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China confirms fourth coronavirus death, as WHO prepares to meet

The senior health official investigating an outbreak of pneumonia in China stemming from a new coronavirus has said the disease can spread from person to person but can be halted with increased vigilance, as authorities confirmed the fourth death from the infection. Zhong Nanshan, the head of the National Health Commission, said there was no danger of a…

China confirms fourth coronavirus death, as WHO prepares to meet

The senior health official investigating an outbreak of pneumonia in China stemming from a new coronavirus has said the disease can spread from person to person but can be halted with increased vigilance, as authorities confirmed the fourth death from the infection.
Zhong Nanshan, the head of the National Health Commission, said there was no danger of a repeat of 2002’s Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic that killed nearly 800 people across the world, as long as precautions were taken.
“It took only two weeks to identify the novel coronavirus,” state news agency Xinhua quoted Zhong as saying late on Monday.
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Earlier, Zhong acknowledged patients may have contracted the new virus without having visited the central city of Wuhan where the infection is thought to have originated in a seafood market.
“Currently, it can be said it is affirmative that there is the phenomenon of human-to-human transmission,” he said in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV.
A fourth person died on January 19, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said on Tuesday. The 89-year-old man, who had underlying health diseases including coronary heart disease, developed symptoms on January 13 and was admitted to hospital five days later, it added.
Outbreak spreads
The outbreak has spread from the central city of Wuhan to cities including Beijing and Shanghai, with more than 200 cases reported so far. Four cases have been confirmed outside China – in South Korea, Thailand and Japan.
Australia on Tuesday said it would screen passengers on flights from Wuhan amid rising concerns that the virus will spread globally as Chinese travellers take flights abroad for the Lunar New Year holiday that starts this week.
A man showing symptoms of the new disease who had travelled to Wuhan was in isolation as health officials awaited test results, public broadcaster ABC reported on Tuesday
“The outbreak could perhaps not have come at a worse time,” said Al Jazeera’s Katrina Wu, who is in Beijing.
“This is the peak travel season in China. The government has always boasted that during the Lunar New Year you see two to three billion trips being made across the country and Wuhan is not a small city; it’s about 11 million people who will be travelling not only in China, but overseas. It’s a major transport hub.”  
Authorities around the globe, including in the United States and many Asian countries, have stepped up the screening of travellers from Wuhan.

China says it has stepped up surveillance and quarantine measures as it tries to stop a new coronavirus from spreading further [Stringer/Reuters]

Zhong, the head of the National Health Commission, said two people in Guangdong province in southern China caught the disease from family members who had visited Wuhan.
He added that 14 medical staff helping with coronavirus patients had also been infected.
The Wuhan virus causes a type of pneumonia and belongs to the same family of coronaviruses as SARS. Symptoms include fever and difficulty in breathing, which are similar to many other respiratory diseases and pose complications for screening efforts.
SARS originated in southern China in 2002 and spread to 26 countries across the world over the following months, infecting more than 8,000 people before it was brought under control, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO, which is due to hold an emergency meeting on the outbreak on Wednesday, has said an animal source appeared most likely to be the primary origin of the Wuhan outbreak
Enhanced screening
South Korea on Monday reported its first case of the new coronavirus – a 35-year-old woman who had flown in from Wuhan.
Thailand and Japan previously confirmed a total of three cases – all of whom had visited the Chinese city.

The outbreak is spreading as China gears up for the Lunar New Year festival when hundreds of thousands of people visit family or take holidays [File: Aly Song/Reuters]

WHO has said the jump in new cases was the result of “increased searching and testing for [the virus] among people sick with respiratory illness”.
Wuhan authorities said they have installed infrared thermometers at airports, and railway and coach stations across the city. Passengers with fever were being registered, given masks and taken to medical institutions.
Chinese state media moved to calm the mood as discussion swelled on social media about the coronavirus spreading to other Chinese cities.
Weighing in on the matter for the first time, China’s President Xi Jinping said on Monday that safeguarding people’s lives should be given “top priority” and that the spread of the epidemic “should be resolutely contained”, according to CCTV.
Xi said it was necessary to “release information on the epidemic in a timely manner and deepen international cooperation”, and ensure people have a “stable and peaceful Spring Festival”, the broadcaster said.
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China still spying on U.S. coronavirus vaccine efforts, Wray tells Congress

Chinese hackers are still trying to snoop on American coronavirus vaccine efforts, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress on Thursday, saying they can actually track the attempts. Mr. Wray said they’ll see a public announcement from a company on its vaccine progress, then within days they’ll see cyber penetration efforts against that company “that ties…

China still spying on U.S. coronavirus vaccine efforts, Wray tells Congress

Chinese hackers are still trying to snoop on American coronavirus vaccine efforts, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress on Thursday, saying they can actually track the attempts.

Mr. Wray said they’ll see a public announcement from a company on its vaccine progress, then within days they’ll see cyber penetration efforts against that company “that ties back to Chinese actors.”

“They’re trying to essentially jump to the front of the line by stealing information from others,” Mr. Wray said.

He declared China the largest counterterrorism focus of the FBI, and pointed to thousands of open investigations into Chinese attempts to penetrate American institutions.

Mr. Wray first warned in early summer that China was attempting to compromise U.S. coronavirus efforts.

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China attempted to cover up scope of COVID-19, could have largely prevented outbreak: GOP report

China could have prevented two-thirds of its coronavirus cases before the end of February had it followed international health guidelines at the beginning of the outbreak in Wuhan, a new congressional report concluded. The report, released Monday and authored by Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, echoes earlier findings that China made efforts…

China attempted to cover up scope of COVID-19, could have largely prevented outbreak: GOP report

China could have prevented two-thirds of its coronavirus cases before the end of February had it followed international health guidelines at the beginning of the outbreak in Wuhan, a new congressional report concluded.

The report, released Monday and authored by Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, echoes earlier findings that China made efforts to cover up the severity of the initial spread of the virus and that the government harassed and detained journalists, scientists and health care professionals who were voicing concerns about its handling of the outbreak.

“It is beyond doubt that the [Chinese Communist Party] actively engaged in a cover-up designed to obfuscate data, hide relevant public health information, and suppress doctors and journalists who attempted to warn the world,” the report said. “Research shows the CCP could have reduced the number of cases in China by up to 95 percent had it fulfilled its obligations under international law and responded to the outbreak in a manner consistent with best practices.”

The report also said that the Chinese government was “legally obliged” on Dec. 27 to inform the World Health Organization that the outbreak in Wuhan may constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on Jan. 30.

The report’s conclusions take aim at the WHO, from which President Trump announced a U.S. withdrawal in May, and said that the United Nations-backed organization was “heavily influenced by the Chinese Communist Party” in its messaging of the outbreak.

“The WHO has been complicit in the spread and normalization of CCP propaganda and disinformation,” the report stated, citing outside experts. “By repeating as truth statements that were misleading, if not lies, the WHO negatively impacted the global response.”

Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican and ranking member of the Democrat-led committee, said in a statement Monday that “it is crystal-clear that had the CCP been transparent, and had the head of the WHO cared more about global health than appeasing the CCP, lives could have been spared and widespread economic devastation could have been mitigated.”

There have been over 31 million reported cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. More than 961,000 people have died from the virus, with 199,525 deaths in the U.S., according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. The global population currently stands at 7.8 billion.

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China slams US ‘bullying’, warns of action over TikTok, WeChat |NationalTribune.com

China has accused the United States of “bullying” and threatened to take “necessary” countermeasures after Washington banned downloads of the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok and effectively blocked the use of the messaging super-app WeChat. “China urges the US to abandon bullying, cease its wrongful actions and earnestly maintain fair and transparent international rules and order,”…

China slams US ‘bullying’, warns of action over TikTok, WeChat |NationalTribune.com

China has accused the United States of “bullying” and threatened to take “necessary” countermeasures after Washington banned downloads of the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok and effectively blocked the use of the messaging super-app WeChat.
“China urges the US to abandon bullying, cease its wrongful actions and earnestly maintain fair and transparent international rules and order,” the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on Saturday.
“If the US insists on going its own way, China will take necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.”
The United States Commerce Department announced the bans on Friday, citing national security grounds although China and the companies have denied US user data is collected for spying
Under Friday’s order, the Tencent-owned WeChat app would lose functionality in the US from Sunday onwards. TikTok users will be banned from installing updates but could keep accessing the service through November 12.
The timeframe gives TikTok’s parent group ByteDance some breathing space to clinch an agreement over the fate of its US operations.
“We disagree with the decision from the Commerce Department, and are disappointed that it stands to block new app downloads from Sunday and ban use of the TikTok app in the US from November 12,” ByteDance said in a statement.
“We will continue to challenge the unjust executive order.”

START HERE | Should TikTok be banned? (10:50)

TikTok says it has 100 million US users and 700 million globally.
‘Very very popular’
Friday’s order follows weeks of deal-making over TikTok, with US President Donald Trump pressuring ByteDance to sell TikTok’s US operations to a domestic company to satisfy Washington’s concerns over TikTok’s data collection and related issues.
California tech giant Oracle recently struck a deal with TikTok along those lines, although details remain foggy.
Trump said on Friday said he was open to a deal, noting that “we have some great options and maybe we can keep a lot of people happy,” suggesting that even Microsoft, which said its TikTok bid had been rejected, might continue to be involved, as well as Oracle and Walmart.
Trump noted that TikTok was “very, very popular,” said “we have to have the total security from China,” and added that “we can do a combination of both”.
The bans are in response to a pair of executive orders issued by Trump on August 6 that gave the Commerce Department 45 days to determine what transactions to block from the apps he deemed pose a national security threat. That deadline expires on Sunday.
The Trump administration has ramped up efforts to purge “untrusted” Chinese apps from US digital networks amid escalating tensions with Beijing on a range of issues from trade and human rights to the battle for tech supremacy.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the Commerce Department’s order “violates the First Amendment rights of people in the United States by restricting their ability to communicate and conduct important transactions on the two social media platforms”.

INSIDE STORY | Why does Trump want to ban Tiktok? (24:11)

The action against WeChat, used by over 1 billion people worldwide, bars the transfer of funds or processing of payments to or from people in the US through it. Users could also start to experience significantly slower service or sporadic outages from Sunday night.
WeChat developer Tencent Holdings’ called the order “unfortunate” but said it “will continue to discuss with the government and other stakeholders in the US ways to achieve a long-term solution”.
WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the US, analytics firms Apptopia said in early August. It is popular among Chinese students, ex-pats and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.
The order does not ban US companies from doing businesses on WeChat outside the US, which will be welcome news to US firms such as Walmart and Starbucks that use WeChat’s embedded ‘mini-app’ programmes to facilitate transactions and engage consumers in China, officials said.
The order will not bar transactions with Tencent’s other businesses, including its online gaming operations, and will not prohibit Apple, Google or others from offering TikTok or WeChat apps anywhere outside the US.
WeChat users have sued to stop the ban, and a federal judge in California on Friday set an emergency hearing for Saturday at 1:30 pm Pacific time.
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