BEIJING: The global death toll from the new coronavirus passed 4,000 on Tuesday, according to AFP figures, as China reported 17 new deaths.
The toll reached 4,011 in the outbreak that has spread to over 100 countries with more than 110,000 cases of infection.
The epidemic has disrupted global travel and forced the cancelation of everything from conferences to sporting events.
But in China, new cases have steadily declined in recent weeks, in a sign that the country’s unprecedented lockdown measures appear to be working.
There were just 19 fresh cases reported on Tuesday, the lowest number since the government started tallying infections on January 21, according to the National Health Commission.
All the new infections were in the virus epicenter, the central city of Wuhan, except for two imported cases brought in from overseas.
This means there were no indigenous cases in the rest of the country.
The 17 new deaths were all in central Hubei province — 16 in Wuhan, the capital of the province — bringing the country’s nationwide toll to 3,136.
It is the lowest daily toll since late January.
More than 80,750 people have now been infected in China, which has imposed unprecedented lockdown measures to try to control the spread of the virus.
But fears are growing that as cases of the disease grow overseas, China’s progress could be undermined by the virus being brought back into the country from other nations.
There have now been 69 imported cases, according to Chinese health officials.
The World Health Organization said Monday that more than 70 percent of those infected with the new coronavirus in China have recovered, adding that the country was “bringing its epidemic under control.”
And there were tentative signs in recent days that some of the measures to restrict the movement and gathering of people could be lifted, with some regions reopening schools or announcing dates to resume classes.
Most of the 16 makeshift hospitals opened in Wuhan have been closed — with the last two expected to shut Tuesday.
And Shanghai Disney said it was reopening its shopping and entertainment Disneytown zone in the “first step of a phased reopening,” although the amusement park remains closed.
Japan readies ‘state of emergency’ coronavirus measures
Japan’s government Tuesday approved draft “state of emergency” measures that would allow authorities to keep people inside and commandeer buildings for hospitals, as Tokyo steps up its fight against coronavirus five months before the Olympics.
If approved by parliament, the draft bill would give Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the power to declare a state of emergency and impose drastic measures but Tokyo stressed that the situation had not yet reached that point.
“Currently we are not in a situation where we need to declare a state of emergency,” top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Tuesday.
The virus has infected more than 500 people across Japan and been linked to nine deaths. Its spread has cast doubt over whether the Olympics can open as scheduled on July 24, although authorities insist planning is continuing as normal.
Unlike neighboring South Korea, Japan has not undertaken widespread testing and the Abe government came under heavy fire for its handling of the Diamond Princess cruise ship that docked near Tokyo with nearly 700 people eventually becoming infected onboard.
Tokyo has said the coming few weeks will be crucial in slowing the spread of the coronavirus and Abe has urged schools to close for several weeks, in an announcement that caught the whole country off-guard.
The bill approved by the cabinet on Tuesday is a revision of a 2012 law aimed to slow the spread of new strains of flu and is expected to sail through parliament this week with opposition support.
Under the new law, once the prime minister declares a state of emergency in a specific part of the country, local governments can require residents to stay indoors, close schools and limit the use of facilities in which large numbers of people gather.
Land and buildings could be requisitioned as makeshift hospitals.
Abe has said that even though Japan is not yet seeing an epidemic over a wide area, “it is important to always prepare for the worst case.”
With the new legislation, the government can take similar steps against the new coronavirus for up to two years.
Separately, Abe has pledged an emergency financial package to tackle the outbreak.
South Korea reports fewer than 150 new coronavirus cases
South Korea, one of the worst-affected countries in the coronavirus epidemic outside China, on Tuesday reported fewer than 150 new cases for the first time in two weeks.
A total of 131 infections were confirmed on Monday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.
Three more people died, it added, taking the death toll to 54.
The rise in infections took its total to 7,513. Each morning, the South announces how many cases were diagnosed the previous day, and gives an update every afternoon with the current day’s figures so far.
Monday’s figure marked the fourth consecutive daily fall and was the lowest for a single day since late February.
“The number of new COVID-19 cases has been declining, so we can assess the rate of increase is coming to a standstill,” said Yoon Tae-ho at the Central Disaster Management Headquarters.
But the outbreak was still spreading, he added, warning against any relaxation of containment efforts.
The Korea Baseball Organization said Tuesday it will postpone the March 28 start of the season to “sometime in April,” joining several other sports leagues that have suspended play over the virus.
The emergency board meeting decision was taken “in consideration of the safety and health of the fans and players,” the KBO said in a statement.
Scores of events — from K-pop concerts to sports matches — have been canceled or postponed over the contagion, with school and kindergarten breaks extended by three weeks nationwide.
The South was the first country to report significant coronavirus numbers outside China, where the disease first emerged, although the focus of global concern has been moving toward Italy and Iran in recent days.
Authorities say the risk of small cluster infections continues and the public have been urged to refrain from group events such as protests or religious services.
More than 60 percent of the country’s cases are linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a religious sect often condemned as a cult.
One of its members attended at least four services before being diagnosed.
Mongolia locks down cities after reporting first virus case
Mongolia on Tuesday barred anyone from entering or leaving its cities for six days after the country reported its first coronavirus case — a French energy company employee who flew in from Moscow.
Mongolia had already sealed its border with neighboring China and banned flights from South Korea in an effort to keep the deadly virus out of the landlocked country of three million people.
“The capital Ulaanbaatar and all province centers are quarantined until March 16 to curb the outbreak,” Deputy Prime Minister Enkhtuvshin Ulziisaikhan said at a press conference.
The move means people are not allowed to enter or leave the capital or rural cities for almost a week, he said.
Mongolia is the latest country to enact tough measures to contain the epidemic.
China has locked down some 56 million people at the epicenter of the crisis in Hubei province and told millions more to stay home across the country. Italy has imposed restrictions on the entire country.
More than 4,000 people have died and over 110,000 have been infected worldwide, with China accounting for most cases, though infections are now growing at a faster pace abroad.
In Mongolia’s first case, the French national arrived on March 2 on a flight from Moscow, said Health Minister Davaajantsangiin Sarangerel.
The man, who works for a subsidiary of French nuclear firm Orano, was supposed to have remained in quarantine in his hotel for 14 days but ignored the rule, the minister said.
He also visited a uranium mining project in Dornogobi province.
Orano has a subsidiary in Mongolia called Badrakh Energy, which mines for uranium in the vast country.
China quarantine hotel collapse toll jumps to 20
The death toll from the collapse of a hotel used as a coronavirus quarantine facility in eastern China has risen to 20, authorities said Tuesday, with 10 others still feared trapped in the rubble.
Forty-one survivors pulled from the wreckage are injured, the Ministry of Emergency Management said at a press conference Tuesday.
The building in the coastal city of Quanzhou had been repurposed to house people who had recently been in regions hard hit by COVID-19, according to local newspaper Quanzhou Evening News.
The hotel collapsed on Saturday night, with footage published by local media appearing to show the building’s facade crumbling to the ground in seconds, exposing the structure’s steel frame.
The city has recorded 47 cases of the virus.
Video posted online Tuesday by the Ministry of Emergency Management showed rescuers bowing over the body of a victim, with one rescuer breaking down in tears and having to step away from the scene.
Earlier footage from the ministry showed rescuers helping children put on surgical masks before pulling them from the remains of the six-story Xinjia hotel.
A 12-year-old boy told rescuers his mother was still buried in the rubble.
“She was next to me just now,” he said in the video. His mother was rescued alive hours later, according to the ministry.
Rescuers were also seen spraying disinfectant on each other as part of “strict decontamination” measures between shifts.
Besides the 61 people pulled out of the wreckage, nine others escaped on their own, the ministry said.
The first floor had been undergoing renovation since before the Lunar New Year holiday, and authorities said construction workers called the hotel’s owner minutes before the collapse to report a deformed pillar.
The owner has been summoned by police while investigators work to determine whether the renovation or an original structural issue was at fault, according to the ministry.
Quanzhou Evening News reported Sunday that all of the people quarantined in the hotel had tested negative for the virus.
The emergency management ministry said some 200 local and 800 Fujian Province firefighters had been deployed to the scene along with 11 search and rescue teams and seven rescue dogs, according to Xinhua.
The National Health Commission said it had dispatched to Quanzhou 18 medical experts from the nearby cities of Fuzhou and Xiamen.
China is no stranger to building collapses and deadly construction accidents that are typically blamed on the country’s rapid growth leading to corner-cutting by builders and the widespread flouting of safety rules.
At least 20 people died in 2016 when a series of crudely-constructed multi-story buildings packed with migrant workers collapsed in the eastern city of Wenzhou.
Another 10 were killed last year in Shanghai after the collapse of a commercial building during renovations.
AIRLINES THAT HAVE CANCELLED ALL FLIGHTS TO MAINLAND CHINA
* American Airlines extended the suspension of China and Hong Kong flights through April 24
* Air France canceled flights to mainland China to the end of March.
* Air India suspended flights to Shanghai, Hong Kong until June 30
* Air Seoul suspended China flights until further notice.
* Air Tanzania, which planned to begin a charter service to China in February, postponed its maiden flights.
* Air Mauritius suspended all flights to China and Hong Kong
* Austrian Airlines extended its cancelations to March and April. (https://bit.ly/32SSwVG)
* British Airways extended suspensions until April 17.
* Delta Airlines flights suspended to April 30
* Egyptair resumed some flights to and from China.
* El Al Israel Airlines extends suspension of flights to Hong Kong and Beijing until May 2.
* Iberia Airlines extended the suspension of flights from Madrid to Shanghai, its only route, until the end of April.
* Finnair canceled all flights to mainland China flights and some Hong Kong flights until the end of April.
* JejuAir Co. Ltd. suspended all China routes starting March 1.
* Kenya Airways suspended flights until further notice.
* KLM said it would extend its ban on flights to Chengdu, Hangzhou and Xiamen in China to at least May 3. It expects to resume flights to Beijing and Shanghai on March 29.
* Lion Air suspended all flights to China from February, and has waived travel change fees for flights up to April 30. (https://bit.ly/2wDh6O0)
* LOT extended suspensions until March 28.
* Lufthansa extended cancelations until April 24.
* Oman Air suspended flights until further notice.
* Quantas Airlines’ sole remaining route to mainland China, Syndey-Shanghai, has been suspended and its Hong Kong flights are reduced. (https://bit.ly/39vf3dw)
* Qatar Airways suspended until further notice.
* Rwandair suspended until further notice.
* Saudia, Saudi Arabia’s state airline, suspended flights on Feb. 2.
* Scoot, Singapore Airlines’ low-cost carrier, suspended until further notice.
* United Airlines suspended its Hong Kong service until April 23.
* Vietjet and Vietnam Airlines suspended flights to the mainland as well as Hong Kong and Macau to April 30.
AIRLINES THAT HAVE CANCELLED OR SUSPENDED SOME CHINA ROUTES
* Air Canada extended the suspension of its flights to Beijing and Shanghai until March 27. It also suspended its Toronto to Hong Kong flights to March 27.[https://bit.ly/39zgmI0 ]
* Air China said it would cancel flights to Athens, Greece, to March 18 and adjust flights between China and the United States. On Feb. 28, it resumed flying to Frankfurt from Chengdu following a 21-day suspension.
* Air New Zealand suspended its Auckland-Shanghai service to March 29. It reduced the capacity on Shanghai route throughout April and Hong Kong route throughout April and May.
* ANA Holdings suspended routes including Shanghai and Hong Kong until further notice.
* Brussels Airlines, a Lufthansa unit, said it would cut flights to northern Italy by 30% from March 2 to 14.
* Cathay Pacific Airways said it plans 30% of its capacity and 90% of flights to mainland China over two months from Feb. 5.
* China Southern Airlines recommenced flights on Feb. 25 to Nairobi from Guangzhou.
* Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways suspends flights to Hong Kong until March 28.
* The UAE suspended flights to most of mainland China, all flights to Iran.
* Hainan Airlines suspends flights between Budapest, Hungary, and Chongqing to March 27.
* Kenya’s High Court ordered flights from China to be temporarily suspended.
* Korean Air Lines Co, the national flag carrier, has canceled or reduced services on 50 routes in Northeast Asia. (https://bit.ly/32XMG5b)
* Philippine Airlines cut the number of flights between Manila and China by over half.
* Royal Air Maroc, which launched a new route between its Casablanca hub and Beijing in mid-January, proposed to carry forward to May 31 tickets for the flights it canceled from the end of January. (https://bit.ly/2TFRGrb)
* All Russian airlines, except Ikar and state airline Aeroflot , stopped flying to China from Jan. 31. Aeroflot, which is using a separate Moscow terminal for flights from China, suspended its flights to Hong Kong from March 7 and from Hong Kong the following day.
* Nordic airline SAS extended its Shanghai and Beijing suspensions until March 29, and cut flights to Hong Kong from March 5.
* Singapore Airlines suspended or cut capacity on flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Xiamen and Chongqing.
* Taiwan suspended flights to most cities in mainland China from early February until April 29.
* UPS has resumed air freight in most of mainland China, except Xi’an. (https://bit.ly/2x7WBJF)
* Virgin Atlantic extended its suspension of daily Shanghai operations until March 28.
* Virgin Australia suspended its Sydney-Hong Kong route from March 2. AIRLINES THAT HAVE MODIFIED SERVICE ON OTHER ROUTES
* Asiana Airlines has decided to halt all flights to Daegu until March 9, while Korean Air Lines will also suspend flights until March 28.
* American Airlines Group Inc. said it will temporarily suspend all remaining flights to South Korea through April 24.
* Air Canada will allow travelers to rebook flights to parts of Italy at no charge.
* Alitalia said on Sunday it was suspending national and international flights to and from Milan’s Malpensa airport from March 9.
* United Airlines said it would reduce US and Canadian flights by 10% and international flights by 20% in April, with similar cuts planned in May. It added South Korea to its travel waiver list but is not canceling flights.
* British Airways said on March 2 it would cancel some flights from London to the United States and roundtrips between London and Singapore, South Korea and Italy — including Milan, Bologna, Venice and Turin from March 14 to March 28.
* Czech Airlines owner Smartwings said it would cut its flight schedules.
* Czech Republic said on March 2 it would stop flights to South Korea and cities in northern Italy for at least two weeks
* easyJet said on Feb. 28 it would cancel flights, particularly in and out of Italy, and cut costs across its business.
* El Al Israel Airlines suspended flights to Italy, including Milan and Rome to March 14, and to Bangkok to March 27, and delayed its new route to Tokyo until April 4.
* Finnair canceled flights to Milan from March 9 to April 7, to Seoul from March 9 to April 16, postponed its new Busan route to July 1 and reduced services to Hong Kong and Osaka.
* Japan Airlines, ANA Holdings to cancel some Japan domestic flights between March 6-12
* JetBlue said it would cut capacity by about 5% in the near term.
* Kazakhstan plans to suspend flights to Iran from March 1 and reduce the number of South Korea flights.
* The Kenyan government suspended direct flights from northern Italy on March 3, specifically Verona and Milan, which usually have direct flights to the Kenyan coast.
* Kuwait suspended on Saturday all flights to and from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Bangladesh, Philippines, India, and Sri-Lanka for a week starting on Saturday.
* Latam Airlines Group SA cancels direct flight between Sao Paulo and Milan until April 16.
* Lauda, an Austrian unit of Ryanair, said it will cut flights from March 18 until April 8 due to lower demand.
* Lebanon halted flights for non-residents from countries including China, Iran, Italy and South Korea on Feb. 28. The ban excludes Lebanese citizens and foreign residents.
* Lufthansa said it would cancel about 7,100 flights to the end of March and reduce capacity by about 25%. It had previously said it would ground 150 aircraft and suspend flights to Tehran until April 30.
* Mongolia suspended flights with China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Ulan-Ude in Russia until March 11, news.mn reported.
* Norwegian Air Shuttle canceled 22 long-haul flights between Europe and the United States from March 28 to May 5.
* Oman suspended Italian tourist flights to Salalah on March 2, reported the Oman Daily Observer after the aviation authority said it would halt all flights to and from Iran on Feb. 24.
* Portugal’s TAP canceled 1,000 flights in March-April, mainly affecting Italy, France, Spain and some intercontinental flights.
* Qantas Airways Ltd. announced cuts to Tokyo, Sapporo, Osaka, Hong Kong and Auckland flights.
* Royal Jordanian Airlines suspended flights between Amman and Rome until further notice.
* Royal Air Maroc (RAM) said on Sunday it has suspended flights to Italy’s Venice and Milan. Flights to the two cities are planned to resume on April 8.
* Russia said it would suspend some flights to and from Iran, except those operated by its national carrier Aeroflot and Iranian airline Mahan Air.
* Russia’s Aeroflot subsidiary, Pobeda, said it would reduce the frequency of Italian flights until May.
* Ryanair said on March 2 it would cut 25% of its Italian capacity for three weeks.
* Saudi Arabia has suspended all flights to UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Italy and Korea
* Swedish-Danish airline SAS canceled flights to northern Italy.
* SAS said it would cut its short-haul capacity over March and April.
* Sweden suspended Iran Air from flying to and from the country on March 2.
* Taiwan’s China Airlines was banned from flying to Italy its government included Taiwan in China’s virus area.
* Tajikistan suspended all flights to and from Iran until the situation stabilizes, its aviation agency said on Feb. 24.
* Turkish Airlines extended a cancelation of flights to Iranian cities, with the exception of flights to Tehran, until March 10.
* Turkish commercial flights between Turkey and Iran have been suspended until further notice.
* The UAE suspended flights to Iran and Bahrain.
* United Airlines sharply cut flights to Japan and South Korea and said it plants to cut domestic, Canadian and international flights.
* Qantas further cut flights to Tokyo, Sapporo, Osaka, Hong Kong and Auckland, after grounding the equivalent of 18 planes in February.
* Vietjet Air suspended flights to destinations in South Korea from March 7.
* Vietnam Airlines suspended flights to South Korea from March 5.
* Vietnam’s Bamboo Airways suspended flights between Da Nang and Nha Trang to Seoul Incheon, starting Feb. 26.
* Vistara Airlines temporarily reduced flights to and from Bangkok and Singapore on Feb. 26.
* Wizz Air said it would decrease the frequency of its Romania, Poland, Italy and Israel routes, cutting two-thirds of all flights on affected routes over March 11 and April 2, and that it could further reduce capacity by around 10% over next quarter.