days as Arsenal welcomed a crowd of 2,000 for Thursday’s Europa League win over Rapid Vienna.
It was the first time in 270 days that fans were back inside a Premier League ground.