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"Wartime" measures as inspectors in Wuhan, China, search for every coronavirus case

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"Wartime" measures have been implemented in some parts of the Chinese province of Hubei, which is home to Wuhan — the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. Some residents have been barred from leaving their apartments, and officials in protective suits were going door-to-door in Wuhan this week looking for infected people.

"This must be taken seriously," Wang Zhonglin, Wuhan's newly selected Communist Party secretary, said, according to The Associated Press.

China has been widely criticized for its initial handling of the outbreak. Authorities were accused of trying to silence doctors, and residents complained of overcrowded and under-resourced hospitals.

There are now more than 75,000 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus globally and more than 2,200 deaths — most of them in mainland China. On Thursday night, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that 11 people tested positive for coronavirus in Nebraska. They were previously passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that had been quarantined in Japan.

Medical personnel are seen walking among patients with mild symptoms of coronavirus resting at night in a temporary hospital set up in a sports stadium in Wuhan, China, February 18, 2020.
Medical personnel are seen walking among patients with mild symptoms of coronavirus resting at night in a temporary hospital set up in a sports stadium in Wuhan, China, on February 18, 2020. Getty
 

Last uninfected passengers leaving ship docked near Tokyo as quarantine ends

Japan's health minister said the last cruise ship passengers who tested negative for a new virus will leave the Diamond Princess on Friday after a much-criticized quarantine of the vessel ended.

The ship docked at a Yokohama port has the most COVID-19 cases outside of China, with 634 confirmed by late Thursday. Two former passengers have died.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told a news conference the mass disembarkation into Japan of passengers from the ship is set to end Friday, while dozens of foreign passengers are flying back to their home countries on flights chartered by their governments. 

-- The Associated Press

 

Hubei, China adds new cases from prison system to totals it reported

The central Chinese province of Hubei raised the number of new cases it was reporting Friday by 220, to include new infections in its prison system, according to the Reuters news service.

Hubei, whose capital is the virus epicenter of Wuhan, said the actual number was 631, up from 411.

It wasn't clear whether inmate infections were included in prior totals from the province or Hubei was including them for the first time.  

Hubei health officials said its latest total was 62,662 cases as of Thursday, including the ones in the prison system.  

By Brian Dakss
 

South Korea declares "special management zone" around area with surging viral outbreak

South Korea on Friday declared a "special management zone" around a southeastern city where a surging viral outbreak, largely linked to a church in Daegu, threatens to overwhelm the region's health system.
 
Health authorities reported 52 new cases of the illness, raising South Korea's total to 156, most of them since Wednesday. The spike, especially in and around Daegu, has raised fears the outbreak is getting out of control in the country.
 
In the capital, Seoul, officials banned major downtown rallies to try to fight the outbreak.
  
Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun said in a televised statement the central government will concentrate its support to the southeastern region to ease a shortage in sickbeds, medical personnel and equipment.
 
"A month into the (COVID-19) outbreak, we have entered an emergency phase," Chung said. "Our efforts until now had been focused on blocking the illness from entering the country. But we will now shift the focus on preventing the illness from spreading further in local communities."

—The Associated Press

 

Humboldt County, California, reports first coronavirus case

The Humboldt County Department of Health & Human Services announced a new case of the novel coronavirus on Thursday. It's not clear if the case is an evacuee from China. 

The patient is self-isolating, as is a close contact who is showing symptoms, the county said. 

"It's important to remember that the risk to the general public remains low at this time," said Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Teresa Frankovitch. "Despite the fact that Humboldt County now has a confirmed case of COVID-19, there is no evidence to suggest that novel coronavirus is circulating in the community at large."  

By Victoria Albert
 

China reports further fall in new coronavirus cases; additional 118 deaths

China reported a further fall in new virus cases to 889 on Friday as health officials expressed optimism over containment of the outbreak that has caused more than 2,200 deaths and is spreading elsewhere.

China's figures for the previous 24 hours brought the total number of cases to 75,465. The 118 newly reported deaths raised the total to 2,236. More than 1,000 cases and 11 deaths have been confirmed outside the mainland.

— The Associated Press 

 

11 former passengers of quarantined cruise ship test positive for coronavirus

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 11 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Nebraska. Health officials say the patients were former passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship who were evacuated to the U.S. earlier this month.

By Peter Martinez
 

Coronavirus-themed party sparks anger on N.Y. college campus

The state University at Albany is investigating whether an off-campus coronavirus-themed party violated the college's student code of conduct, the university confirmed Thursday.

Asian American Alliance, a university student organization, condemned the party hosted by students last weekend, saying it was insensitive and racist. A statement on the alliance's Instagram account said the virus "has led to not only mass stereotyping of Asian people, but also hundreds of deaths across the world."

Video of the party was briefly posted on the Barstool Albany Instagram account Sunday night. WGY News Radio said the video showed a bucket of iced Corona beers and a person wearing a surgical mask with the caption, "Corona virus isn't gonna stop anyone from partying."

"The theme of this party was distasteful and hurtful and is not representative of UAlbany or its nearly 18,000 students," university officials said in a statement. "Any allegations of conduct violations will be investigated and addressed through the University's disciplinary process."

— The Associated Press

 

Hubei province reports 115 deaths, 411 new cases

Officials from Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, reported 115 deaths and 411 new cases on Thursday. That brings the global death toll to at least 2,244, and the total number of cases to at least 76,159. 

By Victoria Albert
 

Over 110 released from quarantine at military bases in California

Over 110 people who were evacuated from the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China were released from quarantine at military bases in California on Thursday, officials said. In San Diego, 63 people were released from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, CBS affiliate KFMB-TV reports.

"I'm so happy," a sobbing woman holding a small child told the station after getting off a bus at San Diego International Airport. She was heading to her home in Texas after being on the base for 14 days.

On Wednesday, a person who was infected with the virus was discharged from a San Diego hospital after a full recovery. In Northern California, 53 people were released from quarantine at Travis Air Force Base on Thursday.

On Tuesday, 180 people completed their quarantine at the base. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said those who have been released from quarantine don't pose any health threat.

By Alex Sundby
 

4 coronavirus patients being transferred from California to Washington state

Four Americans who have tested positive for coronavirus are being transferred from a military base in Northern California to a hospital in Washington state, health officials said Thursday. Two patients arrived at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Washington, Thursday morning, according to Dr. Bob Lutz, the region's health officer.

The other two patients were expected to arrive at the hospital in the afternoon, Lutz told reporters at a press conference. The two patients who had already arrived were in stable condition, according to Christa Arguinchona, manager of the Spokane hospital's special pathogens unit.

All four patients were coming from Travis Air Force Base in California, Lutz said. Late Sunday night, 171 passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan arrived at the base, but Arguinchona said she didn't know where the four patients were before they came to the base.

She said the hospital was initially told it would be treating five patients and the number was later changed to four.

By Alex Sundby
 

Iraq suspends flights to and from Iran over coronavirus

Iraqi medical staff check passengers' temperature upon their arrival at Najaf airport February 20, 2020.
Iraqi medical staff check passengers' temperature upon their arrival at Najaf airport February 20, 2020. Reuters

Iraq, which has reported no cases of coronavirus, took measures to contain it by suspending visas on arrival for Iranian passport holders and direct flights between the two countries. The move comes as Iran said that three more people have been infected with the virus.

Iraq's Transport Ministry said in a statement that flights by national carrier Iraqi Airways to Iran were suspended. The decision, the statement said, was based on a Health Ministry recommendation to take the necessary measures to prevent the virus from reaching Iraq.

Iraq's Interior Ministry reversed a decision to allow Iranian nationals to obtain visas on arrival in Iraq, according to a statement. Omar al-Waeli, head of Iraq's Border Ports Authority, said medical personnel had been dispatched to conduct checks on Iraqi nationals returning from Iran.

— The Associated Press

 

WHO says "window of opportunity" to contain coronavirus outbreak still open

The World Health Organization (WHO) will work with health authorities in Africa to coordinate a response to the potential arrival of the new coronavirus on the continent, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing Thursday. The focus will be on countries where health systems are weaker.

Tedros stressed that it was still possible to contain the outbreak.

"Let's not squander the window of opportunity we have," he said. "The number of cases in the rest of the world is very small compared to China, but that may not stay the same for long."

By Haley Ott
 

Switzerland delays health summit over coronavirus

Switzerland has postponed a high-level health summit that had been scheduled for next week due to the outbreak of the deadly new coronavirus.

The decision was made "because numerous participants must remain in their own countries to deal with the COVID-19 epidemic," Switzerland said in a statement Wednesday, without announcing new dates.

The Ministerial Summit on Patient Safety had been due to take place in Montreux in western Switzerland on February 27 and 28. The annual summit has convened since 2016 in different countries.

At this year's event, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and health ministers and experts from around the world had been set to discuss the measures needed to improve the quality of healthcare around the world.

Agence France-Presse

 

Iran announces new coronavirus cases

Iran said Thursday that three more people had been infected with the new coronavirus following an earlier announcement that two people had died in the Iranian city of Qom.
 
All schools and universities, including religious Shiite seminaries, were shut down in Qom, according to the official IRNA news agency. Other news reports said Iran had recently evacuated 60 Iranian students from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicenter of the epidemic.
 
Qom, located around 86 miles south of the capital, Tehran, is a popular religious destination and a center of learning and religious studies for Shiite Muslims from inside Iran, as well as Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan and Azerbaijan. It is also known for its cattle farms.
  
Iranian authorities were investigating the origin of the infections and their possible links to religious pilgrims from Pakistan or other countries.

— The Associated Press

 

Weather and protests hamper Ukraine quarantine efforts

Ukraine's effort to evacuate more than 70 people from China over the coronavirus outbreak faced setbacks Thursday as weather conditions delayed the return of the evacuees and protests broke out near a hospital where they were to be quarantined.
 
Several hundred residents in Ukraine's Poltava region protested to stop officials from quarantining the evacuees in their village because they feared becoming infected. Demonstrators put up road blocks and burned tires, while Ukrainian media reported that there were clashes with police. More than 10 people were detained.
 
"The situation is rather heated," Poltava regional police spokesman Yuri Sulayev said.
 
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy weighed in, saying the protests showed "not the best side of our character." He tried to reassure people that the quarantined evacuees wouldn't pose any danger to residents of the village of Novi Sarzhany.

— The Associated Press

 

U.S. forces in South Korea who attended coronavirus-linked church to be quarantined

Any U.S. military personnel who have attended the New World Church in South Korea's fourth largest city, Daegu, since February 9 will be subject to mandatory self-quarantine, Gen. Robert B. Abrams, USFK Commander, said in a statement Wednesday. At least 14 people diagnosed with the coronavirus have been connected to several church services in the city, Reuters reported.

"I want to emphasize the care and well-being of our Daegu service members, families and civilians is a top priority of mine," Abrams said.

All non-essential travel to and from Daegu by U.S. service members will be prohibited.

"Good hygiene practice is the best preventive measure to controlling the spread of viruses. We must protect the force and our community by maintaining our "Fight Tonight" readiness!" the statement concluded.

South Korea reported 20 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday.

By Haley Ott
 

13 more people diagnosed with coronavirus on Diamond Princess cruise ship

Another 13 people on board a cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus, the country's health ministry said on Thursday.

Confirmation of the new cases, from 52 additional test results, brought the total number of infections diagnosed on board the Diamond Princess so far to 634, the ministry said in a statement.

— Agence France-Presse

 

South Korea reports first coronavirus death

South Korea reported its first death from the new coronavirus on Thursday while the mayor of a southeastern city urged his 2.5 million people to refrain from going outside as viral infections, linked to a church congregation, spiked.

The death of a previously confirmed patient in South Korea marked the world's ninth virus fatality outside mainland China. Other deaths have occurred in Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and France.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the South Korean man, believed to be around 63 years old, died at a hospital on Wednesday and posthumously tested positive for the virus. It said authorities were investigating the exact cause of his death.

The center confirmed 22 additional cases of the virus, raising the total in South Korea to 104.

— The Associated Press

 

Change in diagnostic criteria leads to massive drop in reported new coronavirus cases in China

What to expect from coronavirus outbreak 05:31

For the second time in a week, China has changed the way it diagnosis new cases of the coronavirus, resulting in a huge drop in reported cases on Thursday. Chinese authorities reported 394 new cases over the previous 24 hours, down sharply from the 1,749 new cases that were reported the day before.

Initially, authorities diagnosed the virus using nucleic acid tests, which could require days to process. There were also shortages of the tests.

So last week, Hubei Province, the epicenter of the virus, introduced a quicker method to diagnose new infections, which allowed clinical diagnosis to be made using CT scans and an assessment of symptoms. That new method lead to a surge of more than 15,000 diagnosed cases on February 12, sparking incorrect fears that the spread of the virus was accelerating.

On Wednesday, China's National Health Commission said it was removing that category of clinically diagnosed cases from its tally, sparking confusion. It said 279 cases would be removed from its reported number of confirmed cases in Hubei.

"Best practice would be to assign the cases to the date they are reported. This was also an issue with the large number of cases reported on Feb. 12," Allen Cheng, and expert in infectious diseases at Australia's Monash University, told the Reuters news agency.

By Haley Ott
 

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

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