Thai doctors deploy HIV drugs: Virus update

Thai doctors deploy HIV drugs: Virus update

People wearing protective masks to prevent the spread of the SARS-like virus are seen from the Jingshan park overlooking the Forbidden city  after a snowfall in Beijing on Saturday. (AFP photo)
People wearing protective masks to prevent the spread of the SARS-like virus are seen from the Jingshan park overlooking the Forbidden city after a snowfall in Beijing on Saturday. (AFP photo)

A 44-year-old man from Wuhan died in the Philippines on Saturday as a result of coronavirus, the first known death outside China.

The death toll in China exceeded 300 and the case count of more than 14,000 stoked fears of contagion as more countries restricted travel to and from the country. The Philippines and New Zealand were the latest to prevent travellers from China from entering as governments sought to keep those exposed to the potentially lethal virus from their shores.

Airlines in Asia, Europe and the Middle East are also suspending flights to the mainland. The US, India and South Korea reported more cases.


Two patients diagnosed in Germany after evacuation (5.37pm)

Two people who landed in Frankfurt from Wuhan Saturday tested positive for coronavirus, bringing Germany’s total to 10 cases. The two were on a German evacuation flight that was carrying 115 people back from China.

A evacuation flight from Wuhan will land at France’s Istres military airbase where about 100 French passengers will be quarantined in a firefighters’ compounds, government officials said. After French passengers disembark the flight will go to a Belgian base where Belgian, Danish, Dutch and a few Rwandan passengers will debark. France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged citizens not to travel to China.

Thai doctors use antivirals (4.15pm)

Thai doctors who used a mix of antivirals to treat a Chinese patient with the novel coronavirus who was in serious condition reported positive results, according to a health ministry briefing. The doctors used the flu treatment oseltamivir along with lopinavir and ritonavir, both HIV drugs.

In a separate case, the reported use of an experimental drug from Gilead Sciences Inc., called remdesevir, has encouraged doctors to support further testing of the medication against coronavirus.

Infections may be underreported, Caijing says (4pm)

Many people suspected of being sick with the coronavirus in Wuhan aren’t being counted as having been infected, and some suspicious deaths haven’t been checked and included in the death toll due to a shortage of tests, according to Caijing, a Chinese media company. The Saturday report was deleted from the internet Sunday. The deaths were recorded as due to viral pneumonia and not pneumonia caused by the coronavirus, Caijing wrote.

An unidentified doctor from a Wuhan hospital designated for coronavirus treatment said that they have admitted about 600 severe cases, but none of these patients were confirmed as having coronavirus due to a lack of tests.

More studies needed to see how virus spreads (2.45pm)

More studies are needed to determine if the virus can transmit via the fecal-oral route, a Chinese CDC official said at a press conference Sunday.

The novel coronavirus was detected in the loose stool of the first US case -- a finding that hasn’t featured among case reports from Wuhan. Squat latrines, common in China, lacking covers and hands that aren’t washed thoroughly with soap and water after visiting the bathroom could be a source of virus transmission, said John Nicholls, a clinical professor of pathology at the University of Hong Kong.

Indonesia to stop flights to and from China (4.15pm)

Indonesia will temporarily stop flights to and from mainland China starting Wednesday and bar visitors who have been in China for 14 days from entering or transiting in the Southeast Asian country, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said.

The government will stop a policy to give free visa to Chinese nationals and also stop issuing visas on arrival for those who live in mainland China, she said, asking Indonesians not to travel to China amid the coronavirus epidemic.

Herbal remedies for the coronavirus spark debate in China (3.41pm)

A claim by Chinese scientists that a liquid made with honeysuckle and flowering plants could help fight the deadly coronavirus has sparked frenzied buying of the traditional medicine, but doubts quickly emerged.

As the death toll from the SARS-like pathogen sweeping the country continues to rise, shoppers have swamped pharmacies in search of "Shuanghuanglian".

The rush came after influential state media outlet Xinhua reported Friday that the esteemed Chinese Academy of Sciences had found the concoction "can inhibit" the virus.

It quickly sold out both online and at brick-and-mortar stores, but responses to the remedy's supposed efficacy have ranged from enthusiasm to scepticism on Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media platform.

And state media sounded a more cautionary note on Saturday, with broadcaster CCTV publishing an interview with Zhang Boli, one of the researchers leading outbreak containment efforts, who warned of potential side effects from the medicine.

Hong Kong hints at tighter travel curbs (12pm)

A Hong Kong executive council member said that residents should avoid traveling to the mainland or risk having difficulties returning to the city, according to an RTHK report, a sign the government could ramp up border control restrictions. Lam Ching-choi said on Sunday that possible measures include shortening opening times for ports, limiting transportation and introducing laws to curb cross border traffic, the report said.

More infections in India, Vietnam, South Korea (11.05am)

India reported a second coronavirus case in a patient with a travel history to China. The patient is in a stable condition, it said.

Vietnam said a 73-year-old Vietnamese American was tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Jan 31, more than two weeks after transiting in Wuhan. He had a two-hour stopover at a Wuhan airport on the way to Vietnam from the US on Jan 15. That brings the total there to seven.

South Korea has 15 confirmed cases now, and authorities on Jeju Island have asked the central government to temporarily ban entrance of Chinese nationals.

Medical supply allocations (10.50pm)

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Sunday called for all-out efforts to improve the allocation of key medical supplies such as protective suits and facial masks, especially for medical workers on the front-line. The Chinese government vowed to “severely” deal with those who hiked prices, or hoard and profiteer on such goods.

Medical equipment has been in severe shortage in Wuhan and other virus-hit areas. Production of medical supplies are currently at 60% after an early resumption of the manufacturing during the holiday, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said Sunday.

New Zealand restricts entry from China (10.40am)

New Zealand will deny entry to foreigners travelling from mainland China. The ban covers anyone who is travelling from or has transited through China, and will be effective Feb. 3 and last up to 14 days, the government said. It has also raised its travel advice about all of mainland China to “do not travel,” the highest level.

WHO reports death in the Philippines (9.35am)

The World Health Organization said a 44-year-old male, a known resident of Wuhan, experienced fever, cough and a sore throat before being admitted to San Lazaro Hospital in Manila. He died on Feb 1.

He was the second confirmed case of the virus in the Philippines and was a close contact of the first infection in the country, also a Wuhan resident.

Just hours before the announcement of the death, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte widened his travel ban previously imposed on visitors from Hubei province to all of China, including Hong Kong and Macau, while prohibiting Filipinos to travel to those areas. Returning citizens and permanent residents must be quarantined.

NYC seeks OK to conduct own tests (7.30am)

New York City wants to conduct its own tests on suspected virus patients, rather than wait for the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to complete the analysis. The city suspects a patient who turned up at Bellevue Hospital late Friday feeling unwell has the infection. If confirmed, it would be the first instance of the virus in the city.

Officials are waiting for the CDC tests, which may take as long as 36 hours. Commissioner Oxiris Barbot of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said the city will have the capability within “a week or two” to perform the coronavirus tests.

China death toll climbs to 304 (7.10am)

Another 45 people died in China from coronavirus, the National Health Commission said Sunday, pushing the nation’s death toll to 304. The total confirmed cases climbed to 14,380 with 2,590 added on Feb 1, the government said. Of the cases, 2,110 are deemed severe.

All the new deaths were from Hubei province, epicentre of the global outbreak, and which reported 1,921 new infections early Sunday. There are 294 in the province.

Goldman Sachs Scraps Partners’ Meeting (7.30am)

Goldman Sachs Group Inc cancelled its global partners’ meeting in New York on Wednesday, citing concerns about the coronavirus, the company said in an email.

A modified program is planned in the city and the firm’s partners from outside New York can attend virtually, according to the email on Saturday. The status of other events tied to the partners’ meeting will be determined soon, the firm said.

The decision was made “out of an abundance of caution and concern,” according to the email.

Boston student isolated at home (4.50am)

The eighth person in the US diagnosed with the novel coronavirus is a student in his 20s at the University of Massachusetts in Boston who recently visited Wuhan. The student, who is feeling well, doesn’t need hospitalisation and has been asked to stay at home in isolation, said Jennifer Lo, medical director of the Boston Public Health Commission. He arrived from Wuhan on Tuesday, a day before Boston Logan International Airport was to begin screening of passengers.

NYC awaits results on patient (3.25am)

A man in New York City is hospitalised in stable condition at Bellevue Hospital after showing signs of the coronavirus, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said. If confirmed, it would be the first instance of the virus in the city.

The city agency has sent their tests to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to confirm whether the patient has the coronavirus. The analysis will take a minimum of 36-48 hours and depends on testing capacity, the department said in a tweet.

New York City wants to conduct its own tests on suspected virus patients, rather than wait for the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to complete the analysis, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. Commissioner Oxiris Barbot of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said the city will have the capability within “a week or two” to perform the coronavirus tests.

Russia halts visas for Chinese (1.40pm Saturday)

Russia suspended visa-free tourist travel to China and temporarily blocked Chinese citizens from reaching Russia over the Mongolian border, the government said on Saturday.

The Interior Ministry also will stop processing documents for Chinese nationals to enter Russia for jobs, along with permits to hire workers from China, according to a directive, the state-run TASS news agency reported. Visa-free travel was part of an agreement the two nations worked out in 2018.

Hong Kong mulls tighter border controls (12.45pm)

Hours after Hong Kong medical workers voted to strike after their demands to shut the border with China were rejected, the government appeared to open the door for more controls on travel from the mainland.

“The government is examining the infection continuously and will explore further tightening of the management of control points,” a spokesman said. The government appealed to workers “to reconsider their decision” and keep providing service, praising them for “standing fast at their posts.”

The medical professionals in a near-unanimous vote Saturday agreed to take action starting Monday, and 9,000 members pledged to join.

A complete closing of the border sought by the workers is “not the right answer” and is not in line with World Health Organization guidelines, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at briefing.

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