Virus alarm doctor dies as total deaths increase to 636

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Workers arrange beds in a convention center that has been converted into a temporary hospital in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, on Feb. 4, 2020. (Chinatopix via AP)
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A worker sets up beds at the Hongshan Stadium to convert it into a makeshift hospital following an outbreak of the new coronavirus, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China on Feb. 4, 2020. (China Daily via REUTERS)
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A medical worker in protective suit adjusts a drip bag for a patient at a hospital, following an outbreak of the new coronavirus in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, on Feb. 3, 2020. (China Daily via REUTERS)
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Medical workers in protective suits attend to patients at the Wuhan International Conference and Exhibition Center, which has been converted into a makeshift hospital to receive patients with mild symptoms caused by the novel coronavirus, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China on February 5, 2020. ( China Daily via REUTERS)
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Updated 07 February 2020

Virus alarm doctor dies as total deaths increase to 636

  • The number of people infected globally has risen to more than 31,000, mostly in China
  • Among the dead is a doctor who was reprimanded by local police for sounding an early warning about the disease threat

BEIJING: The death toll in mainland China’s new virus outbreak has risen to 636, including a doctor who got in trouble with authorities in the communist country for sounding an early warning about the disease threat.
Dr. Li Wenliang, 34, was reportedly reprimanded for “spreading rumors” in late December.
Meanwhile, a newborn discovered infected 36 hours after birth has become the youngest known patient. The number of people infected globally has risen to more than 31,000.
Li had worked at a hospital in the epicenter of the outbreak in the central city of Wuhan. He was reprimanded by local police for “spreading rumors” about the illness in late December, according to news reports. The outbreak has spread to some two dozen countries, triggering travel restrictions and quarantines around the world and a crisis inside the country of 1.4 billion.
The World Health Organization tweeted: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Li Wenliang. We all need to celebrate work that he did” on the virus.
Within a half-hour of announcing earlier Friday that Li was in critical condition, the hospital received nearly 500,000 comments on its social media post, many of them from people hoping Li would pull through. One wrote: “We are not going to bed. We are here waiting for a miracle.”
Li was among a number of medical professionals in Wuhan who tried to warn colleagues and others when the government did not, The New York Times reported earlier this week. It said that after the mystery illness had stricken seven patients at a hospital, Li said of them in an online chat group Dec. 30: “Quarantined in the emergency department.”

Another participant in the chat responded by wondering, “Is SARS coming again?” — a reference to the 2002-03 viral outbreak that killed hundreds, the newspaper said.
Wuhan health officials summoned Li in the middle of the night to demand he explain why he shared the information, and police later forced him to sign a statement admitting to “illegal behavior,” the Times said.
“If the officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier,” Li said in an interview in the Times via text messages, “I think it would have been a lot better. There should be more openness and transparency.”
A baby born last Saturday in Wuhan and confirmed positive just 36 hours after birth became the youngest known person infected with the virus, authorities said. But precisely how the child became infected was unclear.
“The baby was immediately separated from the mother after the birth and has been under artificial feeding. There was no close contact with the parents, yet it was diagnosed with the disease,” Zeng Lingkong, director of neonatal diseases at Wuhan Children’s Hospital, told Chinese TV.
Zeng said other infected mothers have given birth to babies who tested negative, so it is not yet known if the virus can be transmitted in the womb.
China finished building a second new hospital Thursday to isolate and treat patients — a 1,500-bed center in Wuhan. Earlier this week, another rapidly constructed, 1,000-bed hospital in Wuhan with prefabricated wards and isolation rooms began taking patients.
Authorities also moved people with milder symptoms into makeshift hospitals at sports arenas, exhibition halls and other public spaces.
All together, more than 50 million people are under virtual quarantine in hard-hit Hubei province in an unprecedented — and unproven — bid to bring the outbreak under control.
In Hong Kong, hospital workers demanding a shutdown of the territory’s border with mainland China were still on strike. The territory’s leader Carrie Lam announced a 14-day quarantine of all travelers entering the city from the mainland starting Saturday, but the government has refused to seal the border entirely. Taiwan has said it will refuse entry to all non-citizens or residents who have recently visited Hong Kong, Macao or China beginning Friday.
Two docked cruise ships with thousands of passengers and crew members remained under 14-day quarantines in Hong Kong and Japan.
Ten passengers confirmed to have the virus were escorted off the Diamond Princess at the port of Yokohama near Tokyo, after 10 others were taken off the previous day. About 3,700 people were confined aboard the ship.
“It’s going to be like a floating prison,” passenger David Abel lamented on Facebook. He had set out on a 50th wedding anniversary luxury cruise but found himself in his cabin, eating a “lettuce sandwich with some chicken inside.”
More than 3,600 people on the other quarantined ship, the World Dream, underwent screening after eight passengers were diagnosed with the virus.
Testing of a new antiviral drug was set to begin on a group of patients Thursday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The drug, Remdesivir, is made by US biotech company Gilead Sciences.
From Europe to Australia and the US, universities that host Chinese students or have study-abroad programs are scrambling to assess the risks, and some are canceling opportunities and prohibiting student travel.
Central banks in the Philippines and Thailand have cut their interest rates to fend off economic damage from the outbreak in China, the world’s second-biggest economy, with 1.4 billion people. China is a major source of tourists in Asia, and corporations around the world depend on its factories to supply products and its consumers to buy them.
The organizers of the Tokyo Olympics again sought to allay fears that the 2020 Games could be postponed or canceled because of the crisis.


US tries to seize Iranian gas heading toward Venezuela

Updated 11 min 15 sec ago

US tries to seize Iranian gas heading toward Venezuela

  • The Trump administration has been stepping up pressure on ship owners to abide by sanctions against US adversaries like Iran and Venezuela
  • As commercial traders increasingly shun Venezuela, Maduro's government has been turning to Iran

MIAMI: US federal prosecutors are seeking to seize four tankers sailing toward Venezuela with gasoline supplied by Iran, the latest attempt to disrupt ever-closer trade ties between the two heavily sanctioned anti-American allies.
The civil-forfeiture complaint filed late Wednesday in the District of Columbia federal court alleges that the sale was arranged by a businessman, Mahmoud Madanipour, with ties to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, a US-designated foreign terrorist organization.
“The profits from these activities support the IRGC’s full range of nefarious activities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, support for terrorism, and a variety of human rights abuses, at home and abroad,” prosecutor Zia Faruqui alleges in the complaint.
Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for the Iranian mission to the United Nations, said any attempt by the US to prevent Iran's lawful trading with any country of its choosing would be an act of “piracy, pure and simple.”
“This is a direct threat to international peace and security and in contravention of international law including the UN Charter,” he said in a statement.
The Trump administration has been stepping up pressure on ship owners to abide by sanctions against US adversaries like Iran, Venezuela and North Korea. In May, it issued an advisory urging the global maritime industry to be on the lookout for tactics to evade sanctions like dangerous ship-to-ship transfers and the turning off of mandatory tracking devices — both techniques used in recent oil deliveries to and from both Iran and Venezuela.
The campaign appears to be working.
On Thursday, the US Treasury Department lifted sanctions on eight vessels that were recently found to have transported Venezuelan crude. The move followed an attempted auction Wednesday by federal marshals in Houston of 100,000 barrels of gasoline seized from a Greek-managed ship whose owner suspected the cargo was heading toward Venezuela. None of the five parties at the auction agreed to the minimum $2.5 million bid.
As commercial traders increasingly shun Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro's socialist government has been increasingly turning to Iran.
In May, Maduro celebrated the arrival of five Iranian tankers delivering badly needed fuel supplies to alleviate shortages that have led to days-long gas lines even in the capital, Caracas, which is normally spared such hardships. Despite sitting atop the world's largest crude reserves, Venezuela doesn't produce enough domestically-refined gasoline and has seen its overall crude production plunge to the lowest in over seven decades amid the ongoing crisis and fallout from US sanctions.
We are “two rebel nations, two revolutionary nations that will never kneel down before US imperialism,” Maduro said at the time. “Venezuela has friends in this world, and brave friends at that.”
The flotilla’s arrival angered the Trump administration, which struck back by sanctioning the five Iranian captains of the vessels.
The four tankers named in the complaint filed Wednesday — the Bella, Bering, Pandi and Luna — are currently transporting to Venezuela 1.1 million barrels of gasoline obtained via risky ship-to-ship transfers, prosecutors allege. Of the four, the Bella is currently sailing near the Philippines, ship tracking data shows, while the Pandi appears to have turned off its satellite tracking system on June 29 after having spent two weeks between Iran and the UAE. The other two were last spotted in May — the Bering near Greece and the Luna sailing between Oman and Iran.
One of the companies involved in the shipment to Venezuela, the Avantgarde Group, was previously linked to the Revolutionary Guard and attempts to evade US sanctions, according to prosecutors. An affiliate of Avantgarde facilitated the purchase for the Revolutionary Guard of the Grace 1, a ship seized last year by Britain on US accusations that it was transporting oil to Syria.
Iran denied the charges and the Grace 1 was eventually released. But the seizure nonetheless triggered an international standoff in which Iran retaliated by seizing a British-flagged vessel.
According to the asset forfeiture complaint, an unnamed company in February invoiced Avantgarde for a $14.9 million cash payment for the sale of the gasoline aboard the Pandi. Nonetheless, a text message between Mandanipour and an unnamed co-conspirator suggest the voyage had encountered difficulties.
“The ship owner doesn't want to go because of the American threat, but we want him to go, and we even agreed We will also buy the ship,” according to the message, an excerpt of which was included in the complaint.