Mainland China had 118 new deaths from the coronavirus outbreak by the end of Thursday, the national health commission reported on Friday, pushing the number of deaths nationwide to at least 2,236.
Beijing also reported 1,109 new confirmed cases of the disease during the same period, sharply up from 349 cases the previous day, reversing three days of decline.
At least 631 of the new cases were from the epicentre of the epidemic in Hubei, including 220 cases from the province’s prison system. Most of the latest deaths were also from the province.
The latest number of infections nationwide has now reached 75,685.
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Earlier, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing in Geneva that the recent decline in the number of new cases was encouraging, but added that it was too early to know if this trend would continue.
“We are encouraged by this trend but this is no time for complacency,” he said.
Here are the latest updates:
Friday, February 21
Iran reports two new deaths, 13 new cases
Iran’s health ministry reported two more deaths among 13 new cases of coronavirus in the Islamic Republic, bringing the total number of deaths to four and infections to 18.”Thirteen new cases have been confirmed,” ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said on Twitter. “Unfortunately two of them have lost their lives.”
Israel confirms first case of new coronavirus
Cruise ship passenger tested positive for coronavirus upon return to Israel. The woman was placed in quarantine, Israeli media reports.
China to re-tally virus count to clear ‘doubt’ around data
China said it would reinsert previously removed cases from its coronavirus tally in the province at the centre of the epidemic after an earlier revision created “doubt” around the data.
The decision is the latest in a string of changes to the counting method used in Hubei over the past nine days – revisions that have further complicated efforts to track the spread of the illness.
Last week, Chinese health officials said patients from the central province who had been diagnosed via clinical methods including lung imaging would be added to the count, on top of those confirmed by lab tests.
Plane lands with Canadians evacuated from Japan virus ship
A chartered plane carrying more than 200 Canadians evacuated from the coronavirus-quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship landed at a military base in Ontario province.
All the passengers who arrived at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, 200km (120 miles) southwest of Ottawa, had tested negative for COVID-19, CBC reported.
They will, however, be quarantined for a further 14 days at the Nav Centre in Cornwall, Ontario, a hotel and conference centre which has previously been used by the government as an emergency shelter, the national broadcaster said.
Two more Italian residents test positive for coronavirus
Two more Italian residents tested positive for coronavirus, Lombardy region said, shortly after the first case of local transmission of the potentially deadly illness was confirmed in Italy.
The wife and a close friend of the initial patient had the virus and were now in quarantine, Giulio Gallera, a member of the local government, said in a statement.
The initial patient fell ill after meeting a friend who had recently returned from China.
N Korea to cancel April marathon over coronavirus fears
North Korea called off its Pyongyang Marathon scheduled for April after imposing a border lockdown and travel curbs to prevent a coronavirus outbreak, a Western tour company said.
In an online statement, Young Pioneer Tours said: “We have received confirmation from our travel partners in North Korea that the Pyongyang Marathon held in April has been cancelled due to the current borders of the DPRK being closed.”
But Pyongyang’s Autumn Marathon set for September is still scheduled to go ahead, added the company, which is one of several foreign operators that run tours to North Korea.
Kyrgyzstan halts issuance of new visas to Chinese nationals
Kyrgyzstan suspended the issuance of new visas to Chinese nationals because of the coronavirus outbreak in the neighbouring country, Kyrgyz news agency Akipress quoted deputy foreign minister Nurlan Abdrakhmanov as saying.
Chinese nationals who already have Kyrgyz visas are still allowed to enter the country, Abdrakhmanov said.
Young Chinese doctor dies of coronavirus
A 29-year-old doctor at the epicentre of China’s new coronavirus outbreak died from the disease, one of the youngest known fatalities of the epidemic and the latest among medical workers.
Peng Yinhua died on Thursday after becoming infected while working at Wuhan’s Jiangxia district People’s No 1 Hospital, official news agency Xinhua reported.
Ukraine minister joins China evacuees in quarantine after clashes
Ukraine’s health minister said she will spend two weeks in quarantine with evacuees from coronavirus-hit China after protesters clashed with police and threw stones at returnees over infection fears.
Kyiv’s efforts to treat 45 nationals and 27 foreigners, mostly from Latin America, in the central Poltava region sparked unrest on Thursday as residents blocked roads and hurled stones at buses carrying the evacuees.
“I will spend the next 14 days with them, in the same premises, under the same conditions,” Health Minister Zoryana Skaletska said late on Thursday in a statement addressed to the residents of Novi Sanzhary.
Read about the clashes here.
China fires officials over spead of coronavirus in prisons
China fired nearly a dozen prison and justice department officials across three provinces due to the emergence of coronavirus infections in prisons, state media reported.
Shandong, Zhejiang and Hubei provinces, the latter of which is the epicentre of the ongoing outbreak, reported a total of 447 infections in prisons, according to the state-run tabloid Global Times.
The paper described the infections as “blind zones” in China’s fight against the coronavirus.
South Korea’s confirmed cases rise to 204
South Korea reported another 48 new cases of the virus, raising its total to 204.
Workers wearing protective suits check the temperature of passengers before they ride a bus near the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship at the Daikoku Pier on February 21 in Yokohama, Japan [Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images]
Italy’s Lombardy region confirms new coronavirus case
An Italian national tested positive for the new coronavirus, a statement of the Lombardy region said.
The 38-year old man was admitted to hospital in the northern town of Codogno and further medical tests are still under way, the region said.
It would be the fourth case confirmed in Italy after two Chinese tourists and another Italian tested positive.
China police handle 274 cases of price gouging, hoarding
China’s police handled 274 cases of illegal commercial practices such as price gouging and hoarding during the coronavirus outbreak, said an official with China’s public security bureau.
Li Jingsheng, the director of the public security administration at the Ministry of Public Security, also said they have dealt with a total of 1,787 cases of illegal wildlife trafficking during the outbreak.
China has temporarily banned all wild animal trade, as the coronavirus is believed to have originated in a seafood market in Wuhan.
Qatar accuses Saudis of hampering access to Gulf meet on coronavirus
Qatar accused Saudi Arabia of allowing a protracted dispute to hinder Gulf Arab coordination over the coronavirus outbreak by denying the Qatari health minister timely access to a meeting of regional health ministers in Riyadh.
Qatar’s foreign ministry said in a post on its official Twitter account that Saudi Arabia had only granted an entry permit to Public Health Minister Hanan al-Kuwari after the meeting at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) General Secretariat on Wednesday had already started.
“We are surprised to see that Saudi is politicising a humanitarian sector, that requires close collaboration and coordination due to the urgency of the situation,” the English-language statement issued on Thursday said.
A security officer measures the temperature of a delivery worker at a residential compound in Beijing [Stringer/Reuters]
Japan to let off last healthy cruise travellers, isolate rest
Japan’s health minister said the last cruise ship passengers who tested negative for a new virus will leave the Diamond Princess on Friday after a much-criticised quarantine of the vessel ended.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told a news conference the mass disembarkation into Japan of passengers from the ship is set to end on Friday, while dozens of foreign passengers are flying back to their home countries on flights chartered by their governments.
Most crew members and other passengers who have not completed their 14-day quarantines because they had more recent contact with infected people are staying on the ship for now, but they will be transported to a government facility to be quarantined in isolation.
Tokyo criticises suggestion that London could host 2020 Olympics
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said it was inappropriate for candidates in London’s mayoral election to propose their city host the 2020 Olympic Games if the coronavirus outbreak forces organisers to look for an alternative site.
Shaun Bailey, the Conservative Party candidate for mayor of the British capital, said London would be ready to host the event if needed.
The International Olympic Committee said the World Health Organization advised it that there was no case for contingency plans to cancel or relocate the Games from Tokyo.
South Korea’s K-League football team postpones matches
South Korea’s top professional football league said it had postponed next week’s opening home matches for Daegu FC and Pohang Steelers due to a surge of coronavirus cases in the southeastern region.
After a meeting of league executives and representatives from the 12 clubs, the K-League said Daegu’s season opener against Gangwon FC on February 29 and Pohang’s meeting with Busan IPark on March 1 would be played later in March or in June.
“We all recognise the gravity of the situation regarding COVID-19,” K-League Secretary General Han Woong-soo was quoted as saying by Yonhap.
Iraq temporarily closes border with Iran
Iraq banned border crossings by Iranian nationals for three days from Thursday amid fears of the coronavirus, Iraq’s state news agency said on Thursday.
The decision came after Iraqi Airways suspended flights to Iran.
Two Iranians who tested positive on Wednesday for the disease have died, while three tested positive on Thursday, taking the total number of confirmed cases in Iran to five, the Iranian health ministry said.
China: Earliest vaccine to be submitted for trials in late April
The earliest vaccine for the coronavirus that has killed more than 2,000 in China alone will be submitted for clinical trials around late April, China’s Vice Science and Technology Minister Xu Nanping said on Friday.
Xu made the remarks during a press briefing.
Zhou Qi, deputy secretary-general of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, also told reporters companies which have resumed operations should ensure proper ventilation and maintain a safe distance among workers.
South Korea reports 52 new cases; Seoul bans rallies
South Korean capital Seoul banned rallies in major downtown areas in efforts to fight the viral outbreak.
The news comes as the country reports 52 new cases of infections, raising its total to 156, after declaring the southern city of Daegu a special zone following an explosion of infections.
South Korea declares Daegu city as ‘special management zone’
South Korea declared Daegu city as a “special management zone” following an explosion in new virus infections.
On Thursday, Daegu reported 23 new cases which were traced to a church that a 61-year-old coronavirus patient had attended.
South Korea currently has at least 82 cases of the infection.
Health officials in Daegu spray disinfectant in front of a church [Daegu Metropolitan City Namgu/AFP]
Australia reports two coronavirus cases from Diamond Princess
Two evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan tested positive for coronavirus in Australia, according to authorities.
Australia on Thursday evacuated 170 citizens from the cruise ship owned by Carnival Corp, who had been confined to their cabins since February 3, when the vessel was quarantined at Yokohama, south of the capital, Tokyo.
After arriving in Australia’s tropical north all passengers were screened and those complaining of being unwell were tested for coronavirus. They will spend the next 14 days in quarantine.
Virus may end ‘by end of March’: Chinese diplomat
China’s Consulate General in Karachi, Pakistan said experts in China believe the “peak of the epidemic (had) already arrived” and it could be over by the end of March.
“I have seen that according to the experts in China, they are saying the peak of the epidemic has already arrived and it will come down no matter from the epicentre and across the whole of China,” Li Bijian said.
“This will [be] coming down this week and next week and the epidemic maybe go over by the end of March,” he added.
Ukraine protesters clash with police over China evacuees
Dozens of people clashed with police outside a hospital in central Ukraine over government plans to quarantine evacuees from coronavirus-hit China in the facility.
Six buses with the evacuees arrived at the medical centre, accompanied by law enforcement officers, a video published by Ukrainian media showed.
The policemen had to disperse the protesters to unblock a road that leads to the hospital and to create a cordon for the vehicles.
WHO says ‘no time for complacency’ as China virus cases fall
A continued decline in the number of new cases of coronavirus infections in China is encouraging, the World Health Organization said but it is too early to know if this trend will continue.
“We are encouraged by this trend but this is no time for complacency,” the WHO’s Ghebreyesus told a briefing in Geneva.
He noted that the number of coronavirus cases in the rest of world was very low compared inside China, but added: “That may not stay the same for very long”.
China backs Pakistan decision not to evacuate students
A Chinese diplomat backed Pakistan’s decision not to evacuate Pakistani students from the province at the centre of China’s coronavirus outbreak, a day after parents confronted government ministers demanding their children be brought home.
Pakistan ruled out bringing back more than 1,000 students in Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, where three-quarters of the more than 2,000 deaths from the outbreak have been recorded.
“If such large number of students come back, this will cost huge health operations for the Pakistani government. If the isolation facilities are not ready, this can cause another outbreak of this virus in Pakistan,” Li Bijian, Consul General of China in Karachi, told reporters.
China sees drop in new virus cases: ‘Control efforts working’
China touted a big drop in new cases of the coronavirus as a sign it has contained the epidemic, but fears grew abroad after two former passengers of a quarantined cruise ship died in Japan and a cluster of infections increased in South Korea.
Chinese officials said this week their drastic containment efforts including quarantining tens of millions of people in Hubei and restricting movements in cities nationwide have started to pay off.
“Results show that our control efforts are working,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a special meeting on the virus with Southeast Asian counterparts in Laos.
“China’s forceful action has contained the spread of the virus inside China and also the spread of the virus to other parts of the world,” Wang said, adding the country “has the capacity and determination to overcome this outbreak at an early date”.
Read the updates from Thursday, February 20 here.