Home >News >World >Coronavirus: Smoking may increase risk from the deadly virus, says WHO

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in China has spiked to 1488, including six medical workers, while the number of confirmed cases has reached 64,894, National Health Commission of China said on Friday. Of the 5,090 new cases reported Thursday, 4,823 were from Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, the Health Commission said, confirming that a surge in the number of infections earlier this week was due to a new counting method.

The coronavirus has posed a big threat to the medical staff in China as more than 1,700 Chinese health workers have been infected by the virus while treating the patients and six of them have died.

The 2002-2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, killed 774 people and sickened almost 8,100 others, in 26 countries, over eight months, the World Health Organization (WHO) said. Mainland China accounted for about 45% of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) deaths.

Nearly 64,000 conformed cases have been reported in 27 countries, according to the Johns Hopkins university’s real time tracker of the disease, which has been declared a global health emergency by the WHO.

Here are the latest updates of the deadly coronavirus:

Smoking’s role in coronavirus merits study, WHO says

Smoking may play a role in the severity of infections caused by the coronavirus in China and merits more study, a WHO official said Friday.

Chinese men have had more severe cases of the virus than women and also smoke at higher rates, Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, said at a press conference in Geneva.

The virus can cause pneumonia as it infects patients’ lungs, which can be weakened from cigarette use. China has higher overall rates of smoking than much of the rest of the world, according to WHO data.

“It’s an excellent hypothesis, but one that is unproven," Ryan said. “There will be a lot of interest in looking at smoking as a risk factor."

Donald Trump says China handling coronavirus 'professionally'

US President Donald Trump praised China over its handling of the fast-moving coronavirus outbreak, adding that the United States was working closely with Beijing.

"I think they've handled it professionally, and I think they're extremely capable," Trump said in a podcast broadcast on iHeart Radio.

Asked if China was telling the truth about virus, Trump said: "Well, you never know. I think they want to put the best face on it"

Beijing imposes 14-day quarantine on arrivals

The Chinese capital Beijing is imposing a 14-day self-quarantine on all those returning to the city, and will punish those who refuse to quarantine themselves or follow official rules on containing a new coronavirus, city authorities said on Friday.

Chinese authorities have been struggling to contain the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 120 people on the mainland.

The state-backed Beijng Daily newspaper cited a notice from Beijing's virus prevention working group reading: "From now on, all those who have returned to Beijing should stay at home or submit to group observation for 14 days after arriving. Those who refuse to accept home or centralised observation and other prevention and control measures will be held accountable under law."

Anyone returning to Beijing will be required to submit travel plans to their community in advance, the notice said.

China using plasma therapy on infected patients for treatment

China has developed convalescent plasma to treat patients who are infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), according to the China National Biotec Group.

The company said they have collected plasma from some recovered patients to prepare therapeutic products including convalescent plasma and immune globulin, Xinhua reported on Friday.

After strict blood bio-safety tests, virus inactivation and antiviral activity tests, they have successfully developed convalescent plasma for clinical treatment and have used it to treat critically ill patients.

The company has set up a team to use special equipment to collect plasma from recovered patients in Wuhan since January 20.

Three critically ill patients in a hospital in the Jiangxia District of Wuhan received convalescent plasma treatment on 8 February. Currently, more than 10 critically ill patients have received the treatment, according to the company.

Harrods bans staff from wearing masks amid coronavirus concern

Harrods Department Store Co., a big tourist attraction in London for Chinese shoppers, has prohibited staff from wearing masks when dealing with customers because it may fan unfounded concern about coronavirus.

The luxury British department store said it’s not allowing face masks on shop floors due to the “risk of spreading further anxiety" among customers and staff.

The move illustrates the dilemma starting to face retailers thousands of miles from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak began: if they allow employees to wear face-masks, it could scare customers, but if masks are banned, employees might become concerned that their health may be at risk.

India extends screening to passengers arriving from Japan, S. Korea

Aviation regulator DGCA asked airports and airlines on Friday that in order to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus infection, passengers arriving in flights from Japan and South Korea must be screened once they step out of the aerobridge.

Till date, only passengers arriving from four countries — Thailand, Singapore, China and Hong Kong — were being screened for possible exposure to the respiratory virus at 21 identified airports in India.

Third Indian crew on board cruise ship off Japanese coast tests positive

A third Indian crew on board a cruise ship off the Japanese coast has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the Indian Embassy in Japan said on Friday as authorities confirmed that 218 people have been infected with the deadly virus on the quarantined ship.

The cruise ship Diamond Princess with 3,711 people on board arrived at the Japanese coast early last week and was quarantined after a passenger who de-boarded last month in Hong Kong was found to be the carrier of the COVID-19 on the ship.

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

The Indian Embassy in Tokyo in a statement said three Indian crew members are among 218 people tested positive for the virus.

Coronavirus closer to H1N1 than SARS, Singapore says

The Singapore government said it’s “clearly emerging" that the virus is different from SARS. Coronavirus is closer to H1N1 because it can more easily spread; its mortality rate is however lower than severe acute respiratory syndrome, according to Lawrence Wong, minister for national development who co-chairs a task force coordinating the city-state’s virus response. Singapore reported 9 new cases, lifting the total in the country to 67.

China to fix problems exposed during coronavirus outbreak

Chinese President Xi Jinping said the ruling Communist Party must fix various problems, loopholes and weaknesses exposed during the current outbreak of the coronavirus, state television reported today.

"To ensure people's life safety and health is a major task of our party's governance," Xi was quoted as saying at a meeting of a committee on deepening reforms. He also said Beijing would move to improve medical insurance and treatment systems for major diseases.

Fiat Chrysler plans to halt works at Serbia plant due to lack of parts from China

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is planning to halt operations at its assembly plant in Serbia due to a lack of parts from China because of the coronavirus, people familiar with the matter said.

The stoppage would mark the first time a European carmaker has had to idle a facility in Europe due to the virus.

The Turin, Italy-based automaker’s Kragujevac facility in Serbia, which produces the Fiat 500L, will temporarily halt manufacturing due to the lack of audio-system and other electronic parts sourced from China, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing confidential deliberations.

China seeks plasma from recovered patients

China’s state-owned medical products maker is collecting plasma from the blood of patients who have recovered from the novel coronavirus after discovering its efficacy in helping those critically ill from the infection.

China National Biotec Group Co. has been using this plasma, which contains highly potent antibodies, to treat more than 10 seriously ill patients since Feb. 8, the company said. It claimed that those receiving the treatment improved within 24 hours, with reduced inflammation and viral loads along with better oxygen levels in the blood.

China says it welcomes US experts

China welcomes US participation in a joint mission with the World Health Organization on the coronavirus, the foreign ministry said.

Spokesman Geng Shuang’s comments in a WeChat briefing came after U.S. officials said offers to send health experts front lines of the outbreak had been ignored so far.

Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, earlier heightened US criticism of China’s response to the outbreak, echoing ongoing doubts about the accuracy of counts of new cases and deaths.

India's SpiceJet to suspend Delhi-Hong Kong flights from Feb 16

With the coronavirus outbreak killing nearly 1,500 people in China, India's budget carrier SpiceJet today announced that it would be suspending Delhi-Hong Kong flights from February 16 to 29.

IndiGo and Air India have already suspended all their flights between India and China.

"SpiceJet has decided to temporarily suspend its daily Delhi-Hong Kong passenger flight from February 16th to 29th, 2020," the budget carrier's spokesperson stated.

Vietnam monitoring over 5,000 Chinese workers for coronavirus

Vietnam is monitoring more than 5,000 workers who returned to the Southeast Asian country after the Lunar New Year holiday for signs of coronavirus, Reuters reported today.

On Thursday, Vietnam quarantined a rural commune of 10,000 people near Hanoi because of fears the coronavirus could spread there.

Sixteen people in Vietnam have tested positive for the virus.

1,716 Chinese medical staff infected with the deadly virus

Chinese health authorities on Friday said that 1,716 medical staff had been infected with the novel coronavirus, accounting for 3.8% of the overall confirmed cases in the country.

The new diagnostic criteria are only being used in Hubei
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The new diagnostic criteria are only being used in Hubei (Photo: Reuters)

Among them, six people had died from the virus, accounting for 0.4% of the country's total deaths which stood at 1,380 on Friday, Xinhua news agency quoted the National Health Commission as saying.

Speaking to the media, Zeng Yixin, deputy director of the commission, said of the affected medical workers, 1,502 are from Hubei province, and 1,102 from its capital city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, reports the South China Morning Post.

Fake news makes disease outbreaks worse

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has claimed over 1,300 lives in China and the rise of fake news could be making disease outbreaks worse, say researchers, adding that efforts to stop people sharing false news, misinformation and harmful advice on social media could save lives.Researchers from UK's University of East Anglia (UEA) focused on influenza, monkeypox and norovirus across two studies - but they said their findings could also be useful for dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak.

74 people in Odisha under observation for coronavirus

As many as 74 people in Odisha are under observation for coronavirus, said an official on Friday. 74 travellers who have returned from Coronavirus affected countries after January 15 have been identified by the state surveillance system and kept under home quarantine, said the Health Department official.While blood and throat swab samples of seven persons were sent to Pune-based virology lab for tests, all were found negative, the official said.

China's virus crackdown leaves millions working at home

In the middle of a phone call with a customer, an important visitor knocks on Michael Xiong's door: his 3-year-old son.Xiong, a salesman in Chibi, a city near the center of a virus outbreak, is one of millions of people in China who are obeying government orders to work from home as part of the most sweeping anti-disease measures ever imposed.

After breakfast, Xiong leaves the 3-year-old and his 10-month-old brother with their grandparents. The salesman for IQAir, a Swiss maker of household air purifiers that are popular in China’s smog-choked cities, goes into a bedroom to talk to customers and try to find new ones by phone and email.

111 people under observation for coronavirus: HP minister

As many as 111 people in Himachal Pradesh are still under observation for coronavirus, while 46 persons have completed mandatory 28 days observation, state Health and Family Welfare Minister Vipin Singh Parmar has said.

China power demand drops as coronavirus shutters plants

China's industrial power demand in 2020 may decline by as much as 73 billion kilowatt hours (kWh), according to IHS Markit, as the outbreak of the coronavirus has curtailed factory output and prevented some workers from returning to their jobs.

Cruise ship passenger causes coronavirus scare in Sydney

Australian health officials tested a passenger onboard a cruise ship docked in Sydney harbour for a "respiratory illness" on Friday, causing passengers to fret about the potential of another shipboard outbreak of the coronavirus.The New South Wales state government said health officials boarded the Norwegian Jewel shortly after it docked in Sydney on Friday from a tour around New Zealand to undertake a routine assessment of passengers arriving from overseas.

Coronavirus will hit oil hard

Everyone agrees that the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) that has shut down large parts of China’s industry and brought travel to a virtual halt in parts of the country will hit the world’s demand for oil hard. But the three big forecasting agencies are far apart on how severe that impact will be and what it means for 2020 oil balances.

London Fashion Week opens under shadow of novel coronavirus

London Fashion Week kicks off Friday with more than 60 shows over five days, including much-anticipated offerings from Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger, but with participation dented by the novel coronavirus epidemic.

Organisers the British Fashion Council (BFC) said it expected attendance "to be significantly reduced" due to the travel restrictions imposed as a result of the outbreak.

Japan vows to step up efforts on coronavirus testing, containment after first fatality

Japan vowed to step up testing and containment efforts for the coronavirus after suffering its first death and the confirmation of new cases, including a doctor and taxi driver. Japan's health ministry said Thursday that a woman in her 80s living in Kanagawa prefecture, just to the west of Tokyo, had died. She was transferred between hospitals as her condition worsened and was only confirmed to have the coronavirus after her death.

Crude heads for weekly advance as coronavirus worries recede

Oil is on track to post its first weekly gain since the start of January on optimism that the coronavirus outbreak could be abating. Futures in New York were little changed, after rising 0.5% on Thursday. They are up more than 2% over the week, on course to break a run of five straight weekly declines. The World Heath Organization said a spike in coronavirus diagnoses doesn’t necessarily reflect a sudden surge in new infections, with a senior official saying many of the added cases date back days and weeks.

Coronavirus reroutes US chicken shipments bound for China

Ships carrying refrigerated cargo containers of chicken from the United States to China are being diverted to ports in Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to a U.S. poultry export trade group.

Royal Caribbean cancels 18 cruises, warns coronavirus hit to yearly profit

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd today said it had canceled 18 cruises in Southeast Asia and joined larger rival Carnival Corp in warning that its full-year earnings would be hit by the coronavirus outbreak. Last week, Royal Caribbean said it canceled eight cruises out of China through March 4 and warned of a 25 cent impact to its first quarter earnings. The company said the 18 canceled cruises would cut its full-year earnings per share by 65 cents, warning that cancelling all its remaining sailings in Asia through the end of April, would reduce its earnings per share by another 55 cents in 2020.

Japan to start disembarking some cruise passengers

Japan was set Friday to start allowing certain passengers to start disembarking the Diamond Princess cruise ship, quarantined in Yokohama. Those who test negative for the new coronavirus and are of advanced age are eligible to leave, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters in Tokyo.

A man wearing a mask stands guard at the port next to the cruise ship Diamond Princess at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan
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A man wearing a mask stands guard at the port next to the cruise ship Diamond Princess at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan (Photo: Reuters)

Carnival’s Diamond Princess was placed under quarantine last week as it approached Yokohama. As of Thursday, 218 people on board were confirmed as infected -- the most of any spot outside of China.

China expresses ‘regret’ over Australia’s coronavirus travel ban

Australia’s decision to ban people from entering the country from mainland China until at least February 22 due to the coronavirus outbreak is causing renewed friction with its largest trading partner. After Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday announced the restriction, originally due to expire on Saturday, would be in place for at least an extra week, the Chinese Embassy in Canberra issued a statement expressing its “deep regret and dissatisfaction."

US says prepared to help North Korea combat threat from coronavirus

The United States is "deeply concerned" about the possible impact of a coronavirus outbreak in North Korea and is prepared to help U.S. and international organizations contain the spread of the virus, the State Department said on Thursday.

Hubei adds 4,823 cases under new method

Among the new cases in Hubei, the Chinese province at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, 3,095 were diagnosed using CT scans -- the new testing method -- while the rest were confirmed with the traditional diagnostic process that uses nucleic acid tests.

Hubei also reported 116 additional deaths, including eight from clinical diagnosis. There have been three deaths reported outside of mainland China: in Hong Kong and the Philippines, and one fatality reported in Japan on Thursday.

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