Nurses check the temperatures of visitors as part of the coronavirus screening procedure at a hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,  (AP)
Nurses check the temperatures of visitors as part of the coronavirus screening procedure at a hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, (AP)

Coronavirus live update: No treatment imminent, a big jump in new cases in last 24 hours, says WHO

  • China has reported an increase in fatalities and infections as the virus has claimed nearly 500 lives, with the number of cases soaring overnight
  • The virus isn’t yet under control despite aggressive steps to limit movement for millions of people who live in cities near the center of the outbreak

The deadly novel coronavirus has so far spread to at least 24 countries, including Germany, Australia and the United States. The US State Department told Americans not to travel to China as the first case of person-to-person transmission reported in the country on Thursday.

China has reported an increase in fatalities and infections as the virus has claimed over 500 lives, with the number of cases soaring overnight. Thousands were quarantined on cruise ships in Japan and Hong Kong.

Nearly 25,000 cases have been reported in 24 countries and territories. Chinese authorities said the virus isn’t yet under control despite aggressive steps to limit movement for millions of people who live in cities near the center of the outbreak.

Governments, global companies and international health organizations rushed to contain the spread of a SARS-like coronavirus. Global airlines have suspended or scaled back direct flights to China's major cities. As containment efforts intensify, the likelihood of the virus disrupting global businesses and the world’s second-largest economy appears to be growing.

Anxiety is growing amid evidence that the disease has an incubation period of as long as two weeks before those infected start to show signs of the illness. That raises the possibility that people who are carrying the virus but don’t show symptoms could infect others.

Here are the latest developments:

Fever, diarrhea? WHO asks countries for more virus details

The World Health Organization is pressing member countries affected by the new coronavirus to share more information on cases, saying a shortage of details has hampered efforts to combat the outbreak.

A week after the WHO deemed the virus an international threat, the organization said it’s not getting all the data it needs to upgrade its advice to companies and governments worldwide.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Tuesday urged member countries to step up their reporting. At the time, the WHO said it had received complete reports for only about 38% of coronavirus cases reported outside of China.

Since then, “the number of countries we’ve received comprehensive data from is improving, but not complete," Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said Wednesday at a press conference in Geneva.

In the uncertain times that follow the appearance of a new pathogen, information that may appear insignificant -- such as whether a patient has a fever or how he or she first got ill -- can be crucial.

WHO cautions on quick breakthrough

World Health Organization officials tamped down expectations of imminent breakthroughs in the development of vaccines or treatments for the outbreak.

“There are no proven, effective therapeutics" for the novel coronavirus, Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said Wednesday at a press conference in Geneva.

The UN agency plans a systematic review of all therapeutics, Ryan said. The organization will share clinical trial protocols around the world, he said.

An antiviral drug from Gilead Sciences Inc. is expected to start testing in China in the coming days.

WHO seeks $675 million to fight new virus

The director-general of the World Health Organization has asked for $675 million to help countries address the expected spread of the new virus that emerged in China.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged that the sum is a lot, but says it is “much less than the bill we will face if we do not invest in preparedness now."

Tedros says in the last 24 hours, the UN health agency has seen the biggest jump in cases since the start of the epidemic.

Tedros also responded to published comments from John Mackenzie, a member of WHO’s coronavirus emergency committee, that China’s initial response to the outbreak was “reprehensible" and that cases were not rapidly reported. He said he would have expected higher numbers of cases if China had been hiding them.

WHO chief says 80% of China virus cases are in Hubei province

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday that 80% of China's coronavirus cases are in the central Hubei province, and that not all provinces have been affected.

He said there were 24,363 confirmed cases in China and 490 deaths. The last 24-hour period of monitoring saw the most cases in a single day, he said.

Some 99% of all the cases worldwide are in China, he said.

Hong Kong announces mandatory quarantines for mainland China arrivals

Hong Kong today announced a mandatory two-week quarantine for all travellers from mainland China, in a bid to stop more cases of the deadly new coronavirus.

The quarantine order, which will come into force on Saturday, will apply to Hong Kong residents and foreigners, chief executive Carrie Lam told reporters.

"The measure is harsh. But I believe after we say all arrivals have to be quarantined for 14 days from February 8 the number of arrivals will reduce," Lam said.

Another 33,000 Hong Kong residents were also using the two remaining land border crossings.

Gates foundation pledges $100 million

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said Wednesday it will commit as much as $100 million to bolster the international response to the novel coronavirus.

The funding will help strengthen detection, isolation and treatment efforts; protect at-risk populations; and develop vaccines, therapies and diagnostics. The new funding includes the $10 million the foundation committed to the outbreak in late January.

“Multilateral organizations, national governments, the private sector and philanthropies must work together to slow the pace of the outbreak, help countries protect their most vulnerable citizens and accelerate the development of the tools to bring this epidemic under control," Gates Foundation Chief Executive Officer Mark Suzman said in a statement.

The funds will assist the World Health Organization, Chinese frontline responders and others at the global and national levels, the foundation said.

US evacuates 350 people from Wuhan, to be quarantined for 14 days

About 350 Americans have left Wuhan, China, aboard two planes and are expected to arrive at two US military bases in California on Wednesday, in Washington's latest efforts to fly its citizens away from the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

The US travelers on two State Department-chartered flights will be quarantined for 14 days after landing, the US Defense Department said in a statement.

The jets are scheduled to land at Travis Air Force Base, about midway between San Francisco and Sacramento, and one will continue on to Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego after refueling, the Pentagon said.

The flight at Miramar was due to arrive between 6 am and 9 am Pacific time (between 1400 and 1700 GMT), a Marine Corps spokesman said in a statement.

Nearly 200 Americans were evacuated late last month, mostly U.S. diplomats and their families, and they were flown to March Air Force Base east of Los Angeles.

Singapore's virus tally hits 28 with six-month-old baby infected

Singapore's health ministry confirmed four more coronavirus cases on Wednesday, including a six-month-old baby, taking its tally to 28.

Both parents of the infant, a Singapore citizen, have also been infected, the ministry said.

Singapore on Tuesday reported its first cases of citizens and residents who had contracted the virus without recent travel to China, where the outbreak first surfaced at the end of last year.

Virus situation in Wuhan still severe, says city official

The coronavirus situation in the Chinese city of Wuhan is still severe and the city faces many challenges, Wuhan's vice party chief Hu Lishan said on Wednesday.

Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, has quarantined people in hotels, schools and private hospitals. There are 132 such centres with 12,571 beds available as of Tuesday, Hu told a news conference.

Airbus closes China plant due to coronavirus

Airbus has closed its aircraft production facility in Tianjin, near the Chinese capital Beijing, due to the coronavirus outbreak, the aviation giant said Wednesday.

"China domestic and worldwide travel restrictions are posing some logistical challenges. The Tianjin Final Assembly Line facility is currently closed," Airbus said in a statement.

Safran employs 2,500 people across some 20 different Chinese sites, which will remain closed until February 10, the company said.

China offers firms fighting virus lower rates, tax cuts

China will eliminate fees, reduce value-added taxes and support banks to offer loan rates under 1.6% to key enterprises involved in the fight against the coronavirus, according to China Central Television.

Two babies born with Coronavirus after mothers infected

Two newborn babies tested positive for coronavirus in Wuhan after their mothers were infected, China Central Television reported

"No known effective" treatments for new coronavirus: WHO

The World Health Organization played down media reports on Wednesday of "breakthrough" drugs being discovered to treat people infected with the new coronavirus which is causing an epidemic in China and has spread to at least 20 other countries.

A Chinese TV report said that a research team at Zhejiang University had found an effective drug for the virus, while Britain's Sky News said researchers had made a "significant breakthrough" in developing a vaccine.

Asked about the reports, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said: "There are no known effective therapeutics against this 2019-nCoV (virus)."

China shuts more cities as virus death toll rises

Millions more people have been ordered to stay indoors as China battles to curb the spread of a new virus that authorities said Wednesday has already killed nearly 500 people, AFP reported.

With more than 24,000 cases in China, a growing number of cities have been imposing a range of restrictions in recent days far from central Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, as authorities struggle to contain the virus.

Some 56 million people in Hubei have been under virtual lockdown since last week, with its capital Wuhan at the heart of the health emergency.

Foxconn cuts outlook, quarantines iPhone base

Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Apple Inc.’s main production partner, announced plans to isolate workers for up to weeks at its main iPhone-making base. The company earlier cut its 2020 revenue growth outlook after assessing the potential impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Hon Hai, known also as Foxconn, makes the vast majority of the world’s iPhones from Zhengzhou, central China. The contagion will likely disrupt Apple’s carefully calibrated production chain.

Hong Kong will quarantine China arrivals

The city will quarantine people arriving from mainland China, including Hong Kong residents and visitors entering via its international airport, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said.

The policy will go into effect on Feb. 8 at midnight. Lam also said Hong Kong will close the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in its Victoria Harbor, and announced a HK$10 billion ($1.3 billion) fund for those affected.

Vietnam quarantines 900 people arriving from China

Vietnam has quarantined about 900 people who arrived in the country from China as the government steps up efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Most of those under quarantine are Vietnamese and are being held near the country’s northern border gates, Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said during a briefing in Hanoi.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc issues order banning all foreigners who have spent time in China during the last two weeks from entering Vietnam. The government last week suspended the issuance of tourist visas to those seeking to visit Vietnam after spending at least some time in Chine the past 14 days.

Cathay Pacific asks 27,000 staff to take unpaid leave

Hong Kong's flagship carrier Cathay Pacific is asking its 27,000 employees to take up to three weeks of unpaid leave, CEO Augustus Tang said Wednesday, as the airline faces a crisis in the wake of the new coronavirus outbreak, AP reported

"I am hoping all of you will participate, from our frontline employees to our senior leaders, and to share in our current challenges," Tang said in a video message posted online.

Virus cases linked to Singapore spur multinational inquiry

Coronavirus cases in South Korea and Malaysia tied to a business meeting in Singapore attended by visitors from China have prompted an investigation into the infection’s international spread.

A 41-year-old man in Malaysia and a 38-year-old man in South Korea were infected with the virus after attending a meeting at a Singapore hotel in the third week of January, health authorities said. The World Health Organization is coordinating with Singapore’s Ministry of Health in relation to the event, said Olivia Lawe Davies, the agency’s Manila-based regional communications manager.

Hong Kong cruise passengers under quarantine

Hong Kong authorities are keeping 3,600 passengers and crew members under quarantine on the cruise ship World Dream after three previous travelers were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.

The three confirmed virus patients had disembarked in China on Jan. 24, according to Chief Port Health Officer Leung Yiu-hong at a briefing at the cruise terminal. The cruise ship, owned by Genting HK’s Dream Cruises, docked in Hong Kong on Wednesday morning.

Trump cites efforts on virus in state of the union

President Donald Trump said in his State of the Union address that the U.S. is working with China to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

“We are coordinating with the Chinese government and working closely together on the coronavirus outbreak in China,“ Trump said. “My administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from this threat."

Apple supplier Hon Hai cuts sales outlook

Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Apple Inc.’s main production partner, cut its 2020 revenue growth outlook after assessing the potential impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Hon Hai, which makes the vast majority of the world’s iPhones from the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou, is now projecting a sales increase of 1% to 3% this year, Chairman Young Liu told Bloomberg News in a text message. That’s down from a Jan. 22 forecast of 3% to 5% before the epidemic spread further around the globe.

China cases rise above 24,000

The number of total confirmed cases of coronavirus in mainland China rose to 24,324 as of 4 February, according to the National Health Commission. The death toll is at 490, it said in a statement.

Most of the fatalities — 479 — have occurred in the province of Hubei, the Chinese province at the center of the outbreak. Hubei reported 3,156 new confirmed cases, bringing the total in Hubei to 16,678.

Outside the mainland, Hong Kong reported a death on Tuesday. A man from Wuhan died in the Philippines on Feb. 1.

WHO Says 684 People Have Recovered From Coronavirus

Six hundred eighty-four people have recovered from coronavirus infections, according to Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist serving on the World Health Organization’s emergency committee. The death toll has climbed to at least 425, the group said Tuesday.

The UN agency plans to hold a research meeting on the virus next week, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a briefing in Geneva. The outbreak was declared an international public health emergency by the WHO last week.

The WHO estimated the cost of supporting member countries during the outbreak at $676 million.

Two more planes evacuate Americans from Wuhan

The United States evacuated more than 300 more people on two new flights out of Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the fast-spreading new coronavirus, the State Department said Tuesday.

The two flights left Wuhan on Tuesday US time after the passengers were screened, a State Department official said.

The official said that the United States has now brought home more than 500 passengers on three fights. A first flight, with 195 Americans on board, left Wuhan last week and landed in California.

Ten passengers on cruise liner docked in Japan test positive

Ten people on a cruise liner in the port of Yokohama have tested positive for coronavirus, Japan said on Wednesday, a figure that could rise as more results come in and authorities continue to monitor thousands of passengers and crew.

The 10 infected people will be transported to a medical facility, Japan Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said, while the the remaining around 3,700 people will remain quarantined on board the Carnival Corp ship for 14 days.

United, American Halt Hong Kong Flights

United Airlines Holdings Inc. suspended flights to Hong Kong, beginning Feb. 8 until Feb. 20, citing a drop in demand because of the coronavirus. The carrier follows a move on Tuesday by American Airlines Group Inc., which also halted flights to the city through Feb. 20.

The coronavirus outbreak has dealt a blow to airlines in China and around the world as they suspend flights to and from a key market in a bid to control the spread of the virus.

WHO Puts Outbreak Costs at $675.7 Million

Key public health measures to respond to the coronavirus outbreak will cost an estimated $675.7 million through April, the World Health Organization said in a draft plan.

Scaling up country preparedness and response operations will account for more than $640 million of the total needed from Feb. 1 to April 30, according to the draft of the WHO’s strategic preparedness and response plan. The 28-page document outlines measures the international community “stands ready to provide to support all countries to prepare for and respond to" the novel pneumonia-causing virus.

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