Taiwan reports first death, toll at 1,665: Virus update

Taiwan reports first death, toll at 1,665: Virus update

A bus with a driver wearing protective gear departs from the dockside next to the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has around 3,600 people quarantined onboard due to fears of the new COVID-19 coronavirus, at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on Friday. (AFP photo)
A bus with a driver wearing protective gear departs from the dockside next to the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has around 3,600 people quarantined onboard due to fears of the new COVID-19 coronavirus, at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on Friday. (AFP photo)

Fears continue to grow of further infections from cruise ships where virus cases have been detected. Japan said it had found an additional 70 cases aboard the Diamond Princess, a luxury liner that’s been quarantined at the port of Yokohama, bringing the total number on the ship to 355.

Fears continue to grow of further infections from cruise ships where virus cases have been detected. Japan said it found an additional 70 cases aboard the Diamond Princess, a luxury liner that’s been quarantined at the port of Yokohama, bringing the total number of infected on the the ship to 355.

Taiwan confirmed its first death from the coronavirus. Malaysia said it won’t allow any more passengers from the Westerdam cruise ship to enter the country from Cambodia, after an American woman who flew into Kuala Lumpur was diagnosed with the coronavirus.

China said Sunday the number of coronavirus cases nationwide had reached 68,500, with the death toll rising to 1,665. Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, reported fewer new infections for a second straight day, and 139 deaths. It had 1,843 new cases, dropping from 2,420 a day earlier.

- Taiwan reports first death from coronavirus

- Malaysia bars entry for ships coming from China

- UK makes contingency plan in case infections surge

- China pledges more economic stimulus

- Japan says cases soar aboard Diamond Princess; Canada to evacuate its citizens

- China cases exceed 68,500 as deaths top 1,660

- WHO says virus path ‘impossible to predict’

- Westerdam passengers blocked from leaving Malaysia

Latest updates:

Taiwan confirms first death from coronavirus (6.13pm)

Taiwan reported the first death from coronavirus on Sunday, and added two more confirmed cases, bringing the total to 20, according to a statement from the country’s Centers for Disease Control via text message.

Israel sends doctor to Japan to oversee treatment (6.10pm)

Israel will bring back most of its 15 citizens on the Diamond Princess, Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said. Those who haven’t been infected will be brought to Israel and placed in quarantine. Israelis who were infected will remain in Japan, and Israel has sent a doctor there to oversee their treatment, the prime minister said. Israel’s Health Ministry announced earlier that there were two confirmed Israeli cases on the ship. There are no known cases of the virus in Israel, Netanyahu said.

Italy to evacuate Diamond Princess passengers (4.16pm)

Italy joined South Korea, Canada, the US and Hong Kong in saying it would evacuate its citizens or residents from the stricken ship. The country plans to evacuate 35 Italians on board the luxury liner, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said in a Facebook post on Sunday. A plane will be sent to evacuate the Italians after discussing the matter yesterday with government officials. Greece is also looking to bring back two of its nationals who are on the ship.

First Israeli coronavirus cases identified on ship (3.30pm)

The first Israeli coronavirus cases have been identified among passengers on a cruise ship off Japan’s coast, Israel’s Health Ministry reported. Three Israelis who tested positive for the virus have been moved from the Diamond Princess cruise ship to a hospital in Japan. The Health Ministry said it had been told the cases are “mild”.

145 cruise passengers who flew from Cambodia on Feb 14. Six US and Dutch passengers are in quarantine awaiting test results, Malaysia’s health ministry said.

Malaysia cancels repatriation flights chartered by US (3pm)

Malaysia won’t let any more Westerdam passengers enter the country and cancelled flights chartered by the US to bring back Americans who’d been on the ship, the Southeast Asian nation’s health ministry said in a statement and press conference.

UK makes preparations for epidemic (2.30pm)

UK officials plan to use 24 hospitals to treat patients in the event of a surge in infections, the Sunday Times reported, without saying where it got the information. The contingency plans call for hospitals to prepare airtight isolation rooms. The UK government is working on the assumption that up to half of the population, or 33 million, could be hit by the virus, the Times said. Anyone suffering flu-like symptoms could be ordered to self-isolate at home for 14 days, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

More fiscal support in China (2.15pm)

China pledged to roll out more effective stimulus despite a widening fiscal gap as the coronavirus hits an already slowing economy. Authorities will further perfect and implement measures this year to reduce corporate taxes and cut unnecessary government expenses as the virus takes a toll on production, Finance Minister Liu Kun wrote in the Communist Party’s flagship magazine on Sunday.

Hong Kong protests against some quarantine centres (2pm)

In Hong Kong, rallies are taking place in Sai Kung and Cheung Sha Wan against a government order to set up quarantine centre and designated clinic respectively in the areas.

A district chancellor of Sai Kung said the government shouldn’t set up quarantine centres near residential areas and should have closed its borders earlier. Another rally will take place later in Fo Tan to oppose to setting up a quarantine centre in that region.

Hong Kong facing ‘tsunami-like’ shocks (12pm)

Hong Kong is facing “tsunami-like” shocks, and may incur a record budget deficit in the next fiscal year as the city counts the costs of the outbreak after months of social unrest, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said a blog post Sunday. The impact of the epidemic on the Hong Kong economy is being felt beyond retail, food and beverage and tourism-related industries, he said.

New cruise patients to be sent to hospitals (10.30am)

Japan’s health ministry said the 70 people most recently detected with the virus aboard the Diamond Princess would be sent to hospitals and facilities that have medical wards able to handle the disease, as the number of cases aboard the Diamond Princess climbed to 355. The vessel is the largest infection cluster outside China.

Canada steps in (8.35am)

Canada said “extraordinary circumstances” faced by those aboard the Diamond Princess and a desire to “lighten the burden” on Japan’s health-care system had fuelled its decision to charter a plane to repatriate Canadians from the liner.

Passengers will be brought to Canadian Forces Base Trenton, after which they will be assessed and transported to the NAV Canada Training Institute in Cornwall, Ontario, to undergo a further 14-day period of quarantine, the government said in a statement.

Before boarding in Japan, passengers will be screened for symptoms, it said, and those with any symptoms of the virus will instead be transferred to the Japanese health system to receive appropriate care.

The risks in Canada from the coronavirus remain “low,” Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said Saturday as the government said total cases remained at eight.

China reports additional Saturday cases (8.10am)

China reported an additional 2,009 cases for Saturday, as it updated the number of coronavirus cases nationwide.

Singapore budget stimulus to counter virus (7am)

Singapore is set to deliver an expansionary budget this week to offset the damage to the economy from the coronavirus. The city-state, which has more than 70 confirmed infections, is losing as many as 20,000 tourists a day amid the outbreak, and the economic impact is already more severe than during the 2003 SARS pandemic, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was cited as saying Friday.

There are currently no plans for Singapore to raise its alert response level to the highest, which is red and signifies a disease is spreading widely, its health minister said Friday, dispelling rumours. The level is currently at the second-highest. The city is also asking its doctors to provide medical certificates of five-days leave for patients with respiratory symptoms so they could stay home to recover.

Rate of new cases slows in Hubei (6am)

Hubei province had fewer new infections for a second consecutive day, government data showed early Sunday. New cases reached 1,843, a 24% drop from the 2,420 of the previous day and well below the 4,823 reported for Feb 13.

The province had 139 new deaths for two days in a row, the second-highest daily total for the province. Wuhan, the province’s main city, accounted for three quarters of all the deaths, and 70% of the infections.

Hawaii officials downplay risks (5.30am)

The risk of contracting the coronavirus remains low in Hawaii, state officials said after a recent vacationing visitor from Japan returned home and was confirmed as being infected, local media reported.

The man’s symptom were not at full force during his late January-early February visit, according to KHON-TV.

Hong Kong to evacuate residents on cruise (12am)

Hong Kong’s government said it would organise a chartered flight to bring residents quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess back home free of charge. They will then be placed in a 14-day quarantine, it said.

US planes set for Japan evacuation (4.30am)

Aircraft chartered by the US State Department are to arrive Sunday in Japan to evacuate about 400 citizens from the Diamond Princess.

Passengers will be screened before boarding and anyone with symptoms will “receive the required care in Japan if they cannot board the flight,” the department said. More checks will be made en route and upon landing at Travis Air Force Base in California.

Americans on the flights are subject to a 14-day quarantine at either Travis or Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.

“The US government recommends, out of an abundance of caution, that US citizens disembark and return to the United States for further monitoring,” according to a statement. “Should passengers choose not to return on this charter flight, they will be unable to return to the United States for a period of time.”

WHO chief urges broader response (2.45am)

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged the international community on Saturday to make their response to the coronavirus government-wide, saying it’s not a job for health ministers alone.

He also said all nations must be ready to handle coronavirus cases and prepared to prevent further transmission, adding “it’s impossible to predict what direction this epidemic will take.”

The WHO is concerned with the continued increase of the number of cases in China, and there’s been a “lack of urgency” from the international community in funding a response. He again praised China, saying the steps taken by the Beijing government are encouraging.

“China has bought the world time. We don’t know how much time,” he said. “We’re encouraged that outside China, we have not yet seen widespread community transmission.”

Liner passengers can’t leave Malaysia (2.45am)

Some passengers from the Westerdam luxury liner were blocked from leaving Malaysia after an 83-year-old US woman from the ship tested positive for the coronavirus, the Dutch RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment said.

The travellers who left when the ship docked in Cambodia and headed to Malaysia were denied boarding an Amsterdam-bound flight from Kuala Lumpur, according to the Dutch foreign ministry. The RIVM estimates 11 people weren’t able to board.

Holland America, which operates the liner, on Saturday said everyone on the ship was tested on Feb 10 and none had an elevated temperature, and during the cruise “no indication” of the coronavirus was evident.

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