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China coronavirus death toll surges: All the latest updates

The death toll from China’s coronavirus outbreak has surpassed 250, the government said on Saturday, as foreign nations tightened restrictions on travellers from China in response to the rapid spread of the illness.At least 259 people have died and 11,791 people have been infected in China by the new coronavirus, according to new figures from…

China coronavirus death toll surges: All the latest updates

The death toll from China’s coronavirus outbreak has surpassed 250, the government said on Saturday, as foreign nations tightened restrictions on travellers from China in response to the rapid spread of the illness.At least 259 people have died and 11,791 people have been infected in China by the new coronavirus, according to new figures from China’s health officials.
Most of the latest fatalities are from Hubei province. The city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak is located in Hubei. 
Another 102,000 people were also reportedly under medical observation with possible symptoms of the respiratory ailment.
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Coronavirus: All you need to know about the symptoms and risks

How does coronavirus spread and how can you protect yourself?

Coronavirus: Which countries have confirmed new cases?

Fresh cases have been detected abroad, with more than 20 countries now affected, including Spain and the UK.
The top Communist Party official in Wuhan, the central city of 11 million people where the virus first emerged in December, on Friday expressed “remorse” because local authorities acted too slowly.
Here are the latest updates:
Saturday, February 1
China’s Tianjin says all schools, non-essential companies to remain close
China’s city of Tianjin announced on Saturday that all schools and non-essential companies will remain close until further notice to help curb the spread of coronavirus, according to the state media.
Tianjin, which has a population of around 15 million and borders capital Beijing, had 32 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of 10 pm local time on January 31. 
Spain confirms case of coronavirus – health ministry
Spain’s National Centre for Microbiology has confirmed the country’s first case of coronavirus after a man was diagnosed with the virus on the remote island of La Gomera in the Canaries, the Health Ministry said.
The patient is part of a group of five people taken into observation on the island and isolated after it was found they had come into contact with a German man diagnosed with the virus.
UN biodiversity talks moved out of China on virus fears
The next round of talks on a global biodiversity treaty due to be held in the Chinese city of Kunming on Feburary 24 will be moved to Rome as a result of a coronavirus outbreak, the United Nations announced.
The UN’s Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity said it had reached the decision after consultations with the Chinese government.
Kunming is still set to host the main round of global biodiversity talks in October this year.
Pasteur Institute eyes coronavirus vaccine in 2021
France’s Pasteur Institute Foundation said it had set up a taskforce aimed at developing a vaccine against the coronavirus in 20 months.
Christophe D’Enfert, a scientific director with the Pasteur Institute, told reporters in Paris the vaccine could be made available in 20 months if “all goes well”.
“At the end of August, we could enter clinical trials and, provided all goes well, obtain a vaccine candidate within 20 months.”

Tokyo 2020 Olympics dismiss cancellation fears
Tokyo 2020 Olympics organisers dismissed rumours that the Games were endangered by the spread of the coronavirus.
“We have never discussed cancelling the Games. Tokyo 2020 will continue to collaborate with the (International Olympic Committee) IOC and relevant organisations and will review any countermeasures that may be necessary,” organisers said in a statement to the German news agency DPA.
The IOC also said that preparations for the July 24-August 9 Games were continuing as planned.
Diary of a Wuhan native: A week under quarantine
A teacher living in the epicentre of the deadly outbreak shares her experiences of isolation with Al Jazeera as the quarantine in Wuhan continues.
Read the full story here.

An elderly man collapsed and died in the street in Wuhan on Thursday [Hector Retamal/AFP]

Japan to enforce special measures for coronavirus from Saturday: NHK
Japan plans to bring forward the date that the coronavirus will become a “designated infectious disease” to Saturday from February 7, public broadcaster NHK said.
Japanese Minister of Health Katsunobu Kato said that the government was considering moving up the date, without elaborating.
The government classified the virus as a designated infectious disease on Tuesday, a move that allows compulsory hospitalisation, stricter screening of people entering the country, and the use of public funds for treatment, among other measures.
In line with regulations, the designation was only set to take effect on February 7 after ordinances are issued.
Read updates from Friday, January 31 here.
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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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