February 4 coronavirus news

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2:47 p.m. ET, February 4, 2020

WHO Director General: Don't spread fear and stigma with travel bans

The Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on countries not to impose travel and trade restrictions over the coronavirus, warning that such measures could increase “fear and stigma” within the international community.

“We reiterate our call to all countries not to impose restrictions that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade. Such restrictions can have the effect of increasing fear and stigma, with little public health benefit,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday during a briefing to the UN’s executive board in Geneva. 

“Where such measures have been implemented, we urge that they are short in duration, proportionate to the public health risks, and are reconsidered regularly as the situation evolves," he added.

He also called on member states to “facilitate rapid collaboration between the public and private sectors to develop the diagnostics, medicines and vaccines,” in order to bring the outbreak under control.

Ghebreyesus asked member states to share information with the health body, "including epidemiological, clinical severity and the results of community studies and investigations," because without such data it is difficult for the WHO to assess the evolution of the outbreak.

“The risk of [Wuhan coronavirus] becoming more widespread globally remains high. Now is the moment for all countries to be preparing themselves,” he added.

2:32 p.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Three more cases confirmed in Japan

Japan’s Ministry of Health announced three more coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the country’s total to 23.

One of the three, a Japanese woman in her 50s, came back to Japan from Wuhan on a government chartered flight. 

The second case is a woman in her 30s, who also traveled from Wuhan.

The third is a man in his 50s who traveled from Wuhan to Japan. 

“The third case has already left Japan as his initial test showed negative," Japan’s Health Ministry reported, adding that continued analysis of his sputum gave a positive result.

2:31 p.m. ET, February 4, 2020

What we know about the coronavirus

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency on Tuesday, medical workers in protective suits help transfer the first group of patients into the newly-completed Huoshenshan temporary field hospital in Wuhan.
In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency on Tuesday, medical workers in protective suits help transfer the first group of patients into the newly-completed Huoshenshan temporary field hospital in Wuhan. Xiao Yijiu/Xinhua/AP

There's still a lot we don't know about the Wuhan coronavirus, and scientists around the world are racing to gather data and develop a treatment.

Here's what we can tell you so far:

  • Is there a cure? No -- but there are signs of progress. Thai doctors say they have successfully treated two patients with a combination of antiviral drugs.
  • What are the symptoms? Coronavirus symptoms can look like the flu -- fever, cough, trouble breathing. If you have these symptoms and have recently been to China, or have been in contact with someone who has, experts advise you to see a doctor.
  • How does the virus spread? The virus is thought to spread from person to person through respiratory droplets emitted by coughing or sneezing. There's also a possibility the virus can exist in and spread through contaminated fecal matter. There's currently no evidence that the virus is airborne -- meaning, for instance, it doesn't travel across a large room.
  • 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. On Tuesday, China’s National Health Commission said that of the 425 confirmed deaths across mainland China, 80% of victims were over the age of 60, and 75% of victims had some form of underlying condition.
  • How can I protect myself? Take the same precautionary measures you would during flu season: Wash your hands often with soap and water, cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough, avoid close contact with people or large gatherings, and wear a face mask.
  • Is it safe to travel? Airlines have suspended flights, and thousands of foreign citizens in the Chinese city of Wuhan have been evacuated back to their home countries. Many countries, including the US, have advised against travel to China, while some countries, including the UK, are advising their citizens to leave China.
12:58 p.m. ET, February 4, 2020

WHO says Wuhan coronavirus outbreak is not yet a pandemic

The Wuhan coronavirus outbreak is not a pandemic, World Health Organization officials said Tuesday, adding that they're hopeful transmission of the virus can be contained.

A pandemic is defined as the worldwide spread of a new disease, but it's not quite as simple as that. The finer details are debated as many factors, including population immunity and disease severity, need to be taken into account.

The last pandemic reported was the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009, which killed hundreds of thousand worldwide.

Many experts believe we've not yet reached pandemic levels, due to the current spread of the outbreak -- but also because we don't yet know enough about the coronavirus.

Read the full story here.

12:01 p.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Russia will quarantine Wuhan evacuees in Siberia

A view of the Gradostroitel Treatment and Rehabilitation Center in the Tyumen region of Siberia, where Russian citizens evacuated from China will be quarantined.
A view of the Gradostroitel Treatment and Rehabilitation Center in the Tyumen region of Siberia, where Russian citizens evacuated from China will be quarantined. Credit: Maxim Slutsky/TASS/Getty Images

Russia will set up a quarantine area in Siberia for people travelling back from China's Hubei province due to the coronavirus outbreak, Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said Tuesday.

According to state media RIA, Golikova told reporters that returnees will be isolated for two weeks in the Siberian region of Tyumen as it was “the most prepared region.”

“I want to say and reassure everyone that the citizens who fly from Wuhan and Hubei are healthy citizens," Golikova said, adding: “Our colleagues from China do not let those infected leave from their territory, from the quarantine territory.”

11:24 a.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Stock rebound continues amid coronavirus-related selloffs

A person wearing a facial mask passes the New York Stock Exchange on February 3.
A person wearing a facial mask passes the New York Stock Exchange on February 3. Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

US stocks opened higher on Tuesday, adding on to Monday’s gains as equities rebound from coronavirus-related selloffs.

Stocks are in the green around the world, and even China’s markets, which took a beating Monday, ended the day higher.

The Dow opened up 380 points, or 1.3%. The S&P 500 rose 1.1%, and the Nasdaq Composite opened 1.4% higher.

 

11:01 a.m. ET, February 4, 2020

US airport official asks 'how is this going to work?' as confusion crops up over virus travel restrictions

Sweeping travel restrictions related to the Wuhan coronavirus are now in effect at US airports, but there are still questions about how the new rules will be enforced.

"Everyone has been trying to nail down clarifications on the travel ban. There were questions along the line like 'How is this going to work? What are going to be the procedures?' and 'What are the details on a quarantine?'" an official at a major West Coast airport told CNN.

The official's airport is one of the 11 designated airports for coronavirus screenings and possible self-quarantine under new rules that went into effect Sunday afternoon.

The West Coast airport official expressed concern that the airport had not prepared for large numbers of potentially sick people.

Read the full story here.

10:45 a.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Mask hoarders in South Korea could now be sentenced to two years in prison or fined $42,000

Boxes of protective masks are displayed for sale outside a supermarket in Seoul, South Korea, on Monday.
Boxes of protective masks are displayed for sale outside a supermarket in Seoul, South Korea, on Monday. Credit: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg/Getty Images

South Korea will ban the hoarding of surgical masks and hand sanitizers from Wednesday -- with those found guilty sentenced to a maximum of two years in prison or fined up to $42,000.

The emergency measure aims to prevent manufacturers and vendors from massively profiting from the coronavirus outbreak, Seoul's Ministry of Economy and Finance said in a press release. The measure will stay in effect until the end of April.

The ministry defines hoarding as storing more than 1.5 times the amount of a monthly average sale of two items for more than five days.

“The government will never accept market disrupting action that takes the safety of the citizens hostage,” the Ministry of Economy and Finance said, adding: “We will take the strongest measure.”

10:08 a.m. ET, February 4, 2020

Britain sequences coronavirus genome in the race to stop its spread

Scientists at a UK public health authority investigating the coronavirus have discovered that the virus has not evolved “to better infect humans” since its genome was first sequenced in China.

By sequencing the virus’s genome, Public Health England says it has provided “valuable information on any mutations in the virus over time and allows an improved understanding of how the virus spreads.”

“By sequencing this virus’s genome we can better understand the roots of this disease, predict its behaviour, and learn how tackle it," Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in a statement.

There's still a lot we don't know about the Wuhan coronavirus, and scientists around the world are racing to gather data and develop a treatment.

Health officials in Thailand have said they are treating a patient with a combination of HIV and flu drugs, while a biopharmaceutical firm is working to see if antiviral drugs used to treat Ebola could also combat the symptoms of coronavirus.

A purpose-built hospital dedicated to treating the virus also opened in Wuhan Monday