Japan confirms its first death from the coronavirus.
The Japanese authorities announced on Thursday the first death in the country from the new coronavirus.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said at a news conference that a woman in her 80s who lived in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, had died that day.
Her death is the third from the coronavirus outside mainland China, after one each in the Philippines and Hong Kong. The Japanese woman had no record of travel to mainland China.
Japanese officials also said on Thursday that dozens of new cases had been confirmed, including 44 more on a cruise ship quarantined off Yokohama.
Mr. Kato said that one of the new cases not tied to the cruise ship was a taxi driver in his 70s in Tokyo who tested positive for the virus on Thursday.
Mr. Kato said on Thursday that the authorities would begin allowing some cruise ship passengers to serve out the remainder of the quarantine period onshore.
Mr. Kato said that passengers 80 or older who have existing medical conditions or who were assigned to cabins without windows or balconies would stay in onshore quarantine facilities until Feb. 19 if they test negative for the virus. Those who test positive will be taken to hospitals.
The cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, arrived in Yokohama on Feb. 3, and passengers were expecting to go home the next day. But after learning that a man who got off the ship in Hong Kong had tested positive for the coronavirus, the Japanese government quarantined all 3,700 people aboard. As of Thursday, 218 coronavirus cases have been confirmed on the ship.
Separately on Thursday, another cruise ship, the Westerdam, which had been denied permission to stop in Japan, Guam, Taiwan and the Philippines despite having no diagnoses of coronavirus, was able to dock in Cambodia.
Provincial leader at the center of the outbreak was ousted.
China’s ruling Communist Party fired the leaders of Hubei Province and Wuhan, its largest city, on Thursday amid widespread public anger over the handling of the coronavirus outbreak in the region.
Jiang Chaoliang, the party secretary of Hubei Province, is the highest-ranking official to lose his job over the handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 1,300 people in recent weeks.
After the outbreak first emerged in Wuhan, the leadership came under intense scrutiny for playing down the virus and delaying reports of its spread. The province then took drastic measures that included imposing a lockdown on Wuhan, a city of 11 million, and on tens of millions of people in surrounding areas.
For hospitals in Wuhan, already overwhelmed with patients, that cordon worsened a shortage of medical supplies.
Mr. Jiang will be replaced by Ying Yong, the mayor of Shanghai. The selection of Mr. Ying may underline the continued political control of Xi Jinping, China’s top leader. Before being transferred to Shanghai in a fairly senior role in 2008, Mr. Ying had come up through the political ranks in Zhejiang Province, Mr. Xi’s political base.
The party also ousted Ma Guoqiang, the top official in Wuhan, and replaced him with Wang Zhonglin, formerly the party secretary of the eastern city of Jinan.
Number of cases in Hubei Province soars with new diagnostic methods.
The number of people confirmed to have the coronavirus in Hubei Province, the center of the outbreak, skyrocketed by 14,840 cases, to 48,206, the government said on Thursday, setting a new daily record. The announcement came after the authorities changed the diagnostic criteria for counting new cases.
Nationally, the new figures propelled the total number of coronavirus cases in China to 59,805 and the death toll to 1,367. The jump in new cases puts extra pressure on the government to treat thousands of patients, many of whom are in mass quarantine centers or in isolation facilities.
The sudden uptick is a result of the government including cases diagnosed in clinical settings, including with the use of CT scans, along with those confirmed with specialized testing kits.
After the sudden change, epidemiologists warned that the true picture of the epidemic is muddled, since accurately tracking cases can tell experts the number, location and speed at which new infections are occurring.
Health experts said the change in reporting is meant to provide a more accurate view of the transmissibility of the virus. The new criteria is intended to give doctors broader discretion to diagnose patients, and more crucially, isolate patients to quickly treat them.
Previously, infections were confirmed only with a positive result from a nucleic acid test. But a government expert said those tests were about 30 to 40 percent accurate. There is also a shortage of testing kits, and the results of these tests takes at least two days.
Because hospitals were overstretched and lacked testing kits, many infected patients were told to go home rather than be isolated and undergo treatment.
Many patients displaying symptoms of the coronavirus have complained that they had to wait days, and even weeks, to be tested and receive treatment. Others, including the recently deceased whistle-blower Dr. Li Wenliang, said they had to be tested four or five times before the tests showed a positive result.
British officials say delaying the onset of an outbreak is a top priority.
A day after the authorities in Britain announced that a ninth person in the country had tested positive for coronavirus, officials were working to trace anyone who had come into close contact with that person, saying that limiting the virus’s spread was a top priority.
England’s chief health official, Prof. Chris Whitty, told a BBC 4 radio program that containment and isolation were main concerns, and officials were focusing on how to control any potential coronavirus outbreak in Britain while containing current cases.
“If we are going to get an outbreak here in the U.K. — and this is an if, not a when — then putting it back in time, into the summer period away from the winter pressures on the N.H.S., buying us a bit more time to understand the virus better, possibly having some seasonal advantage, is a big advantage,” he said, referring to the National Health Service.
The first group of 83 people who returned to Britain from the Chinese province of Hubei after the virus was discovered were to be released from quarantine in a hospital near Liverpool, England, on Thursday, health officials said.
Elsewhere in Europe, officials were taking similar measures. Dr. Andrea Ammon, director of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, said that her organization was carrying out regular risk assessments to help countries decide what measures were necessary.
“In general, quarantine measures, if implemented comprehensively, can be effective in limiting and slowing the introduction of novel pathogens into a population,” she said.
“Of course if we have multiple introductions or spread within a country,” she added, “then quarantine is not likely to be an effective measure.”
Taiwan extends a ban on the export of protective masks.
Taiwan will extend a ban on exports of face masks through April, the government said on Thursday. The move comes as officials and institutions around the world are scrambling to ensure adequate supplies of masks for medical workers and other vulnerable groups.
Taiwan initially imposed a monthlong prohibition on mask exports on Jan. 24, a move that was condemned by state media and online commentators in mainland China.
Taiwan companies produce about a fifth of the face masks available worldwide, while the island itself has only 0.3 percent of the global population. The mismatch appears to have fed the criticism.
“Little Taiwan lacks conscience — it takes the benefit when the mainland gives it and if we have a problem, they walk away,” one user wrote last week on Chinese social media, referring to mainland China.
But officials in Taiwan, a self-governed democracy that denies Beijing’s claims of sovereignty, say it still has a problem: Its manufacturers produce most of their masks in factories in mainland China, not in Taiwan. Those masks are now being requisitioned by the local authorities in the mainland for use in high-risk settings.
According to data from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, 53 percent of masks used in Taiwan last year were produced domestically, and the rest were imported, mostly from mainland China. Demand has soared faster than production so far this year.
Taiwan already has a form of mask rationing, with each resident permitted to buy two surgical masks a week. Health cards with computer chips are used by pharmacies across the island to control purchases.
Hong Kong and Singapore rugby tournaments are delayed.
The Hong Kong Sevens and the Singapore Sevens rugby tournaments will be postponed to October from April because of the coronavirus outbreak, the sport’s governing body said Thursday.
The Hong Kong Sevens is one of the city’s biggest sporting — and partying — events, drawing in rugby fans from around the world. The decision to postpone was made “in order to help protect the global rugby community and the wider public,” World Rugby said in a statement.
Hong Kong, which now has 51 confirmed cases of the virus and one death, has closed or restricted a variety of public activities in response to the outbreak. Horse racing continues at Hong Kong Jockey Club tracks, one of the city’s other major sporting draws. But attendance is limited to a few hundred horse owners and guests, in addition to trainers, jockeys and officials.
Singapore confirmed eight new cases of the virus on Thursday, all linked to previous cases, bringing the total to 58.
South Korea quarantines hundreds of soldiers with links to China.
About 740 South Korean soldiers were under quarantine on Thursday as the country’s military tried to prevent an outbreak of the coronavirus among its ranks.
South Korea keeps a 600,000-strong army, largely filled with conscripts, as a bulwark against the threat from North Korea. Most of these soldiers live in communal barracks. After the outbreak in China, South Korea moved quickly to prevent the virus from infiltrating its military and undermining its readiness.
So far, no South Korean soldier has tested positive. The rest of the country has reported 28 confirmed cases, and no deaths. South Korea has reported no new cases in the past two days. North Korea has said it was also taking measures against the virus but has not released any official figures.
The quarantined soldiers included those who have visited mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau in recent weeks or those who have been in close contact with relatives or others who have been to China or tested positive for the virus.
Parade of workers sprays disinfectant across Wuhan, but experts question its effectiveness.
Mist cannons and water sprinkler trucks have been deployed to clean the streets of Wuhan, China, but experts said the effectiveness of such measures may be limited in preventing the spread of the illness.
Since Sunday, workers in Wuhan have been sanitizing public areas twice a day in an effort to disinfect the city. Public toilets as well as garbage disposal sites and transfer stations are sprayed at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., according to the local government’s official page on Weibo, a microblogging platform. Workers will spray disinfectant onto the main roads, at hospitals and around various isolation quarters as well.
Video footage shared by Chinese state media showed parades of trucks and workers in protective suits spraying plumes of white mist into the air and onto the streets of Wuhan. The city government said that by Tuesday a total of 21,130 liters of disinfectant and 720 liters of toilet cleaning products had already been used.
“I think it could help to reduce environmental contamination with coronavirus, but we have not yet seen evidence that coronavirus has been spreading through the environment,” said Benjamin Cowling, a professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong.
“Our current understanding is that most transmission occurs via prolonged close contact with infected persons,” he added.
A Chinese province uses tech to tracks residents’ movements.
Officials in the southwestern province of Yunnan announced a plan to require residents to scan a QR-like code on their phones to enter public places as part of their effort to stop the virus’s spread.
The new program will “allow big data to become the ‘piercing eyes’ of epidemic prevention and control,” the Yunnan government said in a statement on Wednesday.
The program has already begun in the county of Luliang, and more than 5,600 scans have been performed at hundreds of venues, the statement said. In the next 12 days, it will be implemented across a broad variety of public venues, including medical facilities, hotels, malls, supermarkets, transport checkpoints, remote villages and farmers’ markets.
Residents who refuse to scan their codes could be barred entry or exit, and those who try to force their way through could face legal consequences, People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party newspaper, said on the social platform Weibo.
Photographs shared on Wednesday by a party-run newspaper in the city of Lijiang in Yunnan showed sheets of paper emblazoned with the codes, labeled “enter” and “exit,” plastered across walls and counters.
Videos of Xinjiang medical workers in Wuhan raise questions about their depiction.
Video of medical workers from the Xinjiang region dancing with patients at a coronavirus hospital in Wuhan have prompted scrutiny of their roles helping with the outbreak.
A team of 142 medical professionals from Xinjiang traveled to Wuhan on Jan. 28 to help treat people infected with the new virus, and at least two more teams have followed.
As more people in Wuhan have been placed into mass quarantine, a number of videos have emerged showing the Xinjiang workers leading healthier patients in dance routines to get some exercise and ease boredom.
One of the leaders of the Xinjiang team told Xinhua, the state-run news service, that a patient had asked her to lead a dance. The leader, Bahaguli Tuolehui, seen in the video below, said she chose a Kazakh dance, the Kara Jorga. The patients “have done square dances before in the hospital,” she said. “I felt a Xinjiang dance would be pretty good, too.”
But to some Uighurs outside China, the videos were a reminder of the simplistic way Turkic minorities can be depicted inside the country, even in a time of emergency.
“That’s what China strives to achieve: not only to portray but also to force the entire Uyghur nation to become nothing but singers, dancers and menial workers,” Kamalturk Yalqun, a Uighur living in Philadelphia, wrote on Twitter.
China has put a million or more Uighurs, Kazakhs and other predominately Muslim groups into indoctrination camps in Xinjiang, part of a campaign to enforce loyalty while eroding minority languages, religions and cultures.
Former inmates have described harsh conditions in detention, stirring concern that the spread of the virus within Xinjiang could prove dire in the camps. Xinjiang has thus far reported 55 coronavirus infections.
Reporting and research was contributed by Gillian Wong, Chris Buckley, Sui-Lee Wee, Steven Lee Myers, Keith Bradsher, Austin Ramzy, Choe Sang-Hun, Amber Wang, Zoe Mou, Albee Zhang, Yiwei Wang, Claire Fu, Amy Qin, Elaine Yu, Makiko Inoue, Hisako Ueno, Eimi Yamamitsu, Motoko Rich, Megan Specia, and Tariro Mzezewai.
- Most coronavirus cases are mild, complicating the response – The Washington Post
- Coronavirus may have much longer incubation period–which would mean quarantines have been too short – The Hill
- Coronavirus contagion fears in Silicon Valley – Vox.com
- Map: New coronavirus tool compares growth of virus to SARS, H1N1 and Ebola – The Mercury News
- Reporting on the Coronavirus: Spreading Truth, Not Panic – The New York Times
- Update: ‘A bit chaotic.’ Christening of new coronavirus and its disease name create confusion – Science Magazine
- Images of new coronavirus just released – Livescience.com
- How the Coronavirus Numbers Changed So Sharply – The New York Times
- Coronavirus disease 2019 – World Health Organization