February 5 coronavirus news

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6:30 a.m. ET, February 5, 2020

Travelers entering Hong Kong from China will be quarantined for 14 days, government says

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference in Hong Kong on Wednesday.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference in Hong Kong on Wednesday. Credit: Vincent Yu/AP

All travelers entering Hong Kong from mainland China will be placed under quarantine for 14 days, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced at a news conference today.

The rule includes Hong Kong and mainland residents, Lam said.

There are 21 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the semi-autonomous city, of which three are locally infected cases -- suggesting transmission between the community, rather than being brought in from somewhere else.

Travel restrictions: The government suspended four more border crossings yesterday, which has seen entries by travelers from mainland China drop by 60%, Lam said.

However, the city cannot close all borders because many of the arrivals from the mainland are Hong Kong residents who need to return into the city, she said. Besides, Hong Kong relies on the mainland for crucial supplies including food.

"Closing all borders is not workable and may affect the supply of food and daily necessaries. The measures we applied last few days proved that these measures can decrease the number of arrivals and decrease the risk of infection," Lam said.

What the government has done: The government will allocate over 10 billion Hong Kong dollars (about $1.3 billion) in resources to fight the outbreak, Lam said. It has already closed most of Hong Kong's borders with the mainland -- but many in the medical field say that's not enough, and have been on strike for three days.

4:33 a.m. ET, February 5, 2020

The US has sent supplies and support to Wuhan, China confirms

Staff members and volunteers transfer medical supplies from various sources at a warehouse of an exhibition center which has been converted into a makeshift hospital in Wuhan, on Tuesday.
Staff members and volunteers transfer medical supplies from various sources at a warehouse of an exhibition center which has been converted into a makeshift hospital in Wuhan, on Tuesday. AFP/Getty Images

The US has sent supplies to Wuhan to assist Chinese authorities working to contain the coronavirus outbreak, according to officials from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

A batch of US supplies arrived yesterday, with American businesses and institutions also offering support, said ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. She added that the US would participate in a joint expert team consisting of officials from China and the World Health Organization.

"We hope that the US will respect WHO’s authoritative and professional recommendations, react in an objective, fair, calm and evidence-based manner, rather than excessively." Hua said. "It should respect and coordinate with China' prevention and control measures."

Hua's pointed comments come after China blasted the US on Monday, saying that it was overreacting to the coronavirus outbreak, and feeding hysteria with drastic measures while not offering any substantive help.

WHO weighs in: The director general of the WHO has also warned countries not to impose travel and trade restrictions in relation to the outbreak.

"Such restrictions can have the effect of increasing fear and stigma, with little public health benefit,” WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement yesterday.

4:05 a.m. ET, February 5, 2020

Chinese police are detaining people who lied about traveling to Wuhan for "endangering public safety"

Chinese police in Beijing on January 31.
Chinese police in Beijing on January 31. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Police in China have detained a growing number of people for defying quarantine measures or deliberately concealing that they had traveled to areas stricken by the coronavirus.

In the northwestern province of Qinghai, police say a migrant worker surnamed Gou is being investigated for suspected “endangering public safety” by “deliberately concealing” his journey to Wuhan.

Gou returned from Wuhan to Hanshuigou village last month, but fabricated his itinerary and return date to village authorities, police said. He also concealed his symptoms of fever and coughing from investigators and actively got in close touch with neighbors, it added.

“What’s particularly abominable is that Gou also concealed his son’s return with him from Wuhan. His son has also been out and about multiple times and in close contact with crowds,” the statement said.

Both Gou and his son have been confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus, and are under quarantine, according to the statement.

They have been accused of breaking China’s criminal law and infectious disease law, the police said.

Over the past week, similar cases have also been reported in the provinces of Jiangxi, Yunnan, Guangxi and Jiangsu, according to state media.

4:04 a.m. ET, February 5, 2020

Basic questions about the coronavirus, answered

Illustration: Alissa Eckert, MS/Dan Higgins, MAM/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Illustration: Alissa Eckert, MS/Dan Higgins, MAM/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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 show these symptoms and recently went to China, or have been in contact with someone who visited, experts advise going to the 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.
  • 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.
4:10 a.m. ET, February 5, 2020

First phase of screening completed on quarantined ship in Japan

Workers in protective gear hold up a sheet as a passenger is transferred into a waiting ambulance at the Japan Coast Guard base in Yokohama on February 5 after being brought from the cruise ship Diamond Princess.
Workers in protective gear hold up a sheet as a passenger is transferred into a waiting ambulance at the Japan Coast Guard base in Yokohama on February 5 after being brought from the cruise ship Diamond Princess. Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

Princess Cruises, the operator of the Diamond Princess cruise ship currently under quarantine off the coast of Japan, said in a statement that the first phase of health screenings on board had been completed.

After the ship docked in Yokohama Bay, officials from the Japanese Ministry of Health screened all guests and crew on board, and found 10 people who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Those 10 people -- nine passengers and one crew member -- will be taken ashore to local hospitals for care, said the statement. Meanwhile, all those remaining on the ship will stay under quarantine for at least 14 days.

"The ship plans to go out to sea to perform normal marine operations including, but not limited to, the production of fresh water and ballast operations before proceeding alongside in Yokohama where food, provisions, and other supplies will be brought on board.
"Guests will continue to be provided complimentary internet and telephone to use in order to stay in contact with their family and loved ones, and the ship’s crew is working to keep all guests comfortable," said the statement.

The passengers on board: There are 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew currently on board, the company said. About half the guests on board are from Japan, and 428 are American.

3:41 a.m. ET, February 5, 2020

The 12 cases in Germany are located in Bavaria and Hesse

Medical staff clean a hospital room in the isolation unit of the Frankfurt Goethe University Hospital in western Germany on February 2.
Medical staff clean a hospital room in the isolation unit of the Frankfurt Goethe University Hospital in western Germany on February 2. Thomas Lohnes/AFP/Getty Images

Of the 12 confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany, 10 are in Bavaria and two are in Hesse state, according to the German Federal Health Ministry.

The cases include a father and child, six employees at the same company in the Bavarian district of Starnberg, and several evacuated citizens who had been flown out of Wuhan, China.

3:31 a.m. ET, February 5, 2020

Scientists: Study that said Wuhan coronavirus can spread before symptoms was flawed

Wuhan epidemic prevention headquarters started converting existing venues, including a gymnasium and an exhibition center, into hospitals to receive patients infected with the coronavirus.
Wuhan epidemic prevention headquarters started converting existing venues, including a gymnasium and an exhibition center, into hospitals to receive patients infected with the coronavirus. Getty Images

Public health experts have criticized a report, published last week, that suggested the coronavirus could spread before the onset of symptoms.

The study had seemed to confirm earlier statements from Chinese officials that the virus could spread asymptomatically. In an email to CNN on Tuesday, German public health officials said the report was incorrect.

“In contrast to first reports according to which the index case (a Chinese traveling in Germany) seemed to have been asymptomatic during the time of likely transmission here, recent interviews by the Bavarian health authorities and the Robert Koch Institute in Chinese language revealed that she might have had mild unspecific symptoms including back pain and also took antipyretic medication," the officials said.

Marc Lipsitch, a Harvard public health professor, said the error had likely been because the authors were "inadequately careful ... an error that is understandable in a crisis situation, but is still problematic.”

The Public Health Agency of Sweden also called the study's conclusions "based on misconceptions," adding that it had not provided "scientifically substantiated facts."

We believe that it is impossible for the new coronavirus to infect throughout the incubation period," said the Public Health Agency.
3:20 a.m. ET, February 5, 2020

Coronavirus patient first to be discharged in South Korea

An ambulance in Seoul carrying a South Korean citizen evacuated from Wuhan, China, on January 31.
An ambulance in Seoul carrying a South Korean citizen evacuated from Wuhan, China, on January 31. Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

South Korea's second confirmed coronavirus case will be the first patient to be discharged in the country as he recovers from the virus, authorities said today.

The patient is a 55-year-old South Korean man who tested positive for the novel coronavirus on January 24, after flying in from Wuhan on January 22.

His symptoms, including a sore throat and coughing, had improved and two coronavirus tests came back negative. Doctors then agreed to discharge him, according to a news release from the South Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials also said today that the country's first confirmed case, a 35-year-old Chinese woman, was in stable condition and could be next to be discharged, as she also tested negative twice.

However, discharged patients will be monitored for any unexpected complications after being released from hospital, doctors added.

South Korea has 18 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus as of Wednesday.

3:07 a.m. ET, February 5, 2020

Cathay Pacific airline is urging 27,000 employees to take unpaid leave

Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images
Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific said in a statement today that it is "appealing to" all 27,000 of its employees to take three weeks of unpaid leave from March to June.

"In view of the novel coronavirus outbreak and also significant drop in market demand, we just announced massive capacity cuts yesterday," said the company in a statement.

"Preserving cash is the key to protecting our business. We have already been taking multiple measures to achieve this. Today, we are appealing to all employees to participate in the special leave scheme (SLS), which will take effect from 1 March and last until 30 June. All employees will have the option to take three weeks of unpaid leave in this period."

A rough year for Cathay: The airline, the city's flag carrier, has been struggling for more than half a year, hit hard by the political unrest that consumed Hong Kong in the entire second half of 2019.

Intense pro-democracy, anti-government protests saw tourist figures drop dramatically, and Cathay was one of several airlines reporting plummeting business.

The airline was also dragged into heated controversy after firing an employee, allegedly over a political Facebook post. Chinese state media slammed Cathay workers taking part in illegal demonstrations, and the airline vowed to fire employees who are found doing so.