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China coronavirus outbreak: All the latest updates

China’s National Health Commission reported on Thursday said at least 114 new deaths from the coronavirus outbreak as of the end of Wednesday, bringing to at least 2,118 the number of fatalities nationwide.  The national health commission also reported 394 new confirmed cases, significantly lower than the 1,749 cases reported nationwide the previous day, bringing…

China coronavirus outbreak: All the latest updates

China’s National Health Commission reported on Thursday said at least 114 new deaths from the coronavirus outbreak as of the end of Wednesday, bringing to at least 2,118 the number of fatalities nationwide. 
The national health commission also reported 394 new confirmed cases, significantly lower than the 1,749 cases reported nationwide the previous day, bringing the total to 74,576.
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The drop, the largest in almost a month, came after Chinese authorities changed their methodology for counting cases in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, to only include those confirmed through genetic testing. 
Here are all the latest updates:
Thursday, February 20
KLM airlines extends ban on China flights due to coronavirus
KLM, the Dutch arm of Air France KLM, has said it will extend a ban on flights to China due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“All KLM flights to Beijing and Shanghai have been suspended until 28 March 2020,” the airline said on its website. “Flights are expected to resume on 29 March 2020.”
Coronavirus cases on Japan cruise ship rise to 634: Ministry
Another 13 people on board a cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus, the country’s health ministry said on Thursday.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.

634 people on board the Diamond Princess have been diagnosed so far [Franck Robichon/EPA]

Three more infections reported in Iran
Three patients have tested positive for the coronavirus in Iran, a health ministry spokesman said.
“Two people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Qom and one person in Arak, bringing the total of confirmed cases to five in Iran,” Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said in a tweet.
Ukraine residents protest evacuees landing
Residents in central Ukraine protested the arrival of a plane carrying evacuees from China’s Hubei province on Thursday, fearing they could be infected with the coronavirus despite authorities insisting there was no danger.
Protesters from the village of Novi Sanzhary blocked the road leading to a sanatorium where the evacuees are due to be held in quarantine for at least two weeks to make sure they were not carrying the virus.

In this handout photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, a group of medical personnel stand ready at the Ukrainian aircraft chartered by the Ukrainian government for evacuation from the Chinese city of Wuhan [The Associated Press]

South Korea reports first death
South Korea health authorities have reported the first death from coronavirus in the country.  
Infections have ballooned in recent days, raising the total to 104, with many traced to a church in the central city of Daegu. On Thursday alone, the country announced 53 new cases. 

Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant against the coronavirus in front of a church in Daegu, South Korea [Lee Moo-ryul/The Associated Press]

Egyptair to resume flights to China from next week 
Egyptair has said in a statement that it will resume some flights to and from China starting next week.
The national airline suspended all flights to China in early February over the coronavirus outbreak.”Egyptair has decided to resume a flight weekly every Thursday,” the statement said.
China lab says conspiracy theories hurting efforts to curb virus
An outbreak of disinformation in China and elsewhere has hurt global efforts to combat the new coronavirus, said a specialist infectious disease lab located at the epicentre of the epidemic – and at the heart of a number of conspiracy theories, including that it had “artificially synthesised” the virus.
In a statement, the state-backed Wuhan Institute of Virology said “internet rumours” had “received close attention from all walks of life” and “caused great harm to our research staff on the front line of scientific research”.

A man checks the temperature on a street in Qibao, an old river town on the outskirts of Shanghai, China [Aly Song/Reuters]

Australia extends ban on China arrivals into fourth week
Australia will extend a ban on arrivals from mainland China into a fourth week to contain the risk of exposure to the coronavirus, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
“The National Security Committee of Cabinet has today decided that the continuing coronavirus infections in mainland China make it necessary to continue the travel restrictions on foreign nationals entering Australia for a further week to 29 February,” Morrison said in a statement.
Chinese Foreign Minister says virus control efforts ‘are working’
China’s efforts to control the deadly outbreak of a new coronavirus “are working”, Beijing’s top diplomat said on Thursday, attributing an easing in new cases to his country’s “forceful action” against the illness. Speaking in Laos after talks with peers from the 10 Southeast Asian (ASEAN) countries, Wang Yi said the outbreak was “controllable and curable” despite the global panic it has seeded. “China is not only protecting its own people but also the rest of the world,” he told the summit in Vientiane, referencing a recent sharp drop in new cases of the virus inside China, where it has killed more than 2,100 people.

Employees work in the DaAn Gene laboratory in Guangzhou on developing faster testing [EPA]

China says media spreading racial discrimination must pay the price
Media organisations that spread racial discrimination and maliciously smear China must pay the price, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Thursday, following Beijing’s decision to revoke the press credentials of three Wall Street Journal correspondents.
Geng told reporters during a press briefing that China was not interested in the division of labour at the Wall Street Journal in response to a question on why it is acting against the paper’s journalists, who had no involvement in the publication of a opinion column in the paper that the Chinese government found offensive.
Read more here. 
Mayor of South Korean city urges 2.5 million people to stop going out
The mayor of South Korean city of Daegu has urged its 2.5 million people to stop going outside as its virus cases spike.
Mayor Kwon Young-jin made the request in a televised news conference after the southeastern city and nearby towns reported 35 additional cases of infection with the new coronavirus on Thursday.
Health authorities say 28 of those 35 patients went to church services attended by a previously confirmed virus patient. South Korea has reported a total of 82 cases so far.
Japan reports two deaths from Diamond Princess cruise ship
Japan’s health ministry reported on Thursday that two elderly cruise ship passengers who were hospitalised with the viral infection have died.
The ship had a total of 621 confirmed cases of the virus, the most in any single location outside of China.
South Korea reports 31 new cases of coronavirus, bringing total to 82
South Korea reported 31 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the number of people infected in the country to 82, Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said in a statement.
Of the new cases, 23 cases were traced to church services that a 61-year-old patient who tested positive had attended in the central city of Daegu, the agency said.
On Wednesday, Shincheonji Church posted a statement on its website confirming 10 of its members were infected by the woman, who had attended services.

A recovered patient is discharged from a newly-built makeshift hospital for novel coronavirus patientsin Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province. [China Out/AFP]

Japan cruise ship passengers arrive in Australia
A group of Australians landed in Darwin airport on Thursday after being evacuated from the virus-stricken cruise ship in Japan.
About 180 nationals and permanent residents had earlier left Japan on a Qantas plane chartered by the Australian government, local media reported.
The evacuees had been confined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama for the past two weeks.
The ship had a total of 621 confirmed cases of the virus, the most of any single location outside of China.
Pompeo denounces China’s expulsions of WSJ reporters
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has denounced China’s expulsion of three Wall Street Journal newspaper reporters and urged Beijing to respect freedom of the press.
“Mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinion. The correct response is to present counter-arguments, not restrict speech,” Pompeo said in a statement.
The move follows a complaint about the headline of an opinion article, which referred to China as the “Real Sick Man of Asia” and a decision by Washington earlier this week to treat five government-controlled Chinese news organisations as foreign government functionaries.
All Ukrainians being evacuated from China are healthy: Deputy health minister
All Ukrainians being evacuated from China’s Hubei province this week are in a healthy condition, Dmytro Koval, the deputy health minister, told reporters.
“Everyone is healthy,” he told a televised briefing. “There is no threat”. 
Ukraine is evacuating 48 of its citizens in response to the outbreak. They are expected to arrive on a charter plane at 8am local time (06:00 GMT) and be put in quarantine for two weeks. Several foreigners are being evacuated on the same flight.
Man with coronavirus in Egypt recovering, no longer a carrier: WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the person previously confirmed as having coronavirus in Egypt is on his way to recovery, after latest tests showed he was “no longer carrying the virus”.
“He will remain in quarantine until the full 14-day period is over and will be undergoing further required tests to ensure he was fully recovered,” WHO spokeswoman Inas Hamam wrote in an email.

Two Iranians die after testing positive for virus
Two Iranians have died in hospital after testing positive for the new coronavirus in the central city of Qom, the head of the city’s University of Medical Sciences told Iran’s Mehr news agency, saying the two had died of a “respiratory illness”.
Separately, Health Ministry official Kianush Jahanpur said in a post on Twitter that “both patients died in ICU due to age and immune system deficiency”.
Iran had confirmed the two cases – the first in the country – earlier on Wednesday.
Read the full story here.
Surviving coronavirus in Wuhan
Scrambled eggs with tomatoes – that’s the first dish Yangyang made for herself after being discharged from No 7 Hospital in Wuhan. 
After escaping what she describes as a near-death experience, Yangyang is now one of the estimated 14,000 people in mainland China who have beaten the COVID-19 virus.
Read the full story here.

 Some 14,000 people have reportedly recovered from coronavirus in China [Stringer/EPA]

Malaysia firm offers AI-based profiling of Chinese visitors for virus
Malaysia’s MYEG Services Berhad said it had developed a coronavirus risk-profiling system for visitors from China and was offering the artificial intelligence-based serviced to the government of Malaysia and the Philippines.
The fully-automated system analyses a “vast number of available data points, including visitors’ previous known whereabouts as well as heart rate and blood pressure readings crossed-referenced against public transportation ridership and exposure to locations with incidences of infections,” MYEG said in a statement to the stock exchange.
HIV patients in China risk running out of drugs: UNAIDS
HIV patients in China risk running out of life-saving drugs because quarantines and lockdowns aimed at containing the coronavirus disease outbreak mean they cannot replenish vital medicine stocks, the United Nations AIDS agency said.
Nearly a third of the more than 1,000 HIV-positive people surveyed by UNAIDS said lockdowns and restrictions on movement in China meant they were at risk of running out of their HIV treatment in the coming days.
Of these, almost half – 48.6 percent – said they did not know where to collect their next antiretroviral therapy refill form.
Read the updates from Wednesday, February 19 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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