February 1 coronavirus news
Hubei Province, home to Wuhan city where the outbreak began, is suspending all marriage license registrations until further notice.
The suspension will begin on February 3 to prevent the spread of the outbreak, "protect public health, and safeguard public interests," said the province in a statement on its website.
It's just the latest of a series of drastic measures in the province -- in one other city near Wuhan, every household is only allowed one representative to leave the house and buy groceries every other day.
Nearly 60 million people, mostly in Hubei, are under partial or full lockdown -- this means limited movement in or out of cities and towns, closed roads, and suspended public transit.
Those were the questions dominating Chinese social media after the state-run Xinhua news agency reported Friday that the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica and the Wuhan Institute of Virology had discovered that the Shuanghuanglian oral liquid -- a popular combined herbal remedy commonly used to relieve some symptoms such as fever, cough, and sore throat -- could be used to "inhibit" the deadly virus.
Posts on Weibo, China's Twitter-like platform, purportedly showed people lining up all night outside pharmacies across China to buy Shuanghuanglian, ironically going against the authorities' advice to avoid congregating in public.
Such was the apparent demand sparked by the notice that the compound formula sold out on some stores on China's e-commerce platform Taobao.
On Saturday, however, the ruling Communist Party's mouthpiece, the People's Daily, warned that "inhibiting does not equal preventing and treating," reminding the public not to rush to purchase the herbal remedy. The findings still needed to be studied, and there are no proven treatments for the virus yet, it said.
Some background: Though many TCM remedies have been used for hundreds of years, critics argue that there is no verifiable scientific evidence to support their supposed benefits.
But in 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) gave its long-awaited nod to include TCM in its influential book classifying thousands of diseases -- its first-ever official endorsement of the ancient practice.
Thousands of Hong Kong public medical staff will be voting Saturday evening on whether to strike on Monday if the government does not agree to demands to completely close the Chinese border.
13,000 members will vote ahead of the possible walkout next week, said Winnie Yu, chairwoman of the the medical workers' union Hospital Authority Employees Alliance.
Yu also said that 6,500 medical staff are backing the action, of which 70% are nurses, 8% doctors, 13% therapists, and the rest are administrative and support staff.
Separately, the Hong Kong West Cluster (one of 7 Hong Kong medical wards) released a statement announcing that over 1,100 of its medical staff have signed an open appeal to the government to ban all visitors from mainland China.
The statement adds that the staff are considering strike action Monday if their demands are not met.
What the government has done: The city government has already imposed travel restrictions on travelers from mainland China and closed some borders.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam has pushed back on demands to close all border, arguing that doing so would bar "a large number" of Hong Kong citizens coming back from China.
She added yesteday that with the new measures, the number of mainland Chinese arrivals across different border points had dropped 91% since two weeks ago,
An a Air India flight carrying 324 Indian nationals took off from Wuhan early on Saturday, according a tweet from the Indian embassy in Beijing.
The tweet said that most of the passengers on Saturday were Indian students, and that the embassy is looking to operate another flight for remaining Indian citizens in Wuhan.
“We sincerely thank the Chinese government for facilitating this flight, “ the tweet also said.
China has allocated almost $4 billion to fighting the virus, and sent thousands of extra doctors, nurses and military medics to Hubei province -- the epicenter of the outbreak.
Two hospitals were built in under a week in Wuhan, and are due to start accepting patients on Monday and Thursday, according to state media. They will focus specifically on coronavirus patients, providing some relief to Wuhan's stretched health system.
On Friday, the country's National Health Commission (NHC) said it was "confident in and capable of effectively containing the novel coronavirus epidemic, and eventually defeating it."
The Lunar New Year holiday will be extended in Hubei to an "appropriate extent," authorities said.
But it remains unclear how long parts of the country can continue to remain under lockdown, both from the perspective of making sure they have crucial supplies like food, and from an economic point -- both the national finances and people's personal pocketbooks will be taking a massive hit from next week.
The UK will withdraw some staff and dependants from the British Embassy and consulates in China, said an updated advisory from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
The staff are being brought back from China as of January 31.
"Essential staff needed to continue critical work will remain," said the advisory. "In the event that the situation deteriorates further, the ability of the British Embassy and Consulates to provide assistance to British nationals from within China may be limited."
The FCO is urging against all travel to Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. The British Consulate in Wuhan, the city where it all started, is closed.
Vietnam has confirmed its sixth case of the coronavirus on Saturday, in a tweet on the government's official account.
The patient is a 25-year-old hotel receptionist in the Khanh Hoa province. The government did not provide any more details.
Separately, the government announced the offer of medical instruments worth half a million dollars to help China fight the outbreak. The country’s Red Cross Society will also provide goods worth US$100,000.
The city of Huanggang in China’s Hubei province is only allowing one representative from each household to leave their home every other day to go outside and buy groceries.
The Huanggang government said the measure was to minimize the flow of people in the city amid the coronavirus outbreak, which started in nearby Wuhan.
Apart from the designated representative, the only other people allowed out of their homes are people seeking medical attention, or working in virus control, pharmacies and supermarkets.
Much of Hubei province remains under partial or full lockdown -- this is where the outbreak began, and where most of the deaths and cases have occurred.
Germany has confirmed its seventh case of Wuhan coronavirus in the southern state of Bavaria, the Bavarian Health Ministry said in a statement released late Friday.
The male patient is employed at the same workplace as five other confirmed cases, who all contracted the virus from a co-worker visiting from China.
Earlier Friday, the Bavarian Health Ministry confirmed the sixth patient is a child of a male employee at the same company.
The health ministry statement said employees at the company were tested on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Of 128 results available, 127 tested negative for the coronavirus.
Evacuation from Wuhan: The German Foreign Ministry confirmed that a German military flight has taken off from Wuhan, China, bringing back German citizens.
Around 100 citizens will be repatriated and put under quarantine for two weeks in order to prevent the spread of the disease, said the ministry. The plane will arrive on Saturday in Frankfurt.