Two people have died in Iran after testing positive for the new coronavirus as the number of fatalities in mainland China rose to 2,004 and passengers began leaving the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship.
A total of 74,185 infections have been recorded in mainland China, most of them in Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan – the epicentre of the outbreak.
Here are all the latest updates:
Click here for February 20 updates.
Wednesday, February 19
Pompeo denounces China’s expulsions of WSJ reporters
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has denounced China’s expulsion of three Wall Street Journal 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 .800 local time (0600 GMT) and be put in quarantine for two weeks. A number of 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 said 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 “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 had beaten the COVID-19 virus.
Read the full story here.
Malaysia firm offers AI-based profiling of Chinese visitors for virus
Malaysia’s MYEG Services Bhd 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.
UNAIDS and China working together during the #coronavavirus outbreak to ensure that people living with HIV continue to get treatment https://t.co/Z1IrV1wcOH#COVID19pic.twitter.com/zxeOz6wUpv
UNAIDS (@UNAIDS) February 19, 2020
China ‘virtual idols’ removed after mockery
The Chinese Communist Party’s Youth League has removed a pair of anime-like characters this week after their introduction amid the coronavirus outbreak unleashed a storm of criticism and mockery online.
The fictitious brother-and-sister duo, dressed in traditional attire and named after characters in poems by Mao Zedong, were rolled out on Monday as “virtual idols” in an apparent attempt to lift spirits as China deals with the outbreak.
“Instead of spending time crafting the idols, I’d rather you make some real contribution to help with Wuhan,” one person wrote in a now-deleted post on Weibo.
China vice premier says Hubei virus control improving, situation still severe
Efforts to prevent and control the coronavirus in China’s Hubei province have made progress but the situation remains severe, Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said, according to state-run CCTV.
Authorities in Beijing are urging both Hubei province and its city of Wuhan to strengthen checks on patients with fever, the broadcaster said.
Coronavirus outbreak slashes China carbon emissions: Study
China’s carbon emissions have dropped by least 100 million metric tonnes over the past two weeks, according to a study published by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) in Finland.
That is nearly 6 percent of global emissions during the same period last year.
“Measures to contain coronavirus have resulted in reductions of 15 percent to 40 percent in output across key industrial sectors,” the report said.
Iran reports its first two cases of new coronavirus
Iranian authorities confirmed two cases of the new coronavirus, the first in the country, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.
The report did not elaborate on the nationality of the two people infected by the virus. ISNA quoted an official in the country’s health ministry, Kianush Jahanpur, as saying that “since last two days, some suspected cases of the new coronavirus were found”.
The two confirmed cases were detected in the central province of Qom.
Olympics could not be held now: Virologist
A Japanese virologist said if the Tokyo Olympics were tomorrow, the games probably could not be held because of the fast-spreading coronavirus.
“We need to find the best way to have a safe Olympics,” Dr Hitoshi Oshitani said, speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan.
“Right now we don’t have an effective strategy, and I think it may be difficult to have the Olympics (now). But by the end of July, we may be in a different situation.”
South Korea coronavirus cases jump by two-thirds in one day
South Korea reported 20 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus – increasing its total by nearly two-thirds – including a cluster of at least 16 centred around the southern city of Daegu.
The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said in a statement that 20 new coronavirus cases had been confirmed, raising its total from 31 to 51.
Japan draws criticism over coronavirus response
As the virus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship is evacuated, Japan faces deepening criticism over its response to the outbreak.
Critics say the government’s response has seemed more concerned with managing public perception than the outbreak. Some of the most pointed criticism has come from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Japan is just months away from hosting the 2020 Olympic Games. “The spread of the virus is wider than the government said,” said Shinichi Niwa, an adjunct professor at Fukushima Medical University.
The government has repeatedly said its response has been appropriate, and some prominent doctors have defended it.
China revokes press credentials of three at Wall Street Journal over opinion piece
China has revoked the press credentials of three Beijing-based reporters for the United States newspaper Wall Street Journal over an editorial headline deemed by the government to be racist and slandering, the foreign ministry said.
Spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily briefing that Beijing made several representations to the newspaper over the column, which criticised its efforts to combat the coronavirus epidemic – but the Journal failed to apologise or investigate those responsible.
The move follows a complaint about the headline, which referred to the current outbreak in China and called the country the: “Real Sick Man of Asia”.
‘Terrible situation’: Pakistani students say Imran Khan-led government ignoring them
Pakistani students in China say their government is “continuously ignoring and they have disowned us” amid the new coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Wuhan, medical student Rahatullah Khan said students made repeated attempts to reach out to Pakistani authorities, but no “responsible person has contacted us”.
Khan said students from other countries were being evacuated except for Pakistanis – and it was their “constitutional right to be evacuated” by their government.
“They are treating us like we are not Pakistanis,” Khan added.
US warns of ‘ongoing risk’ after Japan evacuates victims
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warned Japan’s release of hundreds of passengers on board a cruise-liner carrying coronavirus victims posed a threat.
The CDC said there was an “ongoing risk” and keeping the 3,700 passengers on board the ship could have slowed new infections. But it added it “may not have been sufficient to prevent transmission among individuals on the ship”.
“To protect the health of the American public, all passengers and crew of the ship have been placed under travel restrictions, preventing them from returning to the United States for at least 14 days after they had left the Diamond Princess,” CDC said in a statement.
New virus cases in China fall again as deaths top 2,000
New virus cases in China continue to fall with 1,749 more infections and 136 additional deaths announced.
New cases have fallen to less than 2,000 for the past two days, but officials and analysts have warned the threat of a more serious outbreak remains as workers gradually return to work following a prolonged Lunar New Year holiday.
Cities in Hubei with a combined population of more than 60 million have been under lockdown since the Lunar New Year holiday last month. “Wartime” measures were implemented in some places where residents were prevented from leaving their apartments.
Wuhan official vows punishment if authorities fail to halt spread
The top official in China’s outbreak epicentre promised to find and isolate every infected patient in the city by day’s end.
Protective suit-clad inspectors went door-to-door to find every infected person.
“There’s nothing more important than human life,” said Wang Zhonglin, Wuhan’s newly selected Communist Party secretary. “If a single new case is found [after Wednesday], the district leaders will be held responsible.”
Hundreds of cruise passengers in Cambodia test negative for virus
Nearly 800 passengers who had been on board the cruise ship Holland America Line’s Westerdam, currently docked in Cambodia, have tested negative for the coronavirus, the health ministry said.
Or Vandine, spokeswoman of the Cambodian health ministry, said the department was waiting on additional lab results for other passengers, without specifying how many were pending.
The dispersal of those who had already left for various countries has caused concern they might be undetected carriers of the virus, and health authorities in several nations were tracing them to take protective measures.
Passengers begin leaving Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan
Relieved passengers began leaving a coronavirus-wracked cruise ship in Japan after testing negative for the disease.
The Diamond Princess has proved a fertile breeding ground for the virus with at least 542 positive cases, and Japan has faced mounting criticism for its quarantine arrangements as the passengers disperse.
“I’m relieved … I want to take a good rest,” a 77-year-old Japanese passenger, who declined to give his name. He said he would be boarding Japan’s famously crowded railway system to go home.
Hong Kong records second coronavirus death
Hong Kong recorded its second death caused by the new coronavirus on Wednesday, a Princess Margaret Hospital spokeswoman told Reuters.
The 70-year-old man, who had underlying illnesses, was one of the 62 confirmed cases in the Chinese-ruled city.
South Korea reports 10 new cases of coronavirus
South Korea has confirmed about 10 new cases of the coronavirus and will announce the positive test results later on Wednesday, Yonhap news agency reported, citing unnamed health officials.
The new cases are in the city of Daegu and the surrounding North Gyeongsang province, Yonhap said.
An official at South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declined to confirm the Yonhap report.
South Korea has reported 31 cases of coronavirus infections and no deaths as of late Tuesday.
Read the updates from Tuesday, February 18 here.