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Coronavirus quarantine ends for most on cruise ship in Japan as global deaths top 2,100

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Japan coronavirus cruise ship quarantine lifted 03:20

Follow Thursday's updates on the coronavirus outbreak here.

There are almost 75,000 people infected with the new coronavirus as of Wednesday night, and it's killed more than 2,100. The vast majority of cases are in China, but even as a quarantine ended for hundreds of people on a cruise ship with the biggest outbreak outside China, dozens more passengers tested positive, and a new cluster of cases emerged in South Korea.

Global health officials have voiced cautious optimism as the daily rate of new infections in China has declined for two days in a row, and authorities have waged an aggressive campaign to find any cases still lurking in the locked-down epicenter city of Wuhan. The World Health Organization warned, however, that the decline could reverse, and the biggest concern has been that the COVID-19 disease could start spreading significantly among people in communities outside China.

Japanese officials said another 79 cases were confirmed on the Diamond Princess cruise ship Wednesday, bringing the new total to 621. Wednesday marked the end of the two-week quarantine imposed on the vessel when it docked in Japan, and about 500 passengers who tested negative for the virus were allowed off the ship. On Wednesday night, Japanese state media reported that two of the ship's former passengers, both in their 80s, had died. 

A passenger disembarks from the Diamond Princess cruise ship - in quarantine due to fears of the new COVID-19 coronavirus - at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama on February 19, 2020.  Getty

Almost 340 American passengers have been brought back to the U.S. At least 14 of them were confirmed to have the coronavirus in Japan but as of Wednesday, the CDC hadn't updated its total from the 15 people diagnosed before the evacuees arrived. More than 100 American cruise passengers who remained on the ship in Japan or were taken off and hospitalized in that country have to wait another two weeks before they can return to the U.S.


Mayor of large South Korean city urges residents to stay indoors as virus spreads

The mayor of the South Korean city of Daegu is urging its 2.5 million people to refrain from going outside as cases of the new coronavirus spike. Kwon Young-jin also urged residents to wear masks even indoors if possible. 

He expressed fears that the rising infections in the region will soon overwhelm the city's health infrastructure and he called for urgent help from the central government in Seoul. 

Kwon said infection-control efforts focused on blocking the virus from China were inadequate to stop the spread of the disease in local communities.

Kwon spoke after the southeastern city and its nearby towns reported 35 additional cases of the new coronavirus, many of them people who went to church services attended by a previously confirmed virus patient.

-- The Assocated Press


Indonesia to evacuate 74 people from Diamond Princess cruise ship

One of Indonesia's senior ministers said Thursday that the country is "committed" to evacuating the 74 Indonesian nationals on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, Reuters reports. 

The ship remains docked off the coast of Japan, although hundreds of passengers were allowed to evacuate Wednesday. Muhadjir Effendy, Indonesia's chief development minister, said the government isn't yet sure whether it will evacuate its citizens by boat or by plane, Reuters said.

A foreign ministry official said four Indonesians who were part of the ship's crew had been diagnosed with the coronavirus, according to Reuters.


Two former Diamond Princess passengers have died of coronavirus, Japanese media say

Two elderly passengers taken off the Diamond Princess cruise ship because they were infected with the new coronavirus have died, Japan's Health Ministry said Thursday, making them the first fatalities from the virus-stricken vessel.

Japan's NHK public television said both were Japanese and in their 80s.

A Health Ministry official only confirmed that they had been previously hospitalized in serious condition and had existing chronic diseases. The official spoke to The Associated Press anonymously, citing office protocol.

-- The Associated Press


Washington state hospital preparing for handful of patients with coronavirus

Five people who have tested positive for coronavirus are on their way to a medical center in Washington state. The Spokane Regional Health District and Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane was chosen "because of its secured airborne infection isolation rooms," according to the hospital's statement.

CBS affiliate KREM-TV said Wednesday that the hospital is among 10 in the country with a specialized unit. The station said normal hospital operations will remain unaffected.

"The health workers at Sacred Heart in Spokane are trained to offer the safest, highest quality care to their patients," the Washington state department of health said in a statement.

 It wasn't immediately clear from where the patients originated.

By Peter Martinez

China announces 114 new deaths, 394 new confirmed cases

Chinese officials announced 114 new deaths and 394 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday. That brings the global death toll to at least 2,125, and the total number of confirmed cases to at least 75,576. 

By Victoria Albert

South Korea reports 31 new cases of coronavirus

South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday reported 31 new cases of coronavirus, according to the Reuters news agency. The country now has at least 82 cases of the infection.

Reuters pointed out that 23 of the new cases are linked to church services where an infected person who tested positive attended in the city of Daegu.


Coronavirus death toll rises to at least 2,119 as more cases reported in China's Hubei province

Hubei province has announced an additional 108 deaths, bringing the global death toll to at least 2,119 (including two in Iran). Chinese health officials also said there are 349 new cases of coronavirus in the region, bringing the global total to at least 75,553.


Coronavirus economic hit could exceed $1 trillion

As the coronavirus outbreak widens, a range of technology, apparel and other companies said the mass epidemic and public lockdown in China is hurting their sales. But that could be only the beginning of the economic fallout, experts warn.

Worldwide economic growth could plunge more than $1 trillion if the disease caused by the virus, known as COVID-19, continues to spread and becomes a global pandemic, according to Oxford Economics.

The outbreak has already had "a significant chilling effect on growth in China," trimming the country's annual growth forecast to 5.4%, down from 6% prior to the epidemic, Oxford economists Adam Slater and Neil Walker said in a report.

They said if the outbreak expands beyond China but is largely confined to Asia, the impact could shave global GDP by 0.5%, or about $400 billion. But if COVID-19 expands beyond Asia and takes root in other countries, global growth would fall $1.1 trillion, or about 1.3%, the research firm estimates.

By Aimee Picchi

Coronavirus kills Chinese film director and his family

A Chinese film director has died from the coronavirus in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, reportedly after nursing other members of his family who died of the disease caused by the virus. Chang Kai, a director at Hubei Film Studios, died at a hospital in the locked-down city at the age of 55, according to a statement from the company.

Chang's father, mother and sister also died from the disease, Chinese financial news outlet Caixin reported. His father first exhibited symptoms January 25, but was turned away at hospitals because of a lack of beds, leaving him to fight the disease at home. He died days later, followed by Chang's mother, who also succumbed to the illness.

After caring for their parents, Chang and his sister were infected with the coronavirus; according to Caixin, Chang died on Friday, and hours later, so did his sibling. Chang's wife also contracted the virus and was listed in serious condition.

By Christopher Brito

Russia says entry ban won't apply to all Chinese nationals

People walk along Arbat pedestrian street in downtown Moscow on February 19, 2020.
People walk along Arbat pedestrian street in downtown Moscow on February 19, 2020. Getty

Russia's entry ban for Chinese nationals will be partial and only affect those who travel with tourist, private, student and work visas, the country's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday, clarifying the conditions of a sweeping entry ban for Chinese citizens announced the day before. Visitors with official, business, humanitarian and transit visas will still be allowed into the country, the ministry said.

The ban goes into effect on Thursday at midnight Moscow time. The measure is one of many Russia has taken to keep the virus from spreading.

The country so far has reported three confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease caused by the new coronavirus — two Chinese citizens in Russia who were treated and released and a Russian national infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Russia has suspended all trains to China and North Korea, shut down its land border with China and Mongolia and extended a school vacation for Chinese students until March 1.

— The Associated Press


2 elderly Iranians die of coronavirus, state news agency reports

The coronavirus has killed two elderly Iranian citizens, Iran's state-run IRNA news agency reported Wednesday. IRNA quoted Alireza Vahabzadeh, an adviser to the country's health minister, as saying that both victims had been carrying the virus and were located in Qom, about 86 miles south of the capital Tehran.

No additional details were released. Earlier on Wednesday, Iranian authorities confirmed two cases of the new virus, the first in the country, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

Officials later said the two patients had died. Elsewhere in the Middle East, nine cases have been confirmed in the United Arab Emirates, seven of them Chinese nationals, one Indian and one Filipino, while Egypt's Health Ministry confirmed its first case last Friday.

— The Associated Press


China orders local officials to find every single virus case lurking in Wuhan

Protective suit-clad inspectors in the epicenter of China's viral outbreak went door-to-door Wednesday to find every infected person in the central city suffering most from an epidemic that is showing signs of waning as new cases fell for a second day.

Wuhan, where the new form of coronavirus emerged, is on the final day of a campaign to root out anyone with symptoms whom authorities may have missed so far.

"This must be taken seriously," said Wang Zhonglin, the city's newly minted Communist Party secretary. "If a single new case is found (after Wednesday), the district leaders will be held responsible."

Workers transfer medical waste at Leishenshan Hospital, the newly-built makeshift hospital for novel coronavirus patients, in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on February 18, 2020. Getty

His remarks were published on Hubei's provincial website, alongside the declaration: "If the masses cannot mobilize, it's impossible to fight a people's war."

— The Associated Press


WHO hails "progress" in fighting virus, but says no "turning point yet"

The World Health Organization on Wednesday hailed "tremendous progress" in the fight against the deadly new coronavirus since it emerged in China in December.

"We are making tremendous progress in a short period of time... trends are very encouraging but we are not at a turning point yet," said Richard Brennan, WHO's regional emergency director, at a press conference in Cairo. 

In response to Chinese efforts to contain the virus, he said that Beijing "has really thrown its weight behind the outbreak" and that reports of concealing the severity of the disease are "frankly unwarranted." 



Japanese official defends "quite effective" cruise ship quarantine

One of Japan's top health officials told CBS News on Wednesday that his country had "entered a new phase" in efforts to control the spread of the deadly new coronavirus, and he defended the quarantining of a cruise ship that turned into a floating outbreak of the disease.

Community Health Director Dr. Shigeru Omi told CBS News that data from Japan's Health Ministry shows most of the infections on the ship "took place before the quarantine measures" were implemented on February 5, and he said "as far as the effectiveness of this isolation, the policy in practice, I think this isolation was quite effective in preventing the spread of disease within in the ship." 

As of Wednesday 621 people from the cruise had been diagnosed with the COVID-19 disease.

Passengers are seen at the cruise ship Diamond Princess, where dozens of passengers were tested positive for coronavirus, at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama
Passengers are seen on the cruise ship Diamond Princess, on which hundreds of passengers have tested positive for coronavirus, at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan, on February 16, 2020. Reuters

Omi said the virus' dramatic spread on the quarantined ship was down largely to the fact that it is so contagious — transmissible even by someone in which it is still incubating, and who may be showing no symptoms at all.

He said efforts should focus on making the disease less deadly by quickly diagnosing cases and treating those at highest risk, considered to be the elderly and those with underlying health problems.

By Tucker Reals

China kicks out 3 Wall Street Journal reporters over coronavirus op-ed

China on Wednesday ordered three reporters from the Wall Street Journal to leave the country over what Beijing deemed a racist headline, in one of the harshest moves against foreign media in years. The expulsion came as Beijing slammed Washington's decision to tighten rules on Chinese state media organisations in the United States, calling the move "unreasonable and unacceptable".

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the Journal op-ed — titled "China is the Real Sick Man of Asia" — had a "racially discriminatory" and "sensational" headline, and slammed the newspaper for not issuing an official apology.

The Journal reported that deputy bureau chief Josh Chin and reporter Chao Deng, both U.S. nationals, as well as reporter Philip Wen, an Australian, had been ordered to leave the country in five days. The three journalists are in the Wall Street Journal's news section, which is not linked to the editorial and opinion section. 

University student from California stuck in China during coronavirus outbreak 02:38

The op-ed, written by Bard College professor Walter Russell Mead, criticized the Chinese government's initial response to the new coronavirus outbreak — calling the Wuhan city government at the virus epicenter "secretive and self-serving," while dismissing national efforts as ineffective. 



U.S. troops in South Korea warned of virus outbreak linked to church

U.S. military personnel in South Korea have been warned about an outbreak of the new coronavirus in the southern city of Daegu, where the U.S. troops are stationed.

General Robert Abrams, commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, said all service members who attended services since February 9 at a large church in Daegu which has been linked to the outbreak would "undergo a mandatory self-quarantine," which he said was also "highly recommended for family members, civilians and contractors," until Korean health officials finished their work to trace anyone who might have been exposed to the COVID-19 disease.

"All service member's non-essential travel to and from Daegu will be prohibited, and off-installation travel minimized; I highly request all family members, civilians and contractors do likewise regarding their travel as well," Abrams said in a statement provided to CBS News on Wednesday.

Workers from a disinfection service company sanitize a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony where a woman known as "Patient 31" attended a service in Daegu
Workers from a disinfection service sanitize a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony where a woman known as "Patient 31" attended a service in Daegu, South Korea, February 19, 2020. STRINGER/Yonhap

"All visitors who are not performing mission essential or official business will be denied access to USAG-Daegu and Area IV military installations for the next 24 hours, and this directive will be reassessed every 24 hours," he said.

At least 14 of the new cases confirmed in South Korea on Wednesday were members of the Daegu church congregation, which holds regular services hosting at least 450 people.

Abrams elevated the alert level for all U.S. forces in South Korea to "moderate" on Wednesday, as a precautionary measure against the virus.

By Tucker Reals

Official says "dishonest" new coronavirus is a difficult disease to control

More than 500 passengers who tested negative for the new coronavirus were allowed off the Diamond Princess cruise ship Wednesday in Japan, and more will follow over the next few days.

Japan has been criticized by some medical experts who say their quarantine methods led to a further spread of the virus on the ship, which is home to the largest cluster of infections outside China. But Japan's Community Health Director, Dr. Shigeru Omi, has documents from the Ministry of Health showing most of the transmissions occurred on the vessel before the quarantine even began two weeks ago.  

Omi calls the new COVID-19 a "dishonest" disease, because it doesn't always reveal itself.

Most coronaviruses are not contagious during their incubation period in a human host, Omi told CBS News correspondent Debora Patta, "but in this case, during the incubation period, they can infect others. The person with very minor symptoms or with very little symptoms can sometimes affect others. So this is a very difficult virus to deal with. So this is a very difficult virus to deal with."

By Tucker Reals

South Korea has cluster of new virus cases linked to religious group

South Korea was hit with 20 new confirmed cases of the deadly coronavirus on Wednesday, as a cluster emerged that appeared linked to a single member of a religious group. 

There were at least 38 people being treated for the COVID-19 disease in South Korea as of Wednesday. 

The 31st person confirmed to have the virus in the country was a 61-year-old woman from the city of Daegu, about 150 miles south of the capital Seoul. She is a member of a religious sect called the "Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony." 

Workers from a disinfection service company sanitize a street in front of a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony where a woman known as "Patient 31" attended a service in Daegu
Workers from a disinfection service company sanitize a street in front of a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony where a woman known as "Patient 31" attended a service in Daegu, South Korea, February 19, 2020. Reuters

It remained unclear how or when she contracted the disease, but she has no recent history of travel to China. Before her diagnosis was confirmed, the woman recently continued to attend her church services with about 500 other people, traveled to Seoul by train, and attended a wedding with hundreds of guests in Daegu. 

Of the 15 new virus cases now confirmed in Daegu, 14 are also members of her religious group.

- Jen Kwon


Iran reports first cases of new coronavirus

Iranian authorities confirmed on Wednesday 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, Kiyanoush Jahanpour, as saying that "since last two days, some suspected cases of the new coronavirus were found."

Jahanpour did not say how many people were suspected of having the virus, which causes the illness recently named COVID-19. He said the two confirmed cases were detected in the central province of Qom. 

Associated Press 


Japan says 79 new virus cases on cruise ship as quarantine ends

Japan's national health commission said Wednesday that an additional 79 cases of the new coronavirus had been confirmed on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship. It brought the total number of cases on the ship to 621, even as the two-week quarantine on the vessel lifted, enabling hundreds of passengers who have tested negative for the virus to disembark.

Japan quarantined the Diamond Princess two weeks ago when it docked in Yokahama, after a previous passenger who had already disembarked in Hong Kong tested positive for the deadly virus.

Since then daily tests have shown the disease continuing to spread on the vessel, bringing criticism of the decision to quarantine it in the first place and suspicion that control measures were not strictly enough enforced on board.

By Tucker Reals

Hundreds of passengers disembark Diamond Princess cruise ship

Hundreds of passengers began leaving the Diamond Princess cruise ship Wednesday after the end of a much-criticized, two-week quarantine that failed to stop the spread of a new virus among passengers and crew. Officials still were continuing tests for the coronavirus that has infected tens of thousands of people in China and more than 540 on the ship.
Some passengers said on Twitter they received health check forms asking if they had symptoms such as a headache, fever or coughing. Passengers who tested negative and had no symptoms of the disease still had to get their body temperature checked before leaving.

Some Americans who tested positive for coronavirus are under isolation in Japan 05:33

Japanese officials will spend several days staging the high-stakes evacuation of about 2,500 people who've been kept aboard the ship at the Yokohama port near Tokyo after one passenger who departed the ship earlier in Hong Kong was found to have the virus.

— The Associated Press


California reports another confirmed coronavirus case

Officials in Napa County, California, confirmed a case of coronavirus Tuesday night. The patient is one of the recent evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that arrived in the U.S. this week. 

The patient is under isolation at Queen of the Valley Medical Center, officials said in a statement. That patient tested positive for the virus in Japan, but has not experienced any symptoms. Another patient who has reported symptoms is under investigation at the hospital — but that patient tested negative for the virus in Japan. 

Neither of the patients are residents of Napa County. Officials did not provide their state of origin.

Of the cruise ship passengers flown to Travis Air Force Base, seven were identified as requiring testing or hospitalization. Five were sent to local hospitals. The two patients at Queen of the Valley were sent there due to a limited number of isolation beds in the county, officials said. 

By Victoria Albert

China announces 136 new deaths, 1,749 new cases

Chinese officials announced 136 new deaths and 1,749 new cases of the novel coronavirus Tuesday. That brings the global death toll to at least 2,009, and the total number of cases to at least 75,081. 

By Victoria Albert

Wall Street's growing fear: Coronavirus "to get worse before it gets better"

Concerns are growing on Wall Street that the coronavirus could cause serious economic damage beyond China, with analysts warning that the deadly outbreak is unlikely to recede anytime soon.

"Consensus is that this coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) is going to get worse before it gets better," Raymond James analysts said Tuesday in a note to investors. "It seems as though the market is under-appreciating the potential dangers and what the key government leaders on the virus are saying."  

Amplifying those concerns: This week's guidance from Apple — a bellwether both for the high-tech industry and the broader U.S. economy — that the iPhone maker would miss its quarterly sales target because of the virus's impact on the company's sales and production in China. Apple shares fell nearly 2% on Tuesday. 

By Kate Gibson
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