Doctors in China adopted a new way of diagnosing the novel coronavirus, leading to a huge jump in the official number of deaths blamed on the disease and the number of confirmed cases in the country. Officials in Hubei province, the Chinese region where the virus is believed to have jumped into the human population from wild animals, reported 254 new deaths and 15,152 new cases of the flu-like virus.
The increase brought the worldwide death toll to at least 1,370, including Japan's first fatality.
The vast majority of cases have occurred in mainland China. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Thursday that aof the disease — now called COVID-19 — in the United States.
The sharp increase in China came after two days of reported declines in confirmed new cases in the country. It was the result of Chinese doctors in Hubei province starting to use lung imaging to diagnose the disease, in addition to the standard nucleic acid tests they had been using.
Meanwhile, the largest cluster of coronavirus cases outside of China, on a cruise ship that has been quarantined for almost two weeks in Japan, continued to grow Thursday. With 218 cases confirmed from the Diamond Princess, Japan's government said it would allow some elderly passengers to move into government-provided housing on land, where they would be monitored apart from the general population.
Virus has killed six health workers in China, infected more than 1,700
Six health workers have died from the new coronavirus in China and more than 1,700 have been infected, health officials said Friday, underscoring the risks doctors and nurses have taken due to shortages of protective gear.
The figure comes a week after public anger erupted over the death of a whistleblowing doctor who had been reprimanded and silenced by police after raising the alarm about the virus in December.
The majority, 1,102, have been diagnosed with the COVID-19 illness in Wuhan, the central city at the epicentre of the crisis, Zeng said. Another 400 were infected in other places in Hubei province.
Chinese authorities have scrambled to deploy protective equipment to Wuhan's hospitals, where doctors and nurses have been overwhelmed by an ever-growing number of patients.
Many doctors in Wuhan have had to see patients without proper masks or protective body suits, resorting to reusing the same equipment when they should be changed regularly. — Agence France-Presse
U.S. says it would help North Korea try to contain the virus
The United States has expressed deep concern about North Korea's vulnerability to the outbreak of a new virus and says it's ready to support efforts by aid organizations to contain the spread of the illness in the impoverished nation.
North Korea has yet to report a case of the virus, but state media reports have hinted that people have been quarantined after showing symptoms.
Experts say an epidemic in North Korea could be dire because of its chronic lack of medical supplies and poor health care infrastructure.
North Korea has banned foreign tourists, intensified screening at points of entry and mobilized some 30,000 health workers to prevent the spread of the virus. — The Associated Press
California university student stuck in China amid coronavirus outbreak
A Cal State University Northridge student is still in China on Thursday night, near the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak — his semester studying abroad turning into a health care nightmare, CBS Los Angeles reported.
"I never cry," Nancy Krank, the student's mother, said while talking about her son, Samson Adame.
The 24-year-old student has been stuck in the Shandong Province of China since the coronavirus epidemic broke nearly a month ago. Photos he took and shared with his mom showed empty, shut down streets. She said he only leaves the home he's in to get food and water — with a mask on.
"As a mom, you want to help," Krank told CBS LA. "You want to fix things, and this is something there's no way I can fix."
But Adame thought he would have gotten help from his school by now.
"They told them that the program was being postponed," Krank said. "They didn't know when it would start back up again. Maybe a week later, it's postponed, but they're telling him, 'Things are worse. Get on a plane. Let us know your flight number.'"
But Krank said that was not an option for her son who is staying in a village 300 miles from the nearest airport and was concerned about contracting the deadly illness while traveling.
Complicating matters even more, the university notified Adame that his travel insurance had been dropped because the program had been canceled.
"He's the last person that's going to get help without any kind of insurance," Krank said.
Cruise stranded by virus fears ends with roses in Cambodia
Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia by the nation's authoritarian leader, who handed them flowers.
Prime Minister Hun Sen agreed to let the Westerdam dock at the port of Sihanoukville on Thursday after Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Guam had barred the ship earlier.
"How wonderful it is to be here. Thank you very much to the prime minister. He has a wonderful heart," said Anna Marie Melon, from Queensland, Australia. "I'm very excited (to be here)," she said as she waved a rose Hun Sen handed to her.
The passengers cheered as they walked toward waiting buses and waved goodbye to other passengers watching from the ship's deck.
"Your country did a great job. Did a wonderful job. Thank you very much. We appreciate it very much," Joe Spaziani, 74, from Florida, told local reporters at the port. He and many other passengers wore a krama, a traditional Cambodian scarf, around their necks.
"Cambodia alone, even the United States, Guam, did not let us land, but Cambodia did, so that's wonderful. Absolutely wonderful," Spaziani said. "We appreciate it very very much. It's been a long struggle and we appreciate everyone being here." — The Associated Press
CDC says outbreak could continue into next year
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns the deadly outbreak of coronavirus could continue into next year.
"There may be additional cases that we identify. I do want to prepare you for that," said Captain Jennifer McQuiston of the CDC.
McQuiston is overseeing the quarantine at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas for people who arrived last week on a government charter flight from China. Earlier on Thursday, a person there became the 15th confirmed case in the U.S.
In all, about 600 people are in quarantine at military bases in the United States, including Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California, where two cases of coronavirus have been confirmed.
How long until there's a vaccine?
Researchers at Inovio Pharmaceuticals say it took them just three hours to come up with an KFMB-TV reports the company hopes to begin a clinical trial in humans by this summer.— although it will take months of testing to see if it's safe and effective. CBS San Diego affiliate
Chinese scientists released the genetic sequence for the coronavirus on January 9, and researchers at Inovio and other labs around the world immediately got to work.
"We have an algorithm which we designed, and we put the DNA sequence into our algorithm and came up with the vaccine in that short amount of time," Dr. Trevor Smith, Inovio's director of research and development, told KFMB.
"I think it's every promising, and Inovio has very advanced technology that they're using with making a DNA vaccine, which is different than our traditional vaccines," Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told CBS News.
But even if all the testing proves successful, it would still take time to meet federal regulatory requirements and gear up for manufacturing.
"Even though we are seeing rapid vaccine development with this virus, vaccine development is usually seen on the scale of years, not months," Adalja said.
EU health ministers boost preparations
European Union health ministers agreed Thursday to boost preparations and organize a coordinated response to prevent the virus that emerged in China from further spreading across Europe.
At an emergency meeting in Brussels, officials from the bloc's 27 nations said they need to plan more to avoid any possible shortages of medicine or protective equipment during the outbreak, which the World Health Organization has called a threat to global health.
Ministers said early detection and uniform prevention measures - notably at entry points like airports - were key. Agnes Buzyn, the French minister for health, said the EU should also remain vigilant in case the outbreak hurts the production of pharmaceuticals in China, therefore leading to possible medical shortages. She urged the EU to start up a joint procurement plan for purchasing medical equipment.
Asked whether the EU could close Europe's visa-free Shenghen travel area if the epidemic escalates, Croatian Health Minister Vili Beros said the bloc could indeed undertake further action. "If that means the closing of borders, we shall discuss it,'' he said.
Kyriakides, however, said the current outbreak does not call for such drastic measures.
–The Associated Press
WHO says no "dramatic increases" in virus outside China, confirms Japan death
The head of health emergency response for the World Health Organization said Thursday that, apart from a growing cluster of cases on a cruise ship quarantined in Japan, "we are not seeing dramatic increases in cases outside China" of the deadly new coronavirus.
The vast majority of the more than 60,000 cases of the new disease, formally called COVID-19, are in China's central Hubei province.
Ryan did confirm that the World Health Organization was counting the death of an elderly woman in Japan as a fatality attributed to the new disease. Japanese officials earlier said that while she had been diagnosed with the disease, it was unclear whether it caused her death.
The woman was the first to die with the new coronavirus in Japan — only the second country outside of China to have a fatal case of the virus. Singapore has had one death attributed to the illness.
CDC confirms another quarantined American has the virus
U.S. health officials confirmed Thursday that there was aof the new coronavirus disease in the country. The patient was among hundreds of Americans under mandatory quarantine for monitoring at military bases across the country.
"The patient is among a group of people under a federal quarantine order at JBSA-Lackland in Texas because of their recent return to the U.S. on a State Department-chartered flight that arrived on February 7," the CDC said in a statement Thursday, adding that the individual had isolated and was receiving treatment "at a designated hospital nearby."
The CDC warned that more cases were likely to be confirmed in the U.S., "including among other people recently returned from Wuhan. While 195 people were discharged from quarantine on Tuesday, more than 600 people who returned on chartered flights from Wuhan remain under federal quarantine and are being closely monitored to contain the spread of the virus."
Coronavirus chills luxury brands in — and outside — China
The deadly coronavirus outbreak paralyzing China is. The latest player to feel the chill is Kering Group, which owns Balenciaga, Gucci and other upscale fashion brands and which on Wednesday announced that it has closed dozens of stores in China as consumers stay home.
Kering CEO François-Henri Pinault said in an earnings call that the company has seen a "serious drop in traffic in mainland China" and a "strong drop" in sales in recent days due to the virus. Kering-owned stores that remain open in the region have cut back their hours, with some of its shops located in Chinese malls forced to close over public health concerns.
The company's predicament highlights how crucial Chinese consumers have become in the global luxury market both domestically and when traveling abroad, spending more than $100 billion annually on high-end goods.
U.K. rap star Stormzy nixes Asia tour dates over virus fears
British grime music star Stormzy announced Thursday that he would reschedule the Asia leg of his current world tour due to the deadly coronavirus epidemic. The rapper, real name Michael Omari, told his social media followers he had "regrettably" decided to postpone his shows on the continent starting next month due to the outbreak.
The 26-year-old had been set to perform in Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, China, South Korea and Indonesia in March and April, as part of his "Heavy is the Head" tour.
"I was seriously looking forward to bringing the #HITH world tour to Asia and playing some epic sold out shows," Stormzy wrote on Instagram. "But due to the ongoing health and travel concerns surrounding the Coronavirus, I'm regrettably having to reschedule this leg.
"Information regarding the rescheduled dates will follow in due course... I promise I'll be back," he added.
2 passengers from Thailand test positive for virus in India
Two passengers who arrived in Kolkata, India from Thailand this week have tested positive for the new coronavirus, India's airports authority said Thursday. It brought the total number of people confirmed to have the disease in India to four.
All three, whose nationalities have not been revealed, were quarantined at the Beliaghata ID Hospital in Kolkata.
In New Delhi an Indian citizen on a SpiceJet flight arriving from Bangkok was quarantined at the airport on suspicion of having the disease.
The airline said the man was the only person seated in his row on the plane. It was not immediately clear what led to him being quarantined, but thousands of passengers are being screened for symptoms of the viral infection.
"People coming in from six countries — China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and South Korea — are being screened at as many as 21 airports across the country," Indian Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan said Thursday.
Three Indian students in the southern state of Kerala tested positive after returning from the epicenter city of Wuhan in China earlier this month. One has been cleared of the disease and discharged, and the two were in stable condition, officials said.
— Arshad R. Zargar
How worrying is the big jump in China's virus cases?
Professor John Nicholls is a pathologist at the University of Hong Kong, and was a prominent researcher during the 2003 SARS outbreak.
CBS News correspondent Debora Patta asked him Thursday if the dramatic increase in reported cases of the new coronavirus in China means the outbreak is really worse than the world thought, or if it may just be reflecting an increasing understanding of the disease.
"I think the second scenario is more likely — that we're now getting a better indication of what's actually happening in the community," he said, adding that, "what's happening outside mainland China may be a better indication of the true nature of this disease."
While mainland China has confirmed almost 60,000 cases of the disease, there were still less than 500 outside the country on Thursday, and only two confirmed deaths.
"Right now you have so much pressure… from everybody saying, you know, 'we want instant results right now,' everybody's just trying to keep one step ahead of this fast evolving situation," said Nicholls.
For passengers on cruise ship, quarantine period "seems an eternity"
Some passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Japan are battling the isolation. As of Thursday, 218 people from the ship had been diagnosed with the COVID-19 disease caused by the new coronavirus.
"We're now into the second week" of quarantine, passenger Sally Abel told CBS News on Thursday. "It seems an eternity."
The ship has been on lockdown in Yokohama for more than a week now. CBS News correspondent Debora Patta says it has become a floating incubator for the new disease.
"It's getting people's moods down," admitted Abel's husband David. "So life isn't as easy as it was last week."
Japan confirms death of woman with coronavirus
Japan's government confirmed on Thursday the first death in the country of a person diagnosed with the new coronavirus, but said it was too soon to blame the disease for her death.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said at a news conference that the victim was a woman in her 80s who lived in Kanagawa prefecture, next door to Japan's sprawling and densely packed capital of Tokyo. He said, however, that it was not yet clear whether the virus caused her death.
"The relationship between the new coronavirus and the death of the person is still unclear," Katsunobu Kato said at a late-night briefing. "This is the first death of a person who tested positive."
He didn't provide any further details about how or when the woman was believed to have contracted the disease.
So far the vast majority of the 1,359 fatalities blamed on the COVID-19 disease, caused by the new strain of virus, have been in China's central Hubei province. One person has died of it in Singapore and one in the semi-autonomous Chinese city of Hong Kong.
Another major sports tournament rescheduled amid virus fears
Coronavirus fears in Asia have forced the organizers of a major rugby tournament to reschedule two legs of the series this year.
Both the Hong Kong and Singapore legs of the World Rugby Sevens Series have been postponed to October from April, BBC Sports reported Thursday.
"The health and safety of our players, fans and everyone working on the event is always our highest priority," BBC quoted a statement by World Rugby as saying.
The Hong Kong part of the series had been scheduled for April 3-5, while the Singapore tournament was set for April 11 and 12. Both will now take place in mid-October.
April's Chinese Grand Prix was postponed by Formula 1 bosses on Wednesday.
Officials in Tokyo, however, have vowed that this summer's Olympic Games will go on as scheduled.
"I would like to make it clear again that we are not considering a cancellation or postponement of the games. Let me make that clear," organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori said Thursday to IOC officials in Tokyo.
Vietnam quarantines 10,000 people in villages near capital
More than 10,000 people in villages near Vietnam's capital were placed under quarantine Thursday after six cases of the deadly new coronavirus were discovered there, authorities said.
In the first mass quarantine outside of China since the virus emerged there in late December, the Son Loi farming region about 25 miles from Hanoi will be locked down for 20 days, the health ministry said.
Police warned people wanting to enter the quarantined area that while they would be allowed in, they would not be able to leave.
All six cases in the area originated from a female worker who was sent to Wuhan in central China for training. The disease then spread to her family and her neighbors, including a three-month-old baby.
So far, only the female worker has fully recovered and been discharged from the hospital, according to the ministry, while the others remained in "stable" condition.
Fear mounts with confirmed cases on ship quarantined in Japan
Japan said Thursday it would allow some elderly passengers off a quarantined cruise ship and into government-designated lodging, as the number of new coronavirus cases on the vessel jumped to 218. Thousands of passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess face several days more of quarantine, with many taking to social media to voice their concerns.
Those working on the ship have been reluctant to speak to reporters for fear of losing their jobs, but two crew members broke their silence in a video broadcast by Indian media Thursday.
"We are scared that if the infection is spreading, it is spreading so fast that we could also become affected," said Sonali Thakkar, a ship security officer. "We don't want to (become sick). We just want to go back home."
With passengers mostly confined to their cabins, crew members have to go door-to-door to deliver food and other supplies, and some fear this has reduced the effectiveness of the quarantine.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said Thursday there were 44 new cases, including one crew member. He said some elderly passengers would be allowed off the ship if they test negative for the COVID-19 virus.
Those who opt to leave will be moved to government facilities to wait out a quarantine that is set to last until February 19.
Crew on cruise ship quarantined in 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 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.
Communist Party leaders in Hubei province sacked
China on Thursday replaced its top officials in the central province of Hubei and its capital, Wuhan, the epicenter of a viral outbreak that has infected more than 45,000 people worldwide.
Former Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong succeeds Jiang Chaoliang as the ruling Communist Party's chief in the beleaguered province, the Xinhua state news agency reported, while Wang Zhonglin will take over from Ma Guoqiang as the party secretary in Wuhan.
The high-level appointments follow the sacking earlier this week of two leaders of the provincial health commission. State media also reported that a slew of others were expelled from the party for transgressions related to the epidemic.
— The Associated Press