January 31 coronavirus news

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6:00 a.m. ET, January 31, 2020

Hong Kong considers tracking suspected coronavirus patients with electronic devices

People stand in front of a TV screen broadcasting Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaking in Hong Kong.
People stand in front of a TV screen broadcasting Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaking in Hong Kong. Vincent Yu/AP

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 12 in Hong Kong, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that the government had considered using electronic devices to track suspected patients that require home isolation.

In a press conference on Friday, Lam said tracking devices developed in the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park were being prepared for use by patients. She added that 200 units may be deployed as early as next week.

Lam said the government would strictly enforce immigration measures, but did not announce additional border controls beyond what was enforced on Tuesday.

Of the 12 confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Hong Kong, five involved residents from the city and seven from mainland China, Lam said. According to the Centre for the Department of Health, 11 of the cases are believed to have been brought in to Hong Kong. One is still under investigation.

5:59 a.m. ET, January 31, 2020

South Korea reports a total of 11 confirmed coronavirus cases

Medical vehicles carrying South Korean citizens repatriated from Wuhan, China leave Gimpo airport in Seoul, South Korea on Friday.
Medical vehicles carrying South Korean citizens repatriated from Wuhan, China leave Gimpo airport in Seoul, South Korea on Friday. Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

The number of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in South Korea has risen to 11, according to a statement by Korean Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (KCDC). South Korea had previously confirmed seven coronavirus patients.

“As of 2pm on Jan 31st, 2020, a total of 11 confirmed patients were reported, and the current status including detailed information on others who came in contact will be separately announced along with the results of the investigation,” KCDC said.

Two of the four newly confirmed cases are family members of the sixth patient, who himself was the first reported case of human-to-human transmission in South Korea, according to the statement.

“An in-depth investigation was conducted on 8 people who had contact with the 6th patient, and from the two members of his family, positive results were found,” the statement added.

In a separate briefing, the director of KCDC, Jung Eun-kyeong, announced that the eighth coronavirus patient is a 62-year-old woman who entered South Korea from Wuhan on a flight January 23.

The patient had been quarantined in a treatment facility and four immediate response teams are on the field investigating the confirmed patients’ past movement, Jung said.  


6:07 a.m. ET, January 31, 2020

Here are 5 common questions about the coronavirus, answered

AP Photo/Kin Cheung
AP Photo/Kin Cheung

Medical authorities, scientists, and the global public are on edge as the coronavirus spreads. From CNN’s senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, here are five things to know about the coronavirus:

  • Is there a cure for the virus? There is currently no cure, and researchers are still trying to learn more about the virus. But researchers have successfully grown the virus in a lab, an important step towards developing a vaccine. 
  • How does the virus spread? The virus is thought to spread from person to person through respiratory droplets emitted by coughing or sneezing -- but it's not clear exactly when a person becomes contagious. There's currently no evidence that the virus is airborne -- meaning, for instance, it doesn't travel across a large room.
  • Is it safe to travel? Airlines have suspended flights, and thousands of foreign citizens in China's Wuhan have been evacuated back to their home countries. Many countries including the US have advised against travel to China.
  • Who is at risk of infection? People of all ages can be infected with the virus, but older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions are especially vulnerable to severe complications.
  • How do I distinguish coronavirus from the flu? Coronavirus symptoms look like flu symptoms -- fever, cough, trouble breathing. If you show these symptoms and recently went to China, or have been in contact with someone who visited, experts advise going to the doctor.
4:53 a.m. ET, January 31, 2020

Schools in Hong Kong will stay suspended until March 2

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam at a press conference on January 31, 2020.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam at a press conference on January 31, 2020. PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images

In a press conference early Friday evening, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam urged residents to stay vigilant and announced further measures by the government to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Here are the highlights:

  • The numbers: There are now 12 confirmed cases of the virus in Hong Kong, five of which are Hong Kong residents and seven are mainland Chinese residents, Lam said.
  • School suspended: Primary and secondary schools were originally set to resume on February 17, but will now stay suspended until March 2. The government will re-evaluate at that point whether to resume classes, depending on the status of the outbreak.
  • Stay at home: Lam urged students and employees of suspended businesses to stay home instead of using the free time to go outside -- the point of these suspensions is "social distancing," to diminish crowds and gatherings.
  • Border crossings: Lam had announced travel restrictions and some border closings earlier this week. The number of arrivals from mainland China across different border points had dropped 91% since two weeks ago, she said today.
  • Additional measures: Lam said the city government had adopted measures like early identification and close tracking of infected patients, but would continue adopting measures suggested by the World Health Organization, like selective screening at international borders.
  • Travel warning: Lam urged Hong Kong residents not to visit the mainland, warning that "this will increase the risk of being infected."
6:07 a.m. ET, January 31, 2020

First two coronavirus cases confirmed in UK

The first two cases of Wuhan coronavirus have been confirmed in the UK, according to the Chief Medical Officer for England.

The patients, who are members of the same family, are being treated by the National Health Service in Newcastle, northeast England, the UK's PA media news agency reported.

“The patients are receiving specialist NHS care, and we are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus," Professor Chris Whitty said in a statement, adding that health officials were working to identify any other people the patients may have come into contact with.

We have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately. We are continuing to work closely with the World Health Organization and the international community as the outbreak in China develops to ensure we are ready for all eventualities.”
4:35 a.m. ET, January 31, 2020

Germany confirms its fifth case of the coronavirus

The Muenchen Klinik Schwabing hospital in Munich, Germany, where doctors are treating a coronavirus patient.
The Muenchen Klinik Schwabing hospital in Munich, Germany, where doctors are treating a coronavirus patient. Lennart Preiss/Getty Images

Germany has confirmed its fifth case of Wuhan coronavirus, in the southern state of Bavaria, according to a statement from the Bavarian Health Ministry on Thursday.

The male patient is employed at the same workplace as the other four people who contracted the virus from a co-worker visiting from China. 

The Chinese staff member is originally from Shanghai and has since flown back to China. She felt ill on the flight back and tested positive for the coronavirus after her return to Shanghai.

The statement goes on to read that no further employees who work for the company in Bavaria tested positive for the virus.

Around 110 people who were in close contact with all infected patients are still being tested for the novel coronavirus.

Why this matters: These German cases are significant because most people diagnosed with the virus outside of China have recently traveled to the country -- but several of these German cases did not.

4:31 a.m. ET, January 31, 2020

India says it will fly 400 citizens out of Wuhan 

A “special” flight will leave on Friday for the Chinese city of Wuhan and bring back about 400 Indian citizens, said the chief managing director of the Air India airline.

The passengers will land in New Delhi by 2 a.m. local time on Sunday. The Health Ministry and Foreign Affairs Ministry will make further arrangements once the passengers arrive, said the director.

India is just the latest country to evacuate its citizens from the epicenter of the outbreak. Other countries also doing so include the US, UK, Japan, South Korea, Spain, and France.

4:48 a.m. ET, January 31, 2020

South Koreans evacuated from Wuhan return home to protesters and supporters

Park Jin-ah, the daughter of a restaurant owner in Asan, South Korea.
Park Jin-ah, the daughter of a restaurant owner in Asan, South Korea. Yoonjung Seo/CNN

The 200 South Koreans who were flown home from Wuhan, China, on Friday were met with a mixed reception.

In the city of Asan, where the evacuated residents will be quarantined for 14 days, some residents held up welcome signs.

But others in Asan protested the evacuees' presence, worried that they would bring the coronavirus to the region.

Park Jin-ah is the daughter of a restaurant owner near the health facility where the evacuees will be quarantined. Her entire family is so worried that they are calling for her to leave Asan, she told CNN.

My sister and brother are calling me to move my parents to a safer place," she said.

But Park is more worried about going to Seoul and other areas where infected people may travel before being diagnosed. “I’m not so worried here because all these people from Wuhan came directly from the airport to the quarantine facility,” she added.

Some background: Only people who didn't show any symptoms were allowed to board the flights from Wuhan to South Korea, the government said.

The evacuees are staying in government-provided facilities in Asan and Jincheon, both in Chungcheong Province, and will receive medical check-ups twice a day.

4:31 a.m. ET, January 31, 2020

Hong Kong police pledge to "join hands" with the public to fight the outbreak

Riot police at the site of a protest in Hong Kong on January 26, 2020.
Riot police at the site of a protest in Hong Kong on January 26, 2020. Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

The Hong Kong police force issued a statement earlier today urging the public not to believe online rumors and pledging support for the community.

The statement read:

"Ill-intentioned people have once again spread false information online, claiming that district police stations are giving out free face masks to the public. These rumour-mongers have also claimed that the Government will supply a large amount of face masks to the family members of Police officers. Police must squash such misinformation and remind the public not to be misled. 
The Hong Kong Police Force pledges to stand firm and join hands with people from all walks of life to fight this battle against the epidemic."

City authorities have urged residents to avoid handshakes and close contact with people as they work to contain the virus. School has been suspended for the week, with many businesses closing temporarily or employees told to work from home.

A divided city: The police's pledge to "join hands" with the public may also ring hollow for those who have spent the past eight months clashing with those very officers.

Hong Kong was thrown into political chaos and violence last June by anti-government, pro-democracy protests. For months, the city was consumed with heated battles between protesters and police. Some protesters accuse officers of excessive force and police brutality -- allegations the force strongly denies.