February 4 coronavirus news

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4:40 a.m. ET, February 4, 2020

80% of coronavirus victims are over 60, official says

From journalist Isaac Yee in Hong Kong and CNN’s Lily Lee in Beijing

The death rate from the Wuhan coronavirus across mainland China stands at 2.1%, China’s National Health Commission said in a press update on Tuesday.

In Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, the rate is 3.1%, said Jiao Yahui, deputy director of the National Health Commissions State Health Administration.

Hubei province accounts for 97% of all deaths.

Of the 425 confirmed deaths across mainland China, 80% of the victims were over the age of 60, and 75% of victims had some form of underlying disease, Jiao added. Two-thirds of the confirmed deaths are male.

Jiao attributed the higher number of deaths in Hubei province to the large number of severe cases as well as the initial lack of hospital beds to treat patients.

Despite the youngest confirmed case being just one month old, the majority of cases -- especially severe cases -- involve elderly patients, Jiao said.

The national average time needed for a patient to fully recover is nine days, according to Jiao. She added that in Hubei province the recovery time is higher at 20 days because there are more severe cases.

There are currently 20,438 confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus across mainland China.

4:34 a.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Countries and airlines around the world have placed travel restrictions on China

Protesters in Hong Kong calling for the government to close its borders with mainland China, on February 3, 2020.
Protesters in Hong Kong calling for the government to close its borders with mainland China, on February 3, 2020. ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images

More than 185 cases of the Wuhan coronavirus have been confirmed in over 25 places worldwide, prompting countries and airlines to place varying levels of travel restrictions on China.

The most stringent appear to be in the US, banning all foreign nationals who have entered China in the last 14 days -- a move that has been criticized both at home and abroad.

Some, like Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, have called the Trump administration's guidelines opaque and confusing. Beijing also slammed the US decision as an overreaction that would feed into mass hysteria about the virus.

A number of other countries including Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea have also placed travel restrictions or bans on travelers coming from China.

The World Health Organization advised countries to enact "measures to limit the risk of exportation or importation of the disease," but without "unnecessary restrictions of international traffic."
4:01 a.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Here's the latest on the outbreak

A Chinese woman and her child in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on February 3, 2020 in Manila, Philippines.
A Chinese woman and her child in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on February 3, 2020 in Manila, Philippines. Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

The Wuhan coronavirus continues to spread across Asia and the rest of the world. Countries have implemented various emergency measures and travel restrictions, as researchers continue working toward a treatment.

If you're just joining us now, here's what you need to know:

  • The numbers: The Wuhan novel coronavirus has killed at least 427 people and infected 20,627 cases globally. The vast majority of those are within China and concentrated in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. Only two deaths have been outside of mainland China: one in the Philippines and one in Hong Kong.
  • Rising death toll: The number of reported deaths in China have been jumping rapidly. It topped 100 on January 28, topped 200 by January 31, topped 300 on February 1, and topped 400 today.
  • Recoveries: There have also been reports of recovering patients. Most of Singapore's 18 confirmed cases are stabilized and improving, said the government. And in the US, the first confirmed case has been discharged from hospital in Washington state.
  • Global response: Countries are continuing to evacuate their citizens out of Wuhan, and place travel restrictions on travelers from China. Some of these measures -- specifically from the US -- have sparked anger from China.
  • Quarantines: Nearly 60 million people remain under lockdown in China. And in Japan, an entire cruise ship with more than 3,000 people on board is quarantined in the port after a former passenger was found infected a few days earlier.
4:39 a.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Six months of protests wrecked Hong Kong's economy. A virus scare is the last thing this city needs

Analysis from CNN's Joshua Berlinger

Hong Kong protesters demanding closed borders with China on February 3, 2020.
Hong Kong protesters demanding closed borders with China on February 3, 2020. ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images

Months of violent protests and a bruising US-China trade war pushed Hong Kong into a recession last year for the first time in a decade. Now the coronavirus outbreak threatens to derail things once again.

Officials said yesterday Hong Kong's economy shrank 1.2% last year as massive protests paralyzed the city's streets and scared away tourists. GDP shrank 2.9% in the fourth quarter alone.

Hopes dashed: There were signs that 2020 might be better -- diminishing protests, and an initial trade deal -- but then the outbreak happened.

It has spurred the city government to cancel school for weeks, and order civil servants to work from home. Retail stores, theme parks, cultural attractions and other hotspots remain closed.

Tourism hit: The protests already took a heavy toll on the tourism industry: The number of people who visited Hong Kong in November plunged by nearly half compared to a year earlier.

The coronavirus outbreak will likely exacerbate that problem. Most of Hong Kong's visitors come from mainland China, where many cities have placed their residents on lockdown. Hong Kong has also closed nearly all of its border crossings into the mainland in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading.

The coronavirus "will definitely cause a double blow to the economy," Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan wrote in a Sunday blog post. 

Read more about the hit to Hong Kong's economy here.

3:59 a.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Wuhan residents have become outcasts in their own country

From CNN's Nectar Gan

Chinese passengers, most wearing masks, arrive to board trains before the Lunar New Year at a Beijing railway station.
Chinese passengers, most wearing masks, arrive to board trains before the Lunar New Year at a Beijing railway station.

In China, Wuhan used to be known as a city of cherry blossoms, an economic engine of the central heartland, and the birthplace of a revolution that brought down the country's last imperial dynasty.

But now, the city has become the face of the deadly novel coronavirus outbreak -- and fears have fueled resentment and discrimination against people from Wuhan.

Stranded in their own country: One social media user claimed in a post that she had left Wuhan on January 20, and was been kicked out by her guesthouse in Changsha, Hunan province, last Sunday.

A nightmare followed. There were no trains stopping in Wuhan anymore; she couldn't contact Wuhan authorities for help; the police told her to go find a homeless shelter; she even got a health check at the hospital, but no hotels would take her.

She only managed to find a place to stay after being rejected by more than 10 hotels and guesthouses.

"I don't understand it. Even if all of us Wuhan people are 'walking dead,' to contain the outbreak's spread, shouldn't I be allowed to stay indoors? Now I'm forced to go out, and I've got nowhere to go," she wrote.

Read more about it here.

3:32 a.m. ET, February 4, 2020

First confirmed case of coronavirus in Belgium

From CNN’s Martin Goillandeau and Zahid Mahmood in London

A picture taken on February 2, 2020 shows the military hospital in Brussels where Belgian citizens are quarantined after being evacuated from Wuhan.
A picture taken on February 2, 2020 shows the military hospital in Brussels where Belgian citizens are quarantined after being evacuated from Wuhan. PAUL-HENRI VERLOOY/Belga/AFP via Getty Images

Belgium has confirmed its first case of coronavirus, Belgium’s public health department said today.

The patient was one of the nine citizens who had been evacuated out of Wuhan this past weekend.

All nine were tested for the infection at the Neder-Over-Heembeek military hospital in the capital Brussels after they arrived back to Belgium on Sunday, with one patient testing positive.

The person who tested positive is healthy and shows no signs of illness for the time being,” the statement said.

“They were transferred last night to St. Peter’s University Hospital in Brussels, one of our country’s two reference centers. This hospital has all the necessary expertise and support to ensure the best possible care.”

2:49 a.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Xi Jinping hinted at some potentially far-reaching reforms after Wuhan. Let's see if they actually pan out.

Analysis by CNN's James Griffiths

Chinese President Xi Jinping in Macau on December 18, 2019.
Chinese President Xi Jinping in Macau on December 18, 2019. ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images

Speaking to top officials tasked with fighting the Wuhan coronavirus Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the "outcome of the epidemic prevention and control directly affects people's lives and health, the overall economic and social stability and the country's opening-up."

While much of Xi's speech was dedicated to promoting a centralized, coordinated approach to tackling the deadly epidemic, he also hinted at some problems which are believed to have led to the virus's spread across China and the world.

Xi called for "resolute opposition against bureaucratism and the practice of formalities for formalities' sake in the prevention work." His comments may be a reference to statements made by some Wuhan officials that they did not report the virus earlier as they needed to request permission from the central government in order to do so.

"The outbreak is a major test of China's system and capacity for governance, and we must sum up the experience and draw a lesson from it," the meeting concluded, according to state media.

"The meeting stressed improving the country's emergency management system and capacity of handling urgent, difficult, dangerous and important tasks.
An overhaul of environmental sanitation conditions should be conducted, the meeting said, calling for efforts to strengthen the areas of weakness in public health.
Resolute efforts should be made to crack down on illegal wildlife markets and trade to address major public health risks at the root," state media reported.

What this actually means: While all the problems identified certainly exist, the ability of the Communist Party under Xi to deal with them is less clear. Bureaucratism has long been a problem in China, with officials wary of doing anything outside their remit or taking risks, even in a time of crisis when alacrity in decision making is needed.

One of Xi's signature policies, a far-reaching corruption campaign, may have actually made this problem worse. By making officials' positions far more precarious and centralizing more and more power under himself and the central government, it is even more unlikely that provincial politicians will take action without the approval of Beijing.

Poor sanitation, particularly in rural areas and the trade in wild animals were recognized as problems after the 2003 SARS outbreak. A "Patriotic Hygiene Campaign" was launched, and officials vowed to enforce tighter regulations on the trade in civet cats -- which were blamed for spreading SARS -- and other wild meat.

Neither of these campaigns had far reaching effects. Hygiene remains an issue in many areas -- a "toilet revolution" was launched last year -- and civet cats were found to be on sale at Wuhan markets.

2:44 a.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Taiwan announces ban on foreign nationals who have been to China in past 14 days

From CNN's Isaac Yee and Sarah Faidell in Hong Kong  

Taiwan announced today that the island will deny entry to foreign nationals who have been to China, starting this Friday.

Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the restrictions are in response to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, in an effort to safeguard public health and control the flow of people entering Taiwan.

The restrictions mean that any foreign national who has visited or lived in the People’s Republic of China in the past 14 days will be banned from entering Taiwan.

Those needing to enter for “special reasons” can fill out a visa as long as they have not been to areas “severely affected” by the virus and can submit travel history reports along with medical reports.

Foreign nationals with a Taiwan resident certificate who have been in China in the past 14 days are required to self-isolate in their homes and monitor their health.

Taiwan has 10 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. 

2:41 a.m. ET, February 4, 2020

China marks deadliest day of outbreak, with confirmed cases topping 20,000

From CNN's James Griffiths

The coronavirus' spread shows no signs of slowing, as China reported another major spike in both confirmed cases and deaths.

The total number of confirmed cases in China stands at 20,438 as of today, an increase of 3,235 from the previous day -- a jump of over 18%. The death toll is now at 425 in mainland China, an increase of around 65 from Sunday.

Surging death toll: The numbers have been jumping by huge margins in recent weeks. Less than a month ago, the first coronavirus patient died in China on January 9. By January 28, the death toll had topped 100; by January 31 it topped 200; the very next day, February 1, it topped 300. Today it topped 400.

There are several factors behind the massive jumps, including potential delays between patients being infected and noticing symptoms, seeking medical attention, being tested, and placed in isolation or given other treatment.

Read more here.