January 31 coronavirus news
Italian Cabinet on Friday declared a state of emergency, a day after two Chinese tourists were the nation’s first confirmed cases of Wuhan coronavirus.
The two tourists had arrived in Rome a few days earlier, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced at a press conference Thursday evening.
Italy has also suspended flights to and from China.
Five additional cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed in Thailand, bringing the country’s total number of cases to 19, Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health announced in a press briefing on Friday afternoon.
Four out of the five new cases are Chinese citizens from Wuhan. The fifth case is a Thai taxi driver. He is the first Thai citizen infected with the virus who has no record of traveling to China, but was exposed to individuals who had traveled from China. Two of the 19 cases are Thai citizens.
All of the infected cases are in good condition, according to Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Sukhum Kanchanapimai. Only 12 cases remain in hospital, all in good condition, per the ministry.
The virus is also taking a toll on Thailand’s tourism sector. The Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Mr.Yuttasak Supasorn, told CNN around 80% of flights booking out of China to Thailand have been cancelled in the period from February to April. The estimated loss is about 95 billion baht [over 3 million USD]. He expected it would take at least 4 to 5 months to recover based on the SARS outbreak experience.
He added, “We have reassured to travelers that Thailand is not an outbreak area and we have good measures in place.”
The South Korean government is sending a second charter flight to Wuhan to repatriate South Korean citizens, the Foreign Affairs Ministry announced Friday. The flight is expected to depart Wuhan early Saturday morning.
According to the government estimate, about 700 South Koreans in Wuhan registered to return. South Korea’s first charter flight repatriated 368 of these citizens; 350 have been sent to quarantine facilities, while 18 others exhibiting symptoms on arrival are being tested.
Earlier Friday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in expressed his concern at the ongoing coronavirus developments, according to the South Korean presidential Blue House spokesperson, Han Jung-woo, at a briefing.
“Additionally confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus have been announced and secondary or human-to-human infection cases have occurred,” Moon said, according to Han. He also said that Moon was concerned about local infections of the coronavirus and he will be adjusting his schedule in order to properly respond to developments.
There are now 11 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in South Korea.
Israel’s Ministry of Health is requiring all airline passengers returning to the country from mainland China to self-quarantine for two weeks to decrease the chances of transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus.
The mandate, issued Thursday and effective immediately, instructs passengers to stay home for 14 days and not go to public places, according to Dr. Itamar Grotto, associate director general of Israel's Ministry of Health.
On Thursday, the Israeli government also suspended all direct flights from mainland China to Israel. The quarantine order applies to passengers flying on indirect flights from China to Israel.
The United States has not issued a quarantine order for passengers returning from China. Some 200 evacuees who flew on a US Department of State-chartered flight from Wuhan, China, to March Air Reserve Base in southern California on Wednesday are being quarantined and monitored for three days.
Germany has sent an armed forces plane to China to repatriate its citizens in light of the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, Foreign Minister Heiko Mass said.
Around 100 people will be repatriated, although none are suspected of being infected with the virus. On arrival, they will be put into quarantine for two weeks at a German army location to ensure that no one is carrying the virus.
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.
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.
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.
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."