February 5 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton and Amy Woodyatt, CNN

Updated 0228 GMT (1028 HKT) February 6, 2020
46 Posts
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8:31 a.m. ET, February 5, 2020

Emergency wards closed as 4,600 Hong Kong healthcare staff strike over virus response

From Alex Lin in Hong Kong

A masked medical worker is seen among placards during a strike outside the Hospital Authority building in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
A masked medical worker is seen among placards during a strike outside the Hospital Authority building in Hong Kong on Tuesday. Credit: Geovien So/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Emergency wards have been shut down and surgeries postponed as healthcare workers in Hong Kong strike for the third day over government action on the coronavirus.

Dr. Ian Cheung, chief manager of the Hospital Authority said that 4,600 staff, including 300 doctors and 2,700 nurses are absent from work.

Cheung appealed to those on strike to return to work, warning of the potential for more community transmissions in the coming weeks.

If we don’t unite at this moment, it will be very hard for us to hold on to the last line of defense (in this epidemic),” Cheung said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Why they're striking: The Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, a union representing medical workers in the city, is on its third day of strike action.

Strikers and union members are demanding closed borders with mainland China, and have accused the city government of inadequate action during the coronavirus outbreak.

Government response: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam criticized the strikers for weakening the city's medical capacity at a crucial time. Remaining employees still working in the hospital now have a heavier workload to make up for their absent colleagues, she said.

This post has been updated to correct the number of days that Hong Kong medical workers have been on strike.

7:50 a.m. ET, February 5, 2020

Royal Caribbean cancels cruises out of China through early March

From CNN's Joe Sutton

Royal Caribbean has canceled eight cruises out of China until March and introduced several health screening measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus aboard its vessels.

In a statement, the cruise company announced it would deny boarding to individuals who had travelled through, from or to mainland China or Hong Kong in the past 15 days. Full refunds will be given.

Royal Caribbean also said it would provide mandatory specialized health screenings on certain guests, including those with Chinese and Hong Kong passports, and guests who report feeling unwell.

Cruises cut short by coronavirus: More than 5,300 people are being quarantined on two cruise ships off Hong Kong and Japan amid concerns that passengers and crew were inadvertently exposed to the Wuhan coronavirus by infected passengers.

The Diamond Princess is anchored off the coast of Yokohama, near Tokyo, with 1,045 crew and 2,666 passengers -- including 428 Americans -- on board.

The second ship, the World Dream, is docked at Hong Kong's Kai Tak Cruise Terminal with 1,800 people on board, the city's Department of Health said Wednesday.

7:39 a.m. ET, February 5, 2020

Charter flights carrying US citizens land at Travis Air Force Base

From CNN's Dan Simon and Augie Martin at Travis AFB

Two charter flights carrying US citizens from Wuhan, China -- the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak -- landed at Travis Air Force Base, California. The first flight landed shortly before 4 a.m. local time (7 a.m. ET), and the second roughly half an hour later.

Wednesday's flights are expected to head to two California military bases: Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, and Travis AFB between San Francisco and Sacramento, a US official with knowledge of the matter told CNN.

The flight headed for Miramar Air Station will refuel at Travis, Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell said in a statement.

The flights come about a week after the first US government-arranged flight left Wuhan. That first chartered plane, carrying nearly 200 US citizens -- including diplomats and their families -- arrived January 29 at March Air Reserve Base in Southern California.

7:14 a.m. ET, February 5, 2020

Disney could take $280 million hit from its Chinese parks because of the coronavirus and protests

From CNN Business' Michelle Toh

A locked gate is pictured at Disneyland Resort in Hong Kong on Monday.
A locked gate is pictured at Disneyland Resort in Hong Kong on Monday. Credit: Paul Yeung/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Disney has warned that profits from its parks in China could drop by $280 million in the current quarter, due to shutdowns caused by the coronavirus and a loss of business related to recent mass protests in Hong Kong.

The company warned of the potential hit to park profit during its earnings call Tuesday, adding that the coronavirus will hurt its results for the quarter through March and the fiscal year as a whole.

Disney suspended operations at some of its facilities in China last month in response to the ongoing public health crisis.

For now, the properties in Hong Kong and Shanghai are closed indefinitely, Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy said.

Read the full story here.

6:56 a.m. ET, February 5, 2020

Woman awaiting coronavirus test result escapes from hospital

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

A woman who was in an Austrian hospital to be tested for the coronavirus escaped from the premises, officials said.

Karl Schupfer, a press officer for the city of Salzburg, said the 31-year-old patient left the University Clinic Salzburg around 3 a.m. local time Wednesday morning and was found by police in her home near the city at around 10 a.m.

The unidentified woman had been in a hospital since Tuesday, Schupfer said, adding that her motive for escaping was unclear. She is now back in a Salzburg hospital under police watch and is being questioned. Her results are expected later on Wednesday.

Authorities are trying to find out who the patient may have had contact with during her escape. There are currently no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Austria.

6:49 a.m. ET, February 5, 2020

Cruise infections raise questions about how Wuhan coronavirus spreads

From CNN's Joshua Berlinger in Hong Kong

A Japanese Coast Guard patrol boat is brought alongside the Diamond Princess cruise ship to transport passengers who have tested positive for coronavirus to hospitals in Yokohama, Japan on Wednesday.
A Japanese Coast Guard patrol boat is brought alongside the Diamond Princess cruise ship to transport passengers who have tested positive for coronavirus to hospitals in Yokohama, Japan on Wednesday. Credit: Hiroko Harima/Kyodo News/AP

The novel coronavirus is thought to spread from person to person through respiratory droplets emitted by coughing or sneezing. There's currently no evidence that the virus is airborne -- meaning, for instance, it doesn't travel across a large room.

Still unknown: An important factor yet to be determined, however, is whether the virus spreads via the fecal-oral route, according to Dr. John Nicholls, a clinical professor in pathology at the University of Hong Kong.

Coronavirus cruise: Norovirus -- a contagious stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhea -- and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) both spread by the fecal-oral route. Norovirus is also notorious for infecting cruise passengers.

Viruses like norovirus spread so quickly on cruises because "you've got so many people in a crowded area and people are sharing areas, touching places," Nicholls said.

Questions raised: The infection of at least 10 people aboard a cruise ship now quarantined in Japan is raising questions about whether the Wuhan coronavirus can also spread the same way.

Read more here

5:17 a.m. ET, February 5, 2020

UK to send final flight to evacuate Britons stuck in coronavirus epicenter

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac in London

Britain will send a second and final plane to evacuate UK nationals from Wuhan province in China, where the coronavirus is believed to have originated. The charter flight is expected to leave on Sunday morning at Royal Air Force base Brize Norton, officials said in a statement. 

“We have been working round the clock to help British nationals leave Hubei province, on UK, French and New Zealand flights," Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said. 
“I encourage all British nationals in Hubei to register with our teams if they want to leave on this flight,” he added.

On Tuesday, the UK's Foreign Office advised British nationals to leave China.

5:11 a.m. ET, February 5, 2020

Hong Kong coronavirus cases now at 21

From journalist Isaac Yee in Hong Kong

There are three new cases of novel coronavirus in Hong Kong, bringing the total confirmed cases in the semi-autonomous Chinese city to 21, the city's leader Carrie Lam announced Wednesday.

In a news conference, Lam said Hong Kong is “seeing a worsening trend of the outbreak,” with six cases confirmed between Tuesday and Wednesday.

Lam said three of the new cases did not travel outside of Hong Kong during the incubation period, which suggests that there may be further community transmission.

Coronavirus death: Lam also said that a 39-year-old man with coronavirus who died in Hong Kong on Tuesday was in a stable condition before his death.

She said that his case has now been referred to the coroner, as doctors were unable to explain the cause of his death.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority said the man had an “underlying disease” without clarifying further.

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.