Home >News >World >China virus outbreak update: US, Japan prepare evacuation; death toll rises to 56
Gao Fu, bottom, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks to journalists after a press conference about a virus outbreak at the State Council Information Office in Beijing (Photo: AP)
Gao Fu, bottom, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks to journalists after a press conference about a virus outbreak at the State Council Information Office in Beijing (Photo: AP)

China virus outbreak update: US, Japan prepare evacuation; death toll rises to 56

  • Coronavirus transmission ability getting stronger; the virus has killed at least 56 people in China
  • More than 2,000 cases have been reported in 15 countries and territories; US to evacuate diplomatic staff, citizens from Wuhan

The novel coronavirus spread further and became more deadly as Canada confirmed its first case and China reported an increase in fatalities and infections.

The virus has killed at least 56 people in China, and President Xi Jinping on Saturday ordered a faster response, sending teams into hard-hit areas to push local officials to strengthen prevention and containment.

More than 2,000 cases have been reported in 15 countries and territories. South Korea on Sunday reported another infection, while Pakistan denied it has a confirmed case.

Here are the latest developments:

China says virus's ability to spread getting stronger

China's National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei said on Sunday the transmission ability of the coronavirus behind an outbreak that has killed 56 people so far is getting stronger and that the number of infections could continue to rise.

Ma, speaking at a press briefing, also said authorities' knowledge of the new virus is limited and that they are unclear on the risks posed by mutations of the virus.

China CDC advises extending holiday

Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters that the agency is advising that the Lunar New Year holiday ending Jan. 30 be extended due to the virus. The decision will depend on how the situation develops, he said.

Beijing will lengthen the winter break for schools from kindergarten to college, People’s Daily reported, citing the city’s education bureau.

Hong Kong confirms sixth virus patient

A Hong Kong health official confirmed the sixth case of the coronavirus in the city.

The South China Morning Post earlier reported that the man had been to Wuhan and arrived in Hong Kong by high-speed rail. He will undergo more tests. It was not known when he returned from China, the newspaper said.

Protest over proposed quarantine center

Government plans to use a newly built, unoccupied public estate in the New Territories district of Fanling for possible patients under quarantine and medical staff drew an angry response from residents and district councillors.

A couple dozen masked people barricaded a road in Fanling in protest at the government proposal to use Fai Ming Estate as an emergency medical facility. Some of the protesters said the building is too close to their homes, while others complained that approved applicants would lose their flats in the estate.

Thailand, California report cases of infection

Thailand’s director of communicable diseases said at a coronavirus meeting that the nation has eight confirmed cases of the illness. Those infected all came from outside the country, and there has been no local transmission so far.

California reported its first confirmed case, according to a statement from the Orange County Health Care Agency’s Communicable Disease Control Division. The person, who traveled from Wuhan, is in isolation in a local hospital and in good condition, it said.

China bans wildlife trade across the country

China banned the shipping and sale of wild animals starting Sunday and said it will quarantine breeding sites. Trade will be forbidden in markets, supermarkets, restaurants and online, the market supervision administration, agricultural ministry and forestry bureau said in a statement.

It also warned people against consuming wild animals. The new coronavirus was first found in people who shopped or worked at a so-called wet market in the central city of Wuhan, where live animals were sold.

China has tightened controls on the sale of exotic animals, considered nourishing in some parts of the country, though some are still sold surreptitiously.

AbbVie anti-HIV drugs in China treatment plan

A clinical trial is underway using anti-HIV drugs ritonavir and lopinavir to treat cases of the new coronavirus, according to an article published in the Lancet medical journal Friday. Beijing’s municipal health commission said on Sunday the drugs made by AbbVie Inc. are part of the National Health Commission’s latest treatment plan, and its hospitals have supplies of the medicine if needed.

On Sunday, China’s Global Times tweeted that the nation’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention will start developing a vaccine.

US charters flight to evacuate citizens

The US government is making plans for its Wuhan consulate to arrange a charter flight to evacuate its citizens on Tuesday, AP reported.

The plane can seat 230 people and the consulate is approaching Americans to offer to evacuate them with costs borne by those who accept it, Dow Jones said earlier. The State Department told Reuters that there will be “limited capacity," according to a tweet by one of its journalists.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Sunday the government was working with Chinese authorities to arrange a charter flight for any Japanese nationals who wish to return from Wuhan.

Wuhan doctor who died wasn’t on front lines

A 62-year-old doctor who died from the virus on Saturday in Hubei province contracted the virus from another elderly member of his choir, and was not on the front line as some media had reported, according to a person familiar with the situation. He was retired but had been rehired on a part-time basis by another hospital, the person said.

Shantou city to be locked down

Shantou, a city of about 5.6 million in Guangzhou province that’s about 14 hours drive from Wuhan, will ban cars, ships and people from entering from Jan. 27, the Global Times reported.

Malaysia detains quarantine dodgers

Malaysian police detained a family of three from China at an airport for dodging quarantine, the Star reported. The toddler was suspected of being infected with the virus but parents of the child ignored hospital orders and said they had to catch a flight back to China, the report said.

Malaysia has four confirmed cases, and so does neighboring Singapore.

Hong Kong theme parks shut

Hong Kong theme parks including Disneyland and Ocean Park said they will be closed until further notice after the government stepped up prevention measures to curb the spread of the virus. Hong Kong on Saturday raised its response level to the coronavirus to “emergency" and said it will cancel its largest marathon scheduled to take place early next month.

Taiwan fines victim

A man was fined NT$300,000 ($10,000) after he failed to report symptoms of a respiratory infection after traveling to Wuhan, the official Central News Agency reported, citing health authorities. He visited a nightclub without wearing a face mask the day after he returned to Taiwan, and a female employee later developed symptoms including a cough, according to the report. She has since been quarantined.

Pakistan denies infection

A top Pakistan health official said there are no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the country after reports on Saturday of an infection.

A patient kept in isolation in a hospital is improving and has no signs of a severe acute respiratory infection, State Minister of Health Zafar Mirza said in a post on Twitter on Saturday. He was earlier reported as saying that Pakistan “lacks the facility" to detect the virus.

Canada confirms first case

Canada reported its first coronavirus case, a man in his 50s who fell ill in Toronto days after returning from China, Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health David Williams said Saturday.

The man arrived from Wuhan via Guangzhou on Jan. 22 and went into a hospital the following day after feeling ill. On Saturday, the province’s public health lab confirmed the case as a presumptive positive case. Williams said Toronto public health authorities are in touch with federal officials to help determine the exposure to other individuals on the flights.

Britain advises against travel to Hubei

The UK has advised against travel to China’s Hubei province, epicenter of the global outbreak, and is urging British citizens in the area to get out if they are able.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said citizens should comply with any additional screening measures set up by local Chinese authorities. The U.K. has since Jan. 22 monitored flights arriving in the country from Wuhan, and has providing screening where needed, the government said.

France sends medical teams to airports

France, which has the only confirmed coronavirus cases in Europe, will send a “medical welcoming team" to airports including Charles de Gaulle near Paris on Sunday to treat any passengers showing symptoms of the illness.

Airlines flying into France’s main international hub also were asked to distribute specific information to travelers before they land, said Jerome Salomon, the government’s director general for health.

Salomon said the three French patients infected with the virus are in “very good" condition.

One French company, Groupe PSA, will repatriate 38 people from the Wuhan area, according to a spokesman. Chinese authorities and the French general consulate are helping the company with the initiative.

3 Chinese doctors are infected

Three Chinese doctors, including two who visited Wuhan for business, are infected with the new coronavirus in Beijing, the People’s Daily reported in a tweet, without saying how it got the information.

The three physicians along with people they came into contact are in quarantine, according to the Daily, official newspaper of China’s Communist Party. All three are in stable condition, CCTV reported.

Wuhan gets emergency loan

The China Development Bank approved an emergency loan of 2 billion yuan ($289 million) for Wuhan to prevent and control the coronavirus outbreak.

The loan will be used for medical assistance, emergency equipment, work expenses and other needs tied to disease treatment and epidemic prevention and control, according to a statement.

China blocks outbound tours

China banned all outgoing overseas group tours starting on Jan. 27, and suspended domestic group tours as of Jan. 24, CCTV reported. Beijing also will prohibit buses from entering and leaving the city from Jan. 26.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism had ordered travel agencies and tourism companies to stop selling tour packages, according to a document seen by Bloomberg. The ban coincides with the start of the Lunar New Year holiday, when millions of Chinese travel across the country and abroad.

Duke, NYU delay China classes

Duke Kunshan University, a joint U.S.-China institution, and New York University’s Shanghai campus have delayed the resumption of classes after a spring break until early February in response to the virus outbreak.

Duke postponed classes until Feb. 17 and restricted access to the campus in China’s Jiangsu province. The university also is helping to pay international and Chinese students who want to return home.

NYU Shanghai will delay the start of the spring semester by one week, to Feb. 10, a university spokesman said.

Australian cases rise

Australia reported three cases of coronavirus in the state of New South Wales, with the men diagnosed after travelling to China. Two were in Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, while another man had contact with an individual confirmed to have the virus, a statement from New South Wales Health said. The country reported its first case earlier on Saturday in Melbourne.

Medical supplies shortage in Hubei

There is a severe shortage of medical equipment, including protective suits, N95 masks and goggles in Wuhan, an official in Hubei province said at a press conference.

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