China battles coronavirus outbreak: All the latest updates | China News

by Zelalem

The death toll in China from the new coronavirus has risen to 170, as more countries announced plans to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak.

More than 7,800 people, including 7,711 in China, are now confirmed to have the infection, which has spread from Wuhan’s Hubei province to every one of China’s 31 provinces. 


The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday urged governments around the world to “take action” over the SARS-like virus, cases of which have been confirmed in almost 20 countries.

The WHO will hold an urgent meeting on Thursday over whether the outbreak should be declared a global health emergency – a designation that can lead to increased international coordination.

Here are the latest updates:

Thursday, January 30

Jeweller Pandora closes 53 shops in China

Jeweller Pandora said it has closed 53 of is 237 shops in China, most of them in the Hubei province.

The Danish company followed recommendations from Chinese authorities, a spokesman said.

Cruise companies MSC and Costa cancel departures from China

Cruise operator MSC Cruises cancelled three scheduled cruises on its Splendida ship which has a capacity of 6,880 people and was due to sail on February 1, 5 and 9 for Japan.

The ship is now to depart again only on February 14, when it will leave from Singapore, instead of Shanghai, for the Middle East and Europe, MSC said.

MSC said in a statement that no case of infection among passengers or crew had been reported on any Asian winter cruises.

Costa Cruises, meanwhile suspended nine trips from China that had been scheduled between now and February 4, saying the measure was “temporary”.

Volvo extends holidays at Chinese plants

China-owned Volvo Cars has extended the production break for Chinese New Year at its Chinese plants until February 9.

The carmaker was following recommendations from authorities in China and Sweden, a Volvo Cars spokesman said in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The carmaker did not expect the decision to affect overall production volumes, the spokesman added.

Hong Kong braces for spreading of coronavirus (02:20)

Indonesia to evacuate about 250 people from China

Indonesia‘s government said it is preparing to evacuate nearly 250 Indonesians from China’s Hubei province.

An official statement from his office said President Joko Widodo issued the instructions for the evacuation after a Cabinet meeting.

The government said it was making domestic preparations and that an Indonesian Embassy team in China was helping facilitate travel and documents.

Indonesia was going to send two Boeing 737s and a military C130 Hercules aircraft for the evacuation, which Minister of Health Terawan Agus Putranto said was expected to be done on Saturday.

Preliminary coronavirus tests on Italy cruise ship passengers negative

Italy‘s health ministry said two Chinese passengers held in isolation on a crowded cruise ship appeared not to have the deadly coronavirus.

More than 6,000 tourists were under lockdown aboard the Costa Smeralda at a port near Rome after one of the passengers began running a fever.

It was not immediately clear whether the negative test result meant they would be allowed to disembark.

More here.

Ethiopian Airlines suspends all flights to China

Ethiopian Airlines has suspended all flights to China, according to the airline’s passenger call centre. 

Egypt preparing special flight to evacuate citizens from Wuhan

Egypt said it was preparing a special flight to evacuate its citizens from Wuhan and would quarantine them for 14 days on their return home to avoid contagion, the cabinet said.

South Korea officials face anger over quarantine centres

Angry South Koreans volleyed eggs and expletives at a minister and officials trying to defuse their ire over plans to quarantine hundreds of citizens set to be flown home from the epicentre of the new coronavirus epidemic in China.

More here.

Paris calls off Lunar New Year parade

Paris has postponed the popular annual Lunar New Year parade scheduled for this weekend in the capital’s Asian quarter, organisers said.

Sunday’s event, a highlight for Paris’s 13th arrondissement or district, will be postponed for a few months, Mayor Jerome Coumet told AFP news agency.

“The Chinese community is not in the mood for partying, the situation is too complicated with what is happening in China,” he said.

Sacha Lin-Jung of the Association of Chinese People Living in France, which organises the festival, said it was being deferred for health reasons and to allay public concern.

Pakistan: No immediate plans to evacuate citizens from China

A top Pakistani health official said Islamabad had no immediate plan to evacuate any of about 30,000 nationals living in China to study and work.

Zafar Mirza, who advises Prime Minister Imran Khan on health issues, told a news conference that so far only four Pakistani students in China have been diagnosed with the new virus and their conditions are listed as stable.

He said about 500 Pakistani students were in Wuhan – the site of the outbreak – when it surfaced. He said although the virus has killed 170 people in China, authorities in Beijing have done a good job of containing it by taking swift measures.

Spain to repatriate nationals from Wuhan with UK’s help

A group of Spanish citizens will fly back from the Chinese city of Wuhan in the coming hours as part of a joint repatriation operation with the United Kingdom, Spain‘s foreign ministry said.

Spain’s Minister of Health Salvador Illa said earlier that the group of about 20 Spaniards will spend 14 days in quarantine when they return to the country.

Health chief in Chinese city near virus epicentre sacked

The health chief of China’s Huanggang city, near the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, has been dismissed, the city’s health department said in a statement.

The brief statement said that Tang Zhihong had been dismissed, but gave no other details.

Egyptair to suspend all flights to and from China

Egyptair has suspended all flights to and from China starting on Saturday, the civil aviation ministry said in a statement.

UK delayed evacuation flight from China will leave on Friday

Britain’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Dominic Raab said he had confirmation that a delayed evacuation of UK citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan will be able to leave on Friday morning.

“We are pleased to have confirmation from the Chinese authorities that the evacuation flight from Wuhan airport to the UK can depart at 05:00 local time on Friday,” Raab said.

Thailand arrests two for ‘fake news’ posts

Thai authorities have arrested two people for posting “fake news” about the coronavirus as a senior official warned internet users to think twice before sharing incorrect information on the pathogen.

Thailand‘s digital economy minister, Buddinpongse Punnakanta, told AFP news agency that a man and woman were charged with violating the computer crimes act – which can carry up to five years in prison – for separate social media posts about the virus.

Iran seeking approval to evacuate citizens from Wuhan

Iran‘s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is seeking approval from the Chinese government to evacuate its nationals from Wuhan, ISNA reported, citing a ministry spokesman. 

Earlier on Thursday, State Department spokesman Abbas Mousavi told reporters that Iran’s embassy in China has sent “food and health packages” to all students living in Wuhan.

Kazakhstan detains two for spreading coronavirus rumours

Two ambulance drivers were arrested for spreading rumours about a coronavirus infection in Kazakhstan, Kazakh police said.

The two men were arrested on suspicion of “spreading false information about an illness from the coronavirus,” said Sergei Neznayev, a spokesman for police in the region surrounding the country’s largest city, Almaty.

“They heard something somewhere and began to spread the information” via WhatsApp services, Neznayev told AFP news agency. 

Kazakhstan has not announced any cases of coronavirus.

Europe sends evacuation flight to China to bring 350 home

An A380 passenger plane has left southern Portugal en route to China where it will pick up hundreds of Europeans who want to escape the virus.

Captain Antonios Efthymiou said the flight would first go to Paris where it would pick up a team of doctors and extra crew before heading to Hanoi and then China. He told Portuguese media it would bring back about 350 Europeans.

Efthymiou described the flight as “a humanitarian mission”.

UK pressing China to allow relatives of its citizens to leave

The UK has asked the Chinese authorities to allow family members of its citizens who are trapped in Wuhan to leave, Prime Minister Boris Johnson‘s spokesman said.

The UK hopes a flight evacuating its nationals from Wuhan will be allowed to take off as soon as possible, the spokesman added. It was due to leave earlier on Thursday but has not yet been given clearance.

“There is also the issue of seeking for people who are the partners or married to UK nationals to be able to leave as well. We have pressed that point with the Chinese authorities,” the spokesman said.

BA cancels all flights to mainland China

British Airways (BA) said it has suspended all flights to and from mainland China. 

The airline flies daily from London’s Heathrow airport to Shanghai and Beijing.

BA said it had taken the move following UK government advice against all but essential travel to China.

Nigeria tells travellers to avoid China 

Nigeria has told its citizens to avoid travel to China for at least two weeks and instructed those returning from China to self-quarantine for the same length of time.

Minister of State for Health Osagie Ehanire also said those showing symptoms of the virus would be taken into mandatory quarantine in hospital.

Czech Republic halts issuance of visas to Chinese citizens

The Czech Republic has halted the issuance of visas to Chinese citizens due to the spread of the new coronavirus, news agency CTK said, citing Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek.

Thousands kept on board Italian cruise ship

Some 6,000 people are being kept on board an Italian cruise ship as tests are carried out on two Chinese passengers suspected of having caught the coronavirus, a spokesman for the Costa Crociere cruise company said.

The couple arrived in Italy on January 25 and boarded the ship, the Costa Smeralda, in the port of Savona that same day. They subsequently came down with a fever and have been suffering from breathing difficulties. 

No one was being allowed off the ship while medical checks were carried out, the spokesman said. The liner has visited Marseilles in France, Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca in Spain before docking on Thursday at Civitavecchia, north of Rome. 

Read the full story here.

DRC bans citizens from travelling to China

Congolese citizens have been prohibited from travelling to China in an attempt to protect the country from exposure to the coronavirus, the government said.

Citizens have to “postpone their trip until further notice,” while those returning from China should report to the border health and quarantine service, deputy minister Albert Mpeti said.

China is one of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s key economic partners with important investments in the copper and cobalt mining sectors.

Coronavirus symptoms

South Korea confirms two new cases, first human-to-human transmission

South Korea has confirmed two new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total in the country to six.

Of the two, one patient recently returned from Wuhan but the other was confirmed to be the country’s first human-to-human transmission, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.

The two patients were immediately quarantined.

Read more about which countries have confirmed cases of the virus here.

Vietnam confirms three new cases

Three new cases of coronavirus have emerged in Vietnam, the official health ministry said, bringing the number of active cases in the country to four.

Two people are being treated for the virus in the capital, Hanoi, while another is receiving treatment in the northern province of Thanh Hoa, a report in the Suc Khoe & Doi Song newspaper said.

All three had recently returned from Wuhan.

Read more about which countries have confirmed cases of the virus here.

Russia to shut border with China: PM

Russia will close its border with China to prevent the spread of the virus.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin told a government meeting that the order had been signed “to take measures to close the border [with China] in the Far East,” Russian news agencies reported.

Russia to pause issuing electronic visas to Chinese nationals

Russia will temporarily stop issuing electronic visas to Chinese nationals from Thursday, the foreign ministry said.

On Wednesday, Russia said it would limit its railway links with China from January 31, leaving only direct trains between Moscow and Beijing.

Vaccines likely will not be ready in time for Tokyo 2020: Professor

Vaccines against the coronavirus probably will not be ready by the start of the Tokyo Summer Olympics, a professor who looked at health risks ahead of the Games said, adding that he hopes there was enough time to build defences.

Koji Wada, a professor of public health at the International University of Health and Welfare in Tokyo, co-authored a paper in 2018 that looked at health risks from the influx of visitors to the 2020 Games in July.

“We may have more information about the risk of infection and the risk of severity of getting the virus, so we can [be] prepared,” Wada told Reuters news agency. “So we can have some precautions for infection control … but I hope we can conduct the Tokyo Olympics as scheduled.”

US to arrange more evacuation flights from Wuhan 

The US government will lay on extra evacuation flights from Wuhan with capacity for private US citizens on or about February 3, the State Department said in a statement.

Individuals on the flights would be subject to screening, health observations and monitoring requirements.

It did not say how many planes it would deploy for how many US citizens.

Cambodia leader blasts online misinformation

Cambodia‘s leaders urged citizens to remain calm about the new virus while threatening to kick out reporters or officials seen wearing a face mask.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a live televised address that people should not be scared because the real illness they face is fear, based on inaccurate information on social media.

“The prime minister does not wear a mask, so why should you be wearing a mask here,” he said.

One case of the virus has been reported in Cambodia, which has not cancelled flights to China and said there are no plans to repatriate Cambodians in China. 

Virus fears push Asian stocks to seven-week low, but gold gains

Asian stocks and currencies fell as the number of deaths from the coronavirus rose and more cases were reported around the world.

Read the full story here.

India confirms first case of coronavirus

India has reported its first case of the coronavirus in the southern state of Kerala, the government said in a statement.

The patient – a student at Wuhan University – has tested positive for the virus and is stable and in isolation at a hospital, the statement added.

Read more about which countries have confirmed cases of the virus here.

Philippines confirms first case of coronavirus: Health minister

Philippine health officials have confirmed the first case of the new coronavirus in the country.

A 38-year-old Chinese woman, who arrived in the country from Wuhan on January 21 tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Health Secretary Francisco Duque told a news conference. 

Duque said the patient, confined in a government hospital, is currently asymptomatic. 

Read more about which countries have confirmed cases of the virus here.

China confident of minimising transmission risk on planes

China is confident it can minimise the risks of the virus being transmitted on planes and that the small number of cases reported abroad show it is having success in controlling its spread, an official at the civil aviation authority said.

Zhu Tao, a director at the Civil Aviation Administration of China, also told reporters during a briefing on the outbreak that foreign airlines which have cancelled flights to China are responding to a change in market conditions.

UK delays evacuation flight

The UK has delayed a planned evacuation of its citizens from Wuhan because it has not yet got the correct permissions from Chinese authorities for a flight to leave.

The UK has planned to fly back its citizens to a Royal Air Force base but the flight is now unlikely to take off on Thursday.

“We are doing everything we can to get British people in Wuhan safely back to the UK,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman said. “A number of countries’ flights have been unable to take off as planned. We continue working urgently to organise a flight to the UK as soon as possible.” 

Israel’s El Al suspends flights to Beijing

El Al Israel Airlines has said it was suspending flights o Beijing until March 25.

Israel’s flag carrier said its Thursday flight from Beijing to Tel Aviv would return as scheduled.

China urges food producers to resume production

China’s agriculture ministry urged feed producers and slaughterhouses to speed up the resumption of production, in a bid to increase supplies amid the outbreak.

Factories typically close during the Lunar New Year holidays. 

The outbreak has led to a jump in prices and insufficient supply of food in some Chinese cities due to panic buying and disruptions to transportation.

Australia defends choice of remote detention centre to house Wuhan evacuees

Australia‘s conservative government has defended its decision to use a detention centre thousands of kilometres from the mainland to quarantine locals evacuated from Wuhan.

Some health officials have criticised the decision to move the people to Christmas Island – about 2,600 kilometres (1,616 miles) from Australia that had been used to hold thousands of refugees between 2002 and 2018.

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said there was no other way to safely accommodate the returnees.

South Korea’s Moon urges calm amid protests 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has urged his citizens not to give in to fear as the government prepared to evacuate nationals from Wuhan.

“The weapons that will protect us from the new coronavirus are not fear and aversion but trust and cooperation,” Moon said in a speech, decrying “fake news” for having stirred excessive anxiety.

On Wednesday, protesters used tractors to block the roads to facilities earmarked for quarantine centres, calling for them to be located further away from homes and schools.

China says will punish officials who slack off in fighting virus

China’s anti-corruption watchdog said it would severely punish officials who slacked off in fighting the coronavirus.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said on its website that anyone who did not effectively carry out President Xi Jinping‘s instructions in the fight against the virus would be punished.

CCDI also said it would punish those who were found derelict in their duty and misappropriated rescue funds and materials.


China regulator approves charter flights to bring home Wuhan tourists

China’s aviation authority has approved chartered flights to bring home from overseas trips some residents of the central city of Wuhan, state television said.

Domestic and international airlines cancelled flights between Wuhan and overseas cities since January 23, in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.

Malaysia reports eighth case of coronavirus

Malaysia‘s Ministry of Health said it had confirmed an eighth case of the virus.

The infected woman is a Chinese national and the wife of one of the other patients in Malaysia.

The 49-year-old is being treated in an isolation ward at a hospital in the southern city of Johor Bahru.

Read more about which countries have confirmed cases of the virus here.

Singapore to provide four masks to every household to curb virus spread

Singapore will provide every one of the country’s 1.3 million households with four surgical masks to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the government said.

Residents will be able to collect the masks from February 1, the local Straits Times newspaper reported.

The city-state has confirmed 10 cases of coronavirus.

Read more about which countries have confirmed cases of the virus here.

Singapore masks

Residents of Singapore have been stocking up on face masks amid the outbreak [Feline Lim/Reuters]

More countries announce evacuations from Wuhan

New Zealand, Singapore and Indonesia have said they making efforts to evacuate their nationals from Wuhan.

New Zealand plans to charter a 300-seat aircraft to bring home New Zealanders and would offer any additional seats to nationals from the Pacific islands and Australia

Foreign Minister Winston Peters said the flight was still subject to China’s approval.

“This is a complex operation as we work through all the necessary requirements but we are working to have the aircraft depart as soon as possible,” Peters said.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s Foreign Ministry said it planned to bring home 92 citizens from Wuhan on a special flight and Indonesia’s foreign minister said it was working to evacuate its nationals “as soon as possible”.

IKEA closes all China stores

Sweden’s IKEA said it has temporarily closed all its stores in China because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The decision to close all of 30 stores follows an announcement from the world’s biggest furniture retailer on Wednesday that it was closing around half of its stores and shortening the opening hours.

China virus

Swedish furniture retailer IKEA will temporarily close all 30 of its stores in China as a result of the coronavirus [File: Michael Reynolds/EPA]

China football season postponed over virus fears

The Chinese Football Association (CFA) has said it would postpone all domestic games in 2020 because of the coronavirus.

Matches at all levels will be postponed, the association said in a statement on its website.

Two Koreas close liaison office in North Korea until virus outbreak comes under control

South Korea’s Unification Ministry has said it plans to bring back 58 South Korean officials and workers from the office in the North Korean border town of Kaesong as soon as possible.

The ministry said the two countries Koreas have agreed to establish new telephone and fax lines between Seoul and Pyongyang to perform liaison duties.

South Korea has reported four cases of the illness. North Korea has not officially reported a case, but its state media have called for intensive national efforts to prevent the virus from spreading to the country.

Three Japanese evacuated from Wuhan have new coronavirus

Three people among more than 200 Japanese evacuated from Wuhan have tested positive for the coronavirus, Japan’s health minister said.

The three people – two of whom did not have symptoms – arrived in Japan on Wednesday, on the first evacuation flight from the city.

China virus

The Japanese evacuated from Wuhan were taken out of Tokyo’s Haneda airport by bus. Three of them have now been confirmed to have the coronavirus – two showed no symptoms [Jiji Press via EPA]

Japan now has 11 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including two people who appear to have contracted the infection without travelling to China.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told lawmakers that the three returnees would be treated in a special medical facility.

US citizens evacuated from Chinese outbreak ‘symptom-free’: officials

Nearly 200 US citizens evacuated from Wuhan landed at a military base in California on Wednesday, where officials declared them free of symptoms. 

They have been asked to submit samples to test for the presence of the coronavirus and will remain isolated in their quarters for a period of up to 72 hours while they are monitored, Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

The chartered plane was met on the tarmac by emergency vehicles and three buses as personnel in biological hazard suits stood by.

Alyssa Farah, a spokeswoman for the Department of Defense, said the group included State Department employees and their dependents.

She added that the evacuees would “not have access to any base location other than their assigned housing.”

Read updates from Wednesday, January 29 here.

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