The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in China has climbed to 2,118
The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in China has climbed to 2,118

Coronavirus update: Fecal transmission may be behind virus’s rapid spread, say scientists

  • The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in China has climbed to 2,118 as 114 more people died of the deadly infection on Wednesday, while the overall confirmed cases increased to 74,576
  • US scientists create 1st 3D map of the protein used by the deadly virus to invade to and infect the human cells, a critical step toward developing vaccine and treatments

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in China has climbed to 2,118 as 114 more people died of the deadly infection overnight, while the overall confirmed cases increased to 74,576, Chinese officials said Thursday.

The National Health Commission (NHC) of China today said the new confirmed cases declined to 394, registering the biggest drop since December when the first case was reported at Wuhan in the central Hubei Province.

The commission said it received reports of 114 deaths on Wednesday from 31 provincial-level regions. The overall confirmed cases in China reached 74,576. 2,118 people have died of the deadly disease. The Chinese panel said 4,922 people were still suspected of being infected with the deadly virus.

In a breakthrough US scientists Wednesday announced that they had created the first 3D atomic scale map of the protein used by the deadly virus to invade to and infect the human cells, a critical step toward developing vaccine and treatments.

Here are the latest updates on coronavirus in China and its global impact:

India to evacuate its 100 nationals from Wuhan by military aircraft

The aircraft India is sending to Wuhan with medical supplies will evacuate about 100 Indians from the coronavirus-hit Chinese city, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday.

MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the advisories regarding travel to and from China remain in place, but there was no ban on travel.

India is set to send a C-17 military transport aircraft to Wuhan to evacuate more Indians and deliver a consignment of medical supplies. India is awaiting clearance from the Chinese side."

A file photo of C-17 military transport aircraft
A file photo of C-17 military transport aircraft (Photo: PTI)

"Those interested to come back have been asked to contact the embassy... subject to capacity limitations and other logistics, we will accommodate nationals of other countries as well," Kumar said at a media briefing in nNew Delhi.

He said about 100 Indians will be brought back on the aircraft and the exercise of compiling the names is still on.

"We are monitoring the welfare of Indian nationals (in China) on a regular basis. We have advised the people in Wuhan and the Hubei province to take precautions and follow instructions of local authorities," Kumar said.

"You are aware that the government of India has decided to send an aircraft, a consignment of medical supplies on a relief flight to Wuhan and this is just a token way to express support to China as it continues its fight against the epidemic," he said.

India's national carrier Air India earlier this month evacuated over 640 Indians from Wuhan in two separate flights.

WHO seeks more fund to fight virus

The head of the World Health Organization urged countries to boost funding to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, saying that the response to its call for $675 million has been limited.

“This is the time to attack the virus while it is manageable," Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing in Geneva Thursday.

Tedros said he’s surprised donations have been low and that countries aren’t treating the outbreak seriously enough. If the response isn’t strong now, the spread outside of China, which so far has been manageable, may become a wider threat, he said. “The virus is very dangerous, and it’s public enemy No. 1."

Coronavirus could pose threat to cruise ship credit ratings, say Moody's and S&P

The impact on cruise companies' earnings from canceled trips, steep discounts and ships quarantined over coronavirus concerns could pose credit risks, said credit ratings agencies Moody's Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings.

Carnival Corp and Royal Caribbean Cruises announced last week that canceled itineraries in Asia due to the outbreak would affect their earnings per share more than expected. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings on Thursday forecast an impact of 75 cents per share on full-year adjusted earnings, citing cancellations and modification of 40 voyages in Asia and refunds to customers.

"It reduces the flexibility that these companies have in their rating categories," said Moody's analyst Peter Trombetta. "It removes some of their cushion."

No time for complacency as China coronavirus cases fall, says WHO

A continued decline in the number of new cases of coronavirus infections in China is encouraging, the WHO said today, but it is too early to know if this trend will continue.

"We are encouraged by this trend but this is no time for complacency," the WHO's director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told a briefing in Geneva.

Foxconn, Norwegian cruise warns on virus impact

Apple Inc. supplier Foxconn said the virus will impact 2020 revenue. Separately, Norwegian Cruise Line said the outbreak has caused it to cancel, modify or redeploy 40 Asia voyages, hurting projected earnings. Earlier, Air France-KLM slumped after it said the outbreak will wipe as much as $216 million from earnings and Qantas Airways Ltd. said it is slashing capacity on international flights in Asia.

Lenovo Group Ltd. warned of “short-term volatility and challenges" because of disruptions at its suppliers, but said most of its plants had re-started operations and demand should rebound once the outbreak stabilizes. A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S is also positioning itself for a “strong rebound" based on an expectation that the fallout of the coronavirus on global trade may soon peak.

Deutsche Bank Singapore employee infected

An employee at Deutsche Bank’s Singapore office, located at One Raffles Quay, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The bank said it deep cleaned the office, and completed contact tracing when first notified.

Drug-trial results expected in three weeks, WHO says

Preliminary results from two clinical trials of treatments prioritized by the WHO are expected in three weeks, director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva today.

One of the trials is for a pill combining the anti-retroviral medicines lopinavir and ritonavir, a brand-name combination of which is sold by AbbVie Inc. The second trial is testing the experimental injected drug remdesivir, which is being developed by Gilead Sciences Inc.

The trials are being run in China, where health officials are seeking ways to treat patients infected with the coronavirus using existing and experimental therapies.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom (Photo: Reuters)

Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman reviews preparedness

Indian finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman today chaired a meeting in New Delhi for reviewing the preparedness in wake of coronavirus.

She discussed the matter with secretaries and senior officials of various departments of the Government of India.

Earlier on Wednesday, the first coronavirus affected patient of India undergoing treatment at Thrissur Medical College was tested negative.

India may see 10% rise in TV prices as outbreak disrupts China supply

TV prices are likely to go up by as much as 10% from next month as disrupted supply of open cell television panels - mostly imported from China - has resulted in a shortage of the key television component.

TV panels, which account for nearly 60% of the price of a TV unit, are mostly imported from China. While companies had stocked in advance for Chinese New Year break but Coronavirus outbreak has caused disruption in production and supply of many key components. Though some factories have re-opened but they are working with minimal staff.

This, according to industry executives, has pushed prices of panels by almost 20 per cent.

One of the executives said it would take at least one quarter for supply and production to return to normalcy, and so prices would also see an impact.

Super-spreaders: What are they and what do they do?

South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has described an outbreak of coronavirus infections linked to a church in the city of Daegu as a "super-spreading event". But experts, including the WHO, say the term is poorly defined.

What is "super-spreading"?

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it does not use "super-spreading" as a technical term. It adds, however, that "there can be incidents of transmission where a large number of people can become infected from a common source".

The term "super-spreader" implies that a particular person may be inherently more able than others to pass on disease, but virus experts say there is no evidence to show that is the case.

Coronavirus cases on Diamond Princess rise to 634, after 13 more tests positive

Another 13 people on board a cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus, the Japan's health ministry said today.

Confirmation of the new cases, from 52 additional test results, brought the total number of infections diagnosed on board the Diamond Princess so far to 634, the ministry said in a statement.

South Korea's Hynix asks 800 staff to quarantine themselves after trainee had close contact with virus patient

South Korean chipmaker SK Hynix said today that 800 of its workers had quarantined themselves as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but its production in the city of Icheon has not been affected.

The move came after one trainee had close contact with a virus patient in the southeastern city of Daegu, the epicentre of an outbreak in South Korea.

SK Hynix, the world's No.2 memory chipmaker which counts Apple Inc and Huawei among its customers, said another trainee also had symptoms of pneumonia. The two trainees tested negative for the virus, but will undergo a second test.

Air India extends suspension of its China flights till June 30

As Chinese authorities try to contain the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus outbreak, Air India today announced that it is extending the suspension of its flights to the neighbouring country till June 30.

Air India had also suspended its Delhi-Hong Kong flights due to the coronavirus epidemic that has killed more than 2,000 people in China till date.
Air India had also suspended its Delhi-Hong Kong flights due to the coronavirus epidemic that has killed more than 2,000 people in China till date. (Photo: ANI)

Last month, the national carrier had suspended its six weekly Delhi-Shanghai flights from January 31 to February 14. However, it did not restart the flight operations from February 15 onwards. The national carrier had also suspended its Delhi-Hong Kong flights due to the coronavirus epidemic that has killed more than 2,000 people in China till date.

"Flight operations on both routes -- Delhi-Shanghai and Delhi-Hong Kong -- have been suspended till June 30," an Air India spokesperson said on Thursday.

Earlier, IndiGo and SpiceJet had suspended their flight operations between India and China.

Fecal transmission may be behind virus’s rapid spread

The novel coronavirus is shed in the feces of infected people, which may help explain why it’s spread so fast, according to Chinese researchers.

In large enough quantities, these antibodies could help treat a coronavirus infection soon after exposure.
In large enough quantities, these antibodies could help treat a coronavirus infection soon after exposure. (Photo: Reuters)

The finding of live virus particles in stool specimens indicates a fecal-oral route for coronavirus, which may be why it’s caused outbreaks on cruise ships with an intensity often seen with gastro-causing norovirus, which also spreads along that pathway. More than 600 Covid-19 infections were confirmed among passengers and crew aboard the Diamond Princess, the ship quarantined for two weeks in Yokohama, Japan.

WHO in touch with South Korea over 'cluster of coronavirus cases'

The World Health Organization (WHO) today said is in close touch with South Korea regarding a "cluster" of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases around the central city of Daegu, after authorities there described it as a "super-spreading event".

South Korea reported 20 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, including 14 people involved in an outbreak traced to several church services in Daegu.

"WHO is in close communication with the Government of the Republic of Korea responding to a cluster of COVID-19 cases that have been confirmed in the area of Daegu," WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said in a reply by email.

"WHO does not use ‘super-spreading’ as a technical term. However, there can be incidents of transmission where a large number of people can become infected from a common source. This can occur for a range of environmental and epidemiological reasons," he added.

Hubei asks firms not to resume work before 11 March

Producers of drugs, medical equipment and protective items are not subject to the requirement, according to a statement from the Hubei provincial government.

All westerdam crew tested negative for coronavirus

The Cambodian Ministry of Health confirmed all 747 crew on board the

Passengers of the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line disembark from the MS Westerdam, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia on 15 Feb 2020
Passengers of the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line disembark from the MS Westerdam, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia on 15 Feb 2020 (Photo: AP)

Westerdam ship have tested negative for the coronavirus, according to an emailed statement from Holland America Line which owns the vessel.

Separately, Dream Cruises said it will suspend the Genting Dream Cruise from Singapore until March 27.

Japan says two from cruise ship Diamond Princess died from virus

Japan confirmed two people who were on the cruise ship off Yokohama died from the novel coronavirus. The fatalities were a man and woman, both Japanese nationals in their 80s, who had existing medical conditions, NHK reported.

A bus believed to be carrying Hong Kong passengers from the cruise ship Diamond Princess, leaves Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal
A bus believed to be carrying Hong Kong passengers from the cruise ship Diamond Princess, leaves Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal (Photo: Reuters)

The cruise ship has the most infections anywhere outside China, with more than 600 confirmed cases. Following 14 days of quarantine, Japan on Wednesday allowed passengers to start disembarking from the Diamond Princess liner, despite worries the country hasn’t done enough to prevent the spread of disease from the vessel.

China says 2 foreigners dead, 29 infected

Ten people were diagnosed in the Hubei province, Ding Xiangyang, deputy secretary-general at the State Council said. Two foreign nationals have died and 18 have been discharged, Bloomberg reported.

Lufthansa group grounds 13 aircraft over coronavirus cancellations

German airline group Lufthansa today grounded 13 long-haul aircraft after the company cancelled various connections to mainland China due to the coronavirus outbreak, reported Reuters.

"This will have noticeable effects on business," a spokesman said, adding it will communicate details at its news conference on March 19.

The group includes the namesake Lufthansa core brand, Swiss International Air Lines and Austrian Airlines.

Changes to diagnosis criteria of coronavirus result in confusion

China today reported the lowest number of confirmed cases of a new coronavirus since late January, partly because of a change in diagnostic criteria for patients in Hubei province, Reuters reported.

China had 394 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, the NHC said, sharply down from 1,749 cases a day earlier and the lowest since 23 January. That brings the total accumulated number of confirmed cases in China to 74,576.

Just how cases are diagnosed and confirmed has had a big impact on official tallies of cases, and changes in the method have raised questions about the extent to which daily tallies accurately reflect the state of the outbreak.

Initially, authorities were using nucleic acid tests to identify the presence of the virus, but such tests require days of processing, and there were also shortages of nucleic acid.

So last week, Hubei introduced a new, quicker diagnostic method through computerised tomography (CT) scans, which use X-rays, to reveal lung infections, and to confirm the presence of the virus.

China to cut $71.3 billion insurance fees to help firms amid outbreak

China is expected to cut pension contributions and insurance fees by more than ¥500 billion ($71.27 billion) this year, government officials said today, as it seeks to help companies weather the coronavirus outbreak.

The forecast follows a government pledge this week to reduce or exempt companies across the country from pension contributions, jobless and work-injury insurance for a period of time.

"Based on preliminary estimates, we expect the cuts in three kinds of social insurance fees to exceed 500 billion yuan," You Jun, vice minister at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, told a news briefing, adding that the impact of the measures would surpass changes made last year.

Under the exemptions announced this week, firms in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, will not have to pay pensions, jobless and work-injury insurance until June.

Small firms in other provinces will be exempt from paying pensions, jobless insurance and work injury insurance until June, while payments by large firms will be reduced by half until April.

One more Indian tests positive for coronavirus on cruise ship Diamond Princess

One more Indian aboard a quarantined cruise ship off Japan was tested positive for the novel coronavirus and shifted to hospital, taking the number of Indian nationals infected with the virus on the vessel to eight, the Indian embassy said on Thursday.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship arrived in Yokohama, near Tokyo, on February 3 with 3,711 passengers and crew on board, 621 people were found to be infected with the deadly coronavirus after it was diagnosed in a man who disembarked last month in Hong Kong.

A total of 138 Indians, including 132 crew and 6 passengers, were among the 3,711 people on board the ship.

Iran reports 3 confirmed coronavirus cases after two deaths

Iran reported three more cases of coronavirus, a day after confirming the death of two people from the outbreak, Reuters reported.

Two residents of Qom and another in Arak and have been hospitalized, state-run Iranian Students News Agency reported, citing the country’s health ministry.

South Korea reports 1st virus death as 2.5 million urged to stay home

South Korea reported its first death from a new virus while the mayor of a southeastern city Daegu urged his 2.5 million people to refrain from going outside as viral infections, linked to a church congregation, spiked.

The death of a previously confirmed patient in South Korea marked the world’s ninth virus fatality outside mainland China. Other deaths have occurred in Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and France.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the South Korean man, believed to be around 63 years old, died at a hospital on Wednesday and posthumously tested positive for the virus. It said authorities were investigating the exact cause of his death.

The center confirmed 22 additional cases of the virus, raising the total in South Korea to 104.

First 3D atomic map of deadly virus created, say scientists

US scientists announced Wednesday they had created the first 3D atomic scale map of the part of the novel coronavirus that attaches to and infects human cells, a critical step toward developing vaccine and treatments.

It came as the death toll from the COVID-19 virus jumped past 2,000, almost all of them in mainland China where 74,185 cases of infection have been confirmed since it first emerged in late December.


The first 3D atomic scale map of the part of the novel coronavirus
The first 3D atomic scale map of the part of the novel coronavirus

The team from the University of Texas at Austin and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) first studied the genetic code of the virus made publicly available by Chinese researchers, and used it to develop a stabilized sample of a key part called the spike protein.

They then imaged the spike protein using cutting-edge technology known as cryogenic electron microscopy, publishing their findings in the journal Science.



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