February 8 coronavirus news
Hong Kongers have continued stockpiling toilet paper amid fears the city may run out of it, despite the fact that the government has denied the rumor that spurred the panic buying.
Unconfirmed reports had circulated that mainland China would stop exporting certain goods -- specifically toilet paper -- to Hong Kong, as more borders between the two places closed.
The Hong Kong government has quashed the rumors and appealed for calm. Emergency measures, including closing several borders, "will not affect the freight services between the mainland and Hong Kong," the government said in a statement.
"Besides, the government has confirmed with the major suppliers that the supply of food products remains normal and there is no shortage of food. There are sufficient stocks of staple food including rice and pastas. There is no need for the public to worry."
But the reassurances don't seem to have had much effect -- one supermarket's website is so swamped that users have to join an online queue, with a wait stretching for more than an hour.
And many stores' toilet paper and paper towel shelves were empty on Saturday.
Mainland China had its deadliest day in the coronavirus outbreak Friday, with authorities reporting 86 fatalities from the pneumonia-like illness that is paralyzing much of the country.
A total of 722 people had died from the virus and 34,546 were infected in mainland China by the end of Friday, China's National Health Commission said. The majority of new cases were recorded in Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Authorities finished construction on a new hospital in Wuhan last week, and another is due to open in the coming days to treat the growing number of patients.
Meanwhile, it emerged that a 60-year-old United States citizen had died from the virus at Jinyintian Hospital, in Wuhan, on February 6, according to the US Embassy in Beijing, marking the first confirmed death of a foreigner from the virus. Japan also reported its first death of suspected coronavirus in Wuhan on Saturday, according to an announcement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Japanese man in his 60s died of pneumonia. The hospital that treated him was inconclusive on the cause of the pneumonia.
Globally, the virus has now infected more than 320 people in another 27 countries and territories, and killed a Chinese man in the Philippines and a 39-year-old male in Hong Kong. New cases were confirmed in Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan on Saturday.
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A lawyer turned citizen journalist reporting from in Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, has been forcibly quarantined, friends and relatives said on Friday.
Chen Qiushi had been posting videos from Wuhan since January 24, the day after the city was put under lockdown. His dispatches offered a critical take on conditions in the city, including the state of hospitals as well as newly constructed isolation wards.
Chen’s videos and comments have featured in CNN’s reporting. His forced removal and quarantine comes less than 24 hours after the death of doctor Li Wenliang, who was also reprimanded by the state for revealing what he knew of the coronavirus outbreak.
"I’m scared, I have the virus in front of me and behind me China’s law enforcement,” Chen told viewers in an emotional video recorded on January 30 before his disappearance.
“But I will keep my spirits up, as long as I’m alive and in this city I will continue my reports,” he said.
Chen’s videos and personal accounts have been censored from Chinese social media sites, but he continued to post on Twitter and YouTube, where his most watched videos were regularly seen by more than a million people.
His friends told CNN they had been checking in with him multiple times a day, fearing he could be taken by the authorities at any time for his reporting. When he stopped answering calls at around 7 or 8 p.m. on Thursday, February 6 they grew increasingly concerned.
At 2:18 a.m. on Friday, February 7, Chen’s mother posted a video message on his Twitter page saying her son had disappeared.
“I’m here to beg everyone online, especially friends in Wuhan to help find Qiushi, find out what’s going on with him.”
Later that evening in a live broadcast, Xu Xiaodong, a famous MMA wrestler and friend of Chen, played a message from Chen’s mother saying he had been forcibly quarantined.
“In the last few hours the Qingdao public security officers and state security officers … notified Qiushi’s parents that Qiushi has already been detained in the name of quarantine. Qiushi’s mother immediately asked them where and when he was taken away, they declined to say,” said Xu.
Xu stressed that based on his interactions with Chen and the testimony of those on the ground, Chen had been in good health prior to his disappearance.
Both Wuhan city police and Qingdao city police said they had no information about Chen when contacted by CNN.
“We’re worried for his physical safety but also worried that while he’s missing he might get infected by the virus,” a friend who had been authorized by Chen to take over his Twitter account should he disappear told CNN. The individual requested anonymity for fear of reprisals by the government.
“(When) I saw there was still no information from him at all I started to feel a bit panicked and also slightly angry,” the friend told CNN.
Thailand has reported seven new confirmed cases of Wuhan coronavirus cases according to the Thai Ministry of Public Health. Three of the new patients are Thais and four are Chinese.
A total of 32 cases have been confirmed inside Thailand. The country is a popular tourist destination for Chinese travelers.
A US citizen who contracted the coronavirus has died in a Wuhan hospital, the US Embassy in Beijing said.
The virus has killed 722 people in mainland China. Two outside mainland China have also died from the virus -- a man in Hong Kong and a Chinese man in the Philippines.
Here's what the US Embassy said:
We can confirm a 60-year-old U.S. citizen diagnosed with coronavirus died at Jinyintian Hospital in Wuhan, China on February 6 (Thursday). We offer our sincerest condolences to the family on their loss. Out of the respect for the family's privacy, we have no further comment.
People who want to enter the United States after having traveled to China now face new travel and quarantine rules to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
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The United Arab Emirates confirmed two new coronavirus cases inside the country. according to the official Emirates News Agency.
The two new patients are Chinese and Philippine nationals. The UAE has now confirmed seven cases in the country, Emirates News Agency reported.
A Japanese man in his 60s suspected of contracting coronavirus has died of pneumonia in a Wuhan hospital, according to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He would be the first Japanese person to die from the virus, if confirmed.
The hospital that treated him said the cause of his pneumonia was inconclusive.
Nearly two decades have passed since a coronavirus known as SARS emerged in China, killing hundreds of people and sparking panic that sent a chill through the global economy. The virus now rampaging across China could be much more damaging.
China has become an indispensable part of global business since the 2003 SARS outbreak. It's grown into the world's factory, churning out products such as the iPhone and driving demand for commodities like oil and copper.
Because of the coronavirus outbreak, car plants across China have been ordered to remain closed following the Lunar New Year holiday, preventing global automakers Volkswagen (VLKAF), Toyota (TM), Daimler (DDAIF), General Motors (GM), Renault (RNLSY), Honda (HMC) and Hyundai (HYMTF) from resuming operations in the world's largest car market. According to S&P Global Ratings, the outbreak will force carmakers in China to slash production by about 15% in the first quarter. Toyota said on Friday it would keep its factories shut at least until February 17.
Luxury goods makers, which rely on Chinese consumers who spend big at home and while on vacation, have also been hit. British brand Burberry (BBRYF) has closed 24 of its 64 stores in mainland China, and its chief executive warned Friday that the virus is causing a "material negative effect on luxury demand." Dozens of global airlines have curtailed flights to and from China.
If the virus continues to spread, the economic damage will increase rapidly.
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