Deaths on mainland China pass 2,000 as passengers begin leaving the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. Follow all the latest news here
- China’s handling of the virus is a diplomatic challenge for the WHO
- Chinese people in UK targeted with abuse over outbreak
- Dissent becomes victim of China coronavirus crackdown
- Share your experiences
Japanese health officials said 79 new coronavirus cases have been detected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, taking the total to 621.
The positive cases on board thevessel amount to the biggest cluster of infected people outside China, and Japan is facing mounting scrutiny of its quarantine measures as passengers begin to disembark and travel across the world.
Iranian authorities have confirmed two cases of coronavirus, the first in the country, the Associated Press has reported.
Citing the semi-official Isna news agency, the report states there was also an unspecified number of other suspected cases and that those individuals have been quarantined.
A total of 781 guests who disembarked from the Westerdam cruise ship in Cambodia have tested negative for Covid-19, Holland America, the ship’s operator, said.
Testing of passengers is now complete, while testing of 747 crew members is expected to continue for the next few days, the company said.
The are no indications the new coronavirus has spread to North Korea, the World Health Organization said, after South Korean media suggested there were cases and deaths there being covered up by the Pyongyang authorities.
Experts have raised concerns that the disease, which has now killed over 2,000 people in neighbouring China, could be devastating for North Korea’s under-resourced health system.
South Korea has now confirmed 20 new cases of the coronavirus, including 14 people involved in an outbreak traced to several church services in the central city of Daegu.
The jump in new cases is unprecedented so far in South Korea and brings the number of people infected in the country to 51.
As the quarantine of the Diamond Princess cruise ship ends today, questions continue to swirl over how the virus spread so readily on the ship.
Via Japan’s state broadcaster NHK, health minister Katsunobu Kato defended Japan’s efforts to halt the outbreak:
Unfortunately, cases of infection have emerged, but we have to the extent possible taken appropriate steps to prevent serious cases, including sending infected people to hospital
CDC’s assessment is that it may not have been sufficient to prevent transmission among individuals on the ship.
I felt much safer when I was in Africa [during the Ebola crisis] because you know where the virus exists and you know where the patient is. But inside the Diamond Princess you have no idea where the virus is.”
The remaining passengers who were stuck onboard a cruise ship docked in Cambodia for almost a week have left the vessel after testing negative for the coronavirus.
The MS Westerdam arrived in the port of Sihanoukville on 13 February having been turned away from five other ports after leaving Hong Kong, which has reported more than 60 cases of the virus and two deaths.
The last 233 passengers on MS Westerdam are disembarked and will continue to Phnom Penh by buses.
The last of the Australians who were in quarantine on Christmas Island have left and been declared free of coronavirus, the prime minister, Scott Morrison, has said.
More than 200 Australians spent two weeks in quarantine on the remote island, best known for its immigration detention centre, after being evacuated from Wuhan in China.
The people on the second flight who are quarantined at Howard Springs are due to go home in a few days, all things going well. Tomorrow we’re bringing home around 170 of the Australians who are on the Diamond Princess in Japan and they’ll also be quarantined for 14 days.
Shanghai has compiled a list of firms, including local units of multi-nationals Unilever PLC and 3M Co, as eligible for millions of dollars in subsidised loans to ease any blow from the coronavirus outbreak, according to bankers and documents seen by Reuters.
In an economically bruising three weeks, China has cordoned off cities and suspended transport links in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
Big Chinese manufacturing hubs are starting to ease curbs on the movement of people and traffic, Reuters reports, as local governments prod factories to restart production following weeks of stoppages due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The tough restriction measures slowed the sprawling industrial sector to a crawl, with companies unable to resume production or restore output to normal levels due to a lack of workers after the Lunar New Year holiday which was extended by around 10 days.
Macro and micro data suggest production activities are resuming at a slow pace in China, reaching 60-80% of normal levels by end-Feb and normalising only by mid-to-late March,” Morgan Stanley wrote in a research noted.
If the spread of the virus is not contained within the next two weeks, the disruption to production could extend into the second quarter.
Jessica Murray here, taking over the coronavirus blog for the next few hours – as always, feel free to get in touch on Twitter (@journojess_) or via email (email@example.com).
The Foreign Office has confirmed that although most passengers are free to leave the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan today after its official quarantine comes to an end, those who do so many not be able to board the UK evacuation flight planned for later this week.
We are planning an evacuation flight from Tokyo to the UK as soon as possible for Britons who are on the Diamond Princess. We hope the flight will be later this week, subject to permissions from the Japanese authorities.
At 0700 local time on Wednesday, the Diamond Princess cruise operator and Japanese authorities allowed passengers to disembark from the cruise ship. However there is a chance that people who disembark will not be able to join the evacuation flight.
I’m handing over the blogging duties to my colleagues in London. Thanks for reading but here’s a summary of the main developments today so far:
Casual staff at Australian universities fear for their livelihoods amid a slump in enrolments caused by the travel ban on Chinese students. Part-time teachers are “panicking” in fear that they won’t get paid if there no students to teach.
“The casual workforce gets hired based on enrolments. Casual teaching contracts require student numbers to be confirmed. People were panicking,” one lecturer said.
Justin McCurry in Tokyo has cleared up the confusion about the diagnosis of David Abel, a British passenger onboard the Diamond Princess, and his wife. It turns out he and Sally Abel are both positive after all, despite a suggestion earlier today that they weren’t:
Abel posted on Facebook on Tuesday night that he and his wife, Sally, had both tested positive, but then cast doubt on his diagnosis after being told by Japanese doctors that the couple were to be taken off the ship and placed in a hostel “for four or five days” rather than being sent to hospital.
But on Wednesday afternoon, Abel said they had confirmed their positive status after talking to an English-speaking doctor, and were preparing to be taken off the ship, which has been moored in Yokohama, near Tokyo, since 3 February.
Following on from Verna Yu’s story (last post but one) about the crackdown on dissent in China, the Global Times has tweeted about the ongoing enforcement of rules in Huanggang, a city in Hubei hard-hit by the virus.
The Chinese news site says people who violate the rules of the lockdown will be sent to “designated places to learn and recite government official documents”. Shades of Xinjiang.
CAUTION! Xishui County in #coronavirus-hit Huanggang, a city neighboring epicenter #Wuhan, enforced stringent epidemic prevention and control measures and will send lockdown-rule violators to designated places to learn and recite government official documents. pic.twitter.com/DAx5j7i8j4
The relief of this passenger from the Diamond Princess is palpable. As it would be.
Our reporter Verna Yu has been looking at how the government in Beijing has ruthlessly cracked down on dissent as it has tried to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The situation is especially brutal in Wuhan where people risk jail if they dare to even leave their homes.
People are gripped by fear and anxiety, and we are extremely angry because this disaster is entirely man-made.
Stocks across the Asia Pacific region have rebounded today after the Apple-induced falls of Tuesday.
In Sydney, the benchmark ASX200 rose 0.43% to close at a record high of 7144.6 points. That is also just 1 point off the all time intra-day high of 7145.7 which was set earlier in the year.
Despite mixed leads from #WallSt, local #stocks pushed higher today. The #Healthcare sector, up 2.81% & #ConsumerDisc sector, up 1.74% led the winners to push the $SPI up 0.4% to 7144.6 level. $AUD is trying to reclaim the 0.6700 level.#ASX200 #ausbiz
Losses may exceed deposits pic.twitter.com/6NMIhZVs7x
Our full story on the exodus from the Diamond Princess has just gone live on the site.
Here it is:
Reuters has given us a fascinating insight into what’s happening inside the Chinese economy and how people are losing their jobs amid the unprecedented shutdown.
Mark Xia, a cameraman at a video prooducer in Shanghai, returned to work this month to be told he had to take three months unpaid leave.
More grim news from the frontline in Wuhan. A nurse at Wuchang hospital in the city has died from the virus, the Global Times reports.
A nurse, her parents and brother in Wuhan, Central China’s Hubei Province, epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, have died of the #COVID19, the government of Wuhan said on Tuesday.https://t.co/adDeXZsX63 pic.twitter.com/mHqSkvBgSb
Australian Olympic chief John Coates has assured athletes, fans and officials that it will be safe to attend the games scheduled for Tokyo at the end of July.
Ten staff from a Japanese news agency, Kyodo News, were reportedly driven in a hired vehicle in January and early February by a man who has since tested positive for Covid-19.
The Japan Times reports that the staff were sent home to self-quarantine. In 14 days since their last contact with the man, seven of the staff members have shown no symptoms and will soon return to work. Three remain at home. None have actually been tested for the virus.
The death rate from the novel coronavirus has risen to 2.67%, based on today’s official figures from China. That’s based on 2,010 deaths worldwide and 75,199 confirmed cases.
The rate was thought to be around 2%. I’m not an expert in infectious diseases but that figure is growing.
The death rate has been steadily up, at a 0.1% per day, in Wuhan city, outside the city, and outside the province. Lesson: don’t jump too soon to conclude the virus is not lethal. pic.twitter.com/jqJQNwVPsi
A second person has died from Covid-19 in Hong Kong, according to the South China Morning Post.
The 70-year-old man had underlying health problems and was declared dead on Wednesday morning.
The team at Capital Economics have been producing charts tracking coal consumption and traffic congestion and other factors in China in an effort to give a picture of how the virus is affecting the economy.
The official line from China is that much of the workforce is back in action and that targets can be hit.
More on the disembarking passengers from Justin in Tokyo:
Japanese TV showed passengers leaving the ship late on Wednesday morning to board waiting buses. Local health authorities said about 500 passengers were expected to disembark on Wednesday, with around 2,500 others to follow over the next two days.
#day14 #coronavirus #COVID19 NEGATIVE! Me, son, husband, mom and dad! Thank you Lord for protecting us! we are leaving tomorrow ! So emotional now! #hangintherediamondprinces pic.twitter.com/P6JqtlnwgE
#day15 #disembark #covid15 #Coronavirus our last deep gratitude to the crews & captain for such an amazing care & loves for us and be strong for us during the epic crisis. We as a family loves you all.We can’t wait to see you again soon on board again! #hangintherediamondprinces pic.twitter.com/qsaPiezOVy
Beijing’s leading medical adviser has warned that human-to-human transmission of Covid-19 has still not been stopped in Wuhan, the state-owned Global Times reports.
Human-to-human transmission of novel coronavirus has not been stopped in Wuhan, central govt’s top medical adviser Zhong Nanshan cautioned, pointing out urgent tasks in curtailing the spread of the #COVID19. https://t.co/JwuS78whW2 pic.twitter.com/7f0ZMPBMGO
Justin McCurry, our man in Tokyo, has been speaking to a Japanese health expert who fears some of the cruise ship passengers could yet turn out to be carrying the virus:
Kentaro Iwata, a specialist in infectious diseases at Kobe University Hospital in western Japan who spent several hours on the luxury cruise liner on Tuesday, told the Guardian that passengers cleared of the virus should continue to be monitored for another two weeks in case they develop symptoms of Covid-19.
It is a good idea to allow people to disembark because conditions on the ship are dangerous, but it is possible that some people who recently tested negative could turn out to be positive.
Certainly those who are due to leave should not be allowed to wander around freely. They have to be monitored so they can quickly receive medical treatment if they show symptoms.
Passengers have begun leaving the Diamond Princess cruise ship after spending two weeks in quarantine off Yokohama, near Tokyo, public broadcaster NHK said.
The South Korean disease control centre (KCDC) has confirmed our earlier report that the country has 15 new cases of the virus, taking the total to 46.
It says 13 cases were identified in Daegu and the surrounding North Gyeongbuk province about 250km south of the capital, Seoul.
China is doing its utmost to get its huge state-owned industrial sector back to work following the shutdowns amid the Covid-19 outbreak, state media reports.
China’s central SOEs step up efforts to resume production https://t.co/5Kc7azgsoN
The rooms, which usually pack in eight workers, had quickly filled, causing Foxconn to halt the return of additional staff, explained a Zhengzhou-based factory recruiter, who asked not to be named.
“They don’t have enough room,” the recruiter said, adding that workers could now sign up and wait for quarantine availability. “There’s no one snoring. There’s no one bothering you. The internet is finally fast,” said one worker of the comfortable conditions in quarantine.
Justin McCurry in Tokyo reports that a British couple did not after all test positive:
David Abel, a British passenger onboard the Diamond Princess cruise liner in Japan, has said he and his wife Sally did not test positive for the coronavirus Covid-19 – as he had initially reported – and were still on the ship waiting to disembark.
Sticking with South Korea, the finance minister has outlined some emergency funding measures to prop up the local economy, which is very exposed to the slowdown in China.
Hong Nam-ki said:
(LEAD) S. Korea to inject liquidity to exporters amid virus fallout https://t.co/8pT9aP7e7O
South Korea has 15 new cases of the coronavirus and will announce the positive test results later on Wednesday, according to Yonhap news agency, which cited unnamed health officials.
(URGENT) S. Korea reports 15 more cases of novel coronavirus, total jumps to 46. https://t.co/A9j4Z19m03
Stock markets in Asia are in positive territory today after a dip yesterday caused largely by Apple’s shortages warning.
Sydney is up 0.15%, Tokyo is 0.4% to the good and Seoul is 0.5% better off.
Bulls in the financial market have seen every dip in share prices as a buying opportunity, primarily because they are confident that the Federal Reserve and other central banks will step in and provide ample stimulus if things start to look grim. In the short-term, the bulls are right. In the long term, central banks will be legitimising reckless behaviour and risking the crash to end all crashes.
Reuters has the latest health commission numbers. It says 2,004 people have died from the virus in mainland China, making a total around the world of 2,009 by my reckoning.
Confirmed cases on the mainland are 74,185. When you add Taiwan (22) and Hong Kong (62) that’s a total of 74,279.
Chinese media are reporting that the total deaths from the virus are now more than 2,000. I’m hoping to get the official confirmation of national health commission figures shortly but Tencent reports 2,003 deaths in mainland China with one in Hong Kong. There have been four more deaths around the world.
The Johns Hopkins University tracker puts the total deaths, including those around the world, at 2,007, so there’s a discrepancy of one between the two figures. Total cases in mainland China stands at 74,139, according to Johns Hopkins.
Welcome to our rolling coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. I’m Martin Farrer and these are the main points today: