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Coronavirus cases top 60,000 as death toll spikes

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Follow Thursday's updates on the coronavirus outbreak here.

The fight against the novel coronavirus took a turn for the worse on Wednesday night, as Chinese health officials in the Hubei province reported 242 new deaths and 14,840 new cases of the flu-like virus. That brings the worldwide death toll to at least 1,357 and the number of confirmed cases to more than 60,000. 

The rise in cases comes as Chinese officials broadened their definition of confirmed cases. Now, lung imaging can be used to diagnose the virus in a suspected patient, in addition to the standard nucleic acid tests, according to AFP. 

Chinese officials said 13,332 of the new cases and just over half the new death toll can be attributed to the new classification, AFP reported. 

The announcement comes after China had said the number of new cases confirmed inside the country had declined for two days in a row. All but two deaths from the disease, now officially named COVID-19, occurred in mainland China. The only other fatalities have been in the Philippines and Hong Kong.

As of Tuesday, there were only two clusters of the virus outside of China; one on a cruise ship docked off the coast of Japan, and a handful of cases in southern England. At least 174 people from the cruise have been diagnosed with the disease, and hundreds more were being tested.

The CDC also announced Wednesday that another American evacuee from Wuhan, China, had been diagnosed with the coronavirus, bringing the total number of U.S. cases to 14. Although that evacuee had been quarantined at the same base as another coronavirus patient, the CDC said there is no evidence of contact between the two. 

See more: Full coverage and latest stories on the coronavirus

The World Health Organization gathered top disease specialists Tuesday for a second day of brainstorming in Geneva to try and answer questions about the new disease. The agency's boss opened the meetings with a plea for global unity against "a common enemy that does not respect borders or ideologies."

Chinese paramilitary police officers transfer jugs of disinfectant in Yunmeng county, outside Xiaogan City, in China's central Hubei province on February 12, 2020, amid efforts to control a coronavirus outbreak. STR/AFP/Getty

Carnival says crew on cruise ship quarantined near Japan will get long vacation

Crew members aboard a ship operated by Carnival's Princess Cruises that is quarantined off the coast of Japan because of a coronavirus outbreak on the vessel will receive an extended vacation once their ordeal ends.

More than 1,000 workers on the ship have been looking after 2,666 passengers on the Diamond Princess since it was placed under quarantine 11 days ago. At least 174 people from the cruise have been diagnosed with the virus

"Princess Cruises has offered the Diamond Princess crew two months of paid time off. We will also handle their flights to return home and their job will be protected to return for another contract," a spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch in an email.

By Kate Gibson

Head of communist party in Hubei relieved of duty, official news agency says

The leader of the Communist Party in China's Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, has been relieved of duty, according to the state-run news agency cited by Reuters. 
Jiang Chaoliang will be replaced by Shanghai's mayor, Ying Yong. The report from the news agency cited the party's central committee, according to Reuters.


Hong Kong extends school suspensions until at least mid-March

Hong Kong's secretary for education announced Wednesday that the country will extend its suspension of schools until at least March 16 in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus, Reuters reported. 

Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said secondary and primary schools would be suspended until at least mid-March, according to Reuters. The announcement extends the earlier suspension, which was supposed to end on March 2.


Cruise ship barred by 4 nations anchors off the coast of Cambodia

A cruise ship turned away by four Asian and Pacific governments due to virus fears anchored Thursday off the coast of Cambodia for health checks on its 2,200 passengers and crew.

The Westerdam was unwelcome elsewhere, even though operator Holland America Line said no cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed among the 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members on board. 

The ship is anchored less than a mile from the main Sihanoukville port and a team of health officials will board to conduct health checks and determine the disembarkation process, Preah Sihanoukville Governor Kouch Chamrouen told The Associated Press.

The Westerdam's cruise will end in Sihanoukville and passengers can take charter flights to the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, to return home, Holland America said.

U.S. Ambassador W. Patrick Murphy said he sent an embassy team to work with the ship's representatives and Cambodian officials to help Americans disembark and transfer to their onward destinations.

—The Associated Press


CDC confirms 14th coronavirus case in U.S.

The CDC on Wednesday confirmed that another person who had been evacuated from Wuhan, China, has been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the country to 14. 

"The patient is among a group of people under a federal quarantine order because of their recent return to the U.S. on a State Department-chartered flight that arrived on February 7, 2020," the CDC said in a statement. 

This is the second person at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar to test positive for the virus. The CDC said the patients arrived on different planes and were housed in separate facilities. 
"At this time there is no indication of person-to-person spread of this virus at the quarantine facility," said CDC on-site team lead Dr. Chris Braden, "but CDC will carry out a thorough contact investigation as part of its current response strategy to detect and contain any cases of infection with this virus."

UC San Diego Health said it is caring for three people who were transferred from Miramar. Two are the patients who have already tested positive for coronavirus, the third has symptoms that "warrant further observation and testing," according to the hospital. 

More than 600 evacuees on chartered flights from Wuhan remain under federal quarantine, according to the CDC.

By Victoria Albert

China's Hubei province reports 242 new deaths, 14,840 new cases

China's Hubei province reported a massive uptick in deaths and confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus on Wednesday. The province reported 242 new deaths and 14,840 new cases, bringing the death toll from the virus to at least 1,357 and the total number of confirmed cases to more than 60,000. 

The rise in cases comes as Chinese officials broadened their definition of confirmed cases. Now, lung imaging can be used to diagnose the virus in a suspected patient, in addition to the standard nucleic acid tests, according to AFP. 

Chinese officials said 13,332 of the new cases and just over half the new death toll can be attributed to the new classification, AFP reported. 

By Victoria Albert

Cruise ship with no reported coronavirus cases barred by 4 nations amid fears

A cruise ship has been barred by several countries amid fears of the global coronavirus outbreak. The cruise line, however, has adamantly denied there are any confirmed cases of the virus on the ship.

It is now heading for Cambodia, where its more than 2,000 passengers and crew will be able to disembark and travel home, Holland America Line announced Wednesday.

The cruise ship was previously turned away from Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Thailand, The Associated Press reported

By Audrey McNamara

World's biggest technology trade show canceled due to coronavirus

This year's Mobile World Congress, the world's largest technology trade show, has been canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. 

The Global System for Mobile Communications Association, or GSMA, has held the annual trade show in Barcelona, Spain, since 2006. GSMA CEO John Hoffman announced the association's decision to cancel this year's show in a press release on Wednesday, saying it would reconvene in 2021. 

"With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event," Hoffman said in the release. 
A number of major companies recently withdrew from this year's event citing health concerns, CNET reports. The show typically attracts over 100,000 people from around the world.

By Audrey McNamara

World Health Organization says it was not pressured to praise China

World Health Organization Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has defended the organization's praise of China's response to the coronavirus outbreak. 

When asked directly if he was pressured by China to support their response, Ghebreyesus told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday that the "facts speak for themselves."

"China doesn't need to ask to be praised … that's the truth, the whole truth," he said. 

Ghebreyesus pointed to China's early reporting of the virus as proof that their response has been thorough and unflinching. Dr. Michael J. Ryan, executive director of WHO's Health Emergencies Programme, similarly commended China's early detection of the virus, noting that the virus appeared at first as only a handful of "unusual pneumonias" during the peak of flu season. 

The director general also noted the country's decision to shut down the city of Wuhan – a city with a population greater than New York City – as a difficult decision for its social and economic consequences. 

"China took action … shut down Wuhan city, and that helped stop the spread to other cities," he said.

Ghebreyesus urged people not to stigmatize a country, calling the virus our "common enemy." 

By Audrey McNamara

CDC has yet to be given direct access to China's data

The CDC on Wednesday confirmed that the agency has not been given direct access to China's data on the novel coronavirus.

China has been criticized for a lack of transparency during the outbreak. When asked during a briefing if the CDC has been given all that it needs from China in terms of data, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said the agency would like to see China's data directly. 

Messonnier also told reporters the CDC has not been invited to go to China. 

"CDC stands ready to send staff to China … but we haven't been invited yet," she said.

Messonnier noted, however, that the World Health Organization has a team in China that is being given access to the raw data. 

By Audrey McNamara

Boeing says "no question" virus will hit aviation, and wider economy

Boeing issued a stark warning Wednesday about the impact of the deadly coronavirus outbreak, saying there was "no question" it would hammer the aviation industry and the broader economy.

Major airlines have halted flights in and out of China, where a lockdown has been imposed in the worst-affected areas, while several countries have banned arrivals from China.

"You have several global airlines that have limited their traffic in and out of China, that's revenue," said Ihssane Mounir, the U.S. plane maker's senior vice president of commercial global sales and marketing.

"You have business trips not happening, you have cargo not going in and out… It will have an impact on the economy, it will have an impact on revenues, it will have an impact on these carriers... there's no question about it," he said.

A visitor wearing a protective facemask look at a Boeing 777 model display at the Singapore Airshow in Singapore, February 12, 2020. ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty

Mounir was speaking to reporters at the Singapore Air Show, Asia's biggest aviation expo, which had over 70 exhibitors withdraw due to virus fears.



WHO: Outbreak in China "reducing," and outside China it's "very manageable"

The chief scientist for the World Health Organization sounded cautiously optimistic Wednesday as she joined colleagues for a second day of meetings in Geneva aimed at answering questions about the deadly new coronavirus outbreak. 

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan pointed to two consecutive days of declining infection rates in China, where the vast majority of all cases have been reported, and told BBC News "it does look like at least it's not growing, it's reducing."

"The number of cases outside China has not grown exponentially," she said, calling it "very manageable." 

"So we do believe that there is still an opportunity to control and contain this disease, and it need not necessarily become a pandemic."

Earlier Wednesday, Swaminathan warned that current coronavirus patients outside of China, "might have already seeded other micro-clusters" of the disease, "this may become still a global outbreak or even a pandemic." 

By Tucker Reals

Hong Kong virus cluster raises concern it could spread through plumbing

In Hong Kong, the evacuation of hundreds of people from an apartment building after cases of the new coronavirus were discovered in residents living 10 floors apart has raised suspicions the virus may have spread through the building's plumbing.

Three residents in one apartment were confirmed earlier this week to have the virus, days after a resident who lives 10 floors above them was diagnosed. 

Concern In Hong Kong As The Wuhan Coronavirus Spreads
An official wearing protective gear stands guard outside an entrance to the Hong Mei House residential building at Cheung Hong Estate in the Tsing Yi district, on February 11, 2020 in Hong Kong, China. Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty

During the 2002-03 outbreak of SARS, an illness caused by a closely related virus, a number of infections in Hong Kong were linked to one building's sewage pipes.

Hong Kong has confirmed 49 cases in the current outbreak, and one of the only two deaths outside of mainland China.

- CBS/AP  


U.K. man who spread virus to 11 others is declared virus-free

The British businessman who contracted the new coronavirus on a visit to Singapore, and then inadvertently spread it to 11 people at a ski resort in France before returning home to England, has recovered from the disease and gone home, British officials said Wednesday.

After two negative tests, Steve Walsh was declared virus-free and allowed to go back to his home near the southern coastal city of Hove. 

In a statement, he said it was "good to be back with my family," and that his thoughts were with the other people diagnosed with the disease, now officially called COVID-19.

Two local doctors' offices were shuttered in the city of Brighton on Tuesday after at least one doctor, who was at the French ski resort with Walsh, was confirmed to have the virus.

Five of the cases linked to Walsh were in England, five in France and one in Spain, according to BBC News.

By Tucker Reals

Japanese leave "self-quarantine" at beach resort after 2 weeks

The palm-fringed hotel in the Japanese city of Katsuura is usually a destination for sun-worshipping holidaymakers, but for the last two weeks it has also been a coronavirus quarantine site.  Dozens of Japanese took refuge in the beachside resort to wait out a 14-day "self-quarantine" after being evacuated from the Chinese province where a deadly new coronavirus originated.

On Wednesday night, after final test results confirmed all 197 evacuees at the hotel were free of the virus, the first handful began heading home. 

A bus leaves a hotel in Katsuura in Chiba Prefecture, where people who returned from the central Chinese city of Wuhan have stayed in quarantine due to concerns of the deadly new coronavirus, in Katsuura, in Chiba Prefecture, February 12, 2020. KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty

"I've received many warm messages. I'm very grateful," a woman, who spoke on condition she would not be identified, told reporters outside the hotel.  



Virus forces delay of Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix

The Chinese Grand Prix scheduled for April 19 has been postponed because of the "continued spread" of the coronovirus, motorsport's governing body FIA announced Wednesday. 

FIA said promoters of the Shanghai race had requested a postponment, "in view of the continued spread of novel coronavirus."

"As a result of continued health concerns and with the @WHO (World Health Organisation) declaring the coronavirus as a global health emergency, the FIA and @F1 Formula 1 have taken these measures in order to ensure the health and safety of the travelling staff, championship participants and fans."   



2 Russian women flee virus quarantine

A Russian woman has escaped from a St. Petersburg hospital after just two days of mandatory quarantine and isolation following her return from China. Alla Ilina, 32, went for a check-up with a sore throat after returning recently from China. She said she tested negative for the new coronavirus, but doctors insisted on a 14-day quarantine. The strict measure is being enforced for anyone returning from China to Russia.  

"The Constitution guarantees me the right to freedom, and that right was taken away from me," Ilina told Russia's Ren TV.

She said she was able to short-circuit the electric lock on the door to the hospital ward where she was being held and make her escape on Friday.  

The hospital later reported her unauthorized departure to police, but she has told reporters no one has tried to bring her back to the hospital.

Earlier this month, another quarantined Russian woman fled a hospital with her son in the southern city of Samara. They jumped out of a window after a few days of quarantine. While hospitalized, she found out she was pregnant and said she didn't feel safe among other quarantined people who had been in China.

Russia has had only two confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, both of whom recovered and were sent home this week.

- Alexandra Odynova


Singapore bank sends hundreds home after employee contracts virus

The bank DBS on Wednesday cleared a downtown office in Singapore and told some 300 employees to work from home after one of its staff was infected with the new coronavirus.

"We are also currently conducting detailed contact tracing with all employees and other parties that the infected person may have come into contact with," DBS said.

All 300 of those sent home had worked on the same floor as the individual who tested positive, according to CBS News partner network BBC News. 

The Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) logo is displayed on a building in Singapore, August 29, 2019. ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty

Before the new case, Singapore had 47 cases of the new virus and one death — the only fatality outside of China thus far.

The DBS employee was tested Tuesday and the infection confirmed on Wednesday, the BBC said.

"As a precautionary measure, all employees on the affected floor vacated the premises to work from home," DBS said. 



Virus outbreak brings "significant difficulties" for U.S. and other postal services

Postal services worldwide say delivery is being affected by the cancellation of many flights to China.

The U.S. Postal Service said it was "experiencing significant difficulties" in dispatching letters, parcels and express mail to China, including Hong Kong and Macau.

Both the U.S. and Singapore Post said in notes to their global counterparts that they are no longer accepting items destined for China, "until sufficient transport capacity becomes available."

The Chinese mail service, China Post, said it was disinfecting postal offices, processing centers and vehicles to ensure the virus doesn't spread via the mail and to protect staff. 

Daily Life In Wuhan During Lockdown
A courier sorts mail in an Express station on January 29, 2020 in Hubei Province, Wuhan, China. Wanghe/Getty

It said the crisis was also impacting mail that transits China to other destinations including North Korea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. 



Top WHO scientists says global "micro-clusters" could be looming

The chief scientist for the World Health Organization said Wednesday that there could be undetected cases of the new coronavirus lurking around the world, which could spread the virus in their home communities and create new "micro-clusters" of the disease.

"We have to expect the best, but be prepared for the worst," Dr. Soumya Swaminathan told BBC News. "There is a possibility, we've seen cases slowing down, the number of new cases is down. The measures that China has taken to really contain the outbreak might work. And so it might end up as, as an outbreak that of course unfortunately has killed over a thousand people, but can still be controlled and contained."

"On the other hand," she said, "it might have already spread outside to many countries. As of now we have only about 400 cases, but they might have already seeded other micro-clusters and so this may become still a global outbreak or even a pandemic. So we have to be prepared for that and do everything we can to stop that from happening." 

By Tucker Reals

39 more people on cruise ship in Japan diagnosed with coronavirus

An additional 39 people on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan have tested positive for the new coronavirus, Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said Wednesday. That brings the total number of infected patients onboard to 174. 

"Out of 53 new test results, 39 people were found positive," he told reporters, adding that a quarantine official had also been infected with the virus.

"At this point, we have confirmed that four people, among those who are hospitalized, are in a serious condition, either on a ventilator or in an intensive care unit," he added. 

Cruise ship Diamond Princess at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama
Reporters are silhouetted in front of the cruise ship Diamond Princess as the vessel is prepared to disembark passengers who tested positive for the novel coronavirus, at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan February 10, 2020. KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS

The Diamond Princess has been in quarantine since early last week, after the virus was detected in a former passenger who got off the ship last month in Hong Kong.

The ship is expected to stay in quarantine until February 19 — 14 days after the isolation period began. The ship confirmed the 39 new cases in a statement. 



Hubei province reports 94 new deaths and 1,638 new cases

Officials in China's Hubei province, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, reported 94 new deaths and 1,638 new cases on Wednesday. That brings the global death toll to at least 1,112 and the total number of cases to more than 44,700.  

By Victoria Albert

Disease caused by new virus gets a new name

The coronavirus that has sickened tens of thousands of people now has an official name: COVID-19. At a press briefing on Tuesday, the World Health Organization said it had decided on the name after consulting with the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health.

"We had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people," said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The group also wanted a name that was "pronounceable and related to the disease," he said.

The new name comes from the type of virus that causes the disease. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause the common cold and some more serious diseases, including SARS, which killed 800 between 2002 and 2003.

Tedros said having a name for the new disease is important to prevent the use of other names that might be stigmatizing. "It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks," he said.

Associated Press


Evacuees toss face masks in the air after completing quarantine

Some of the 195 evacuees who completed their 14-day quarantine east of Los Angeles on Tuesday threw their masks in the air like graduation caps before leaving March Air Reserve Base. Officials gave each a final health screening and deemed them coronavirus-free.

Many boarded buses to take them to airports and eventually home. About 80 miles south, at a military base in San Diego, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said an evacuee there is the 13th confirmed case in the U.S.

That person has been isolated and hospitalized. The federal health agency said the risk to Americans remains low and recent research shows, in many cases, the virus is on par with the flu or cold in terms of severity.

"The 13 individuals in the United States have not yet had very severe illness," the agency's Dr. Anne Schuchat told reporters in Washington. "In fact, most have had very mild courses."

Danya Bacchus

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