February 12 coronavirus news

By Ivana Kottasová, Jessie Yeung and Adam Renton, CNN

Updated 0200 GMT (1000 HKT) February 13, 2020
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5:24 a.m. ET, February 12, 2020

Diamond Princess cruise quarantine will end on February 19

From Isaac Yee in Hong Kong

The Diamond Princess cruise ship on Wednesday in Yokohama, Japan.
The Diamond Princess cruise ship on Wednesday in Yokohama, Japan. Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

The Diamond Princess cruise ship, currently docked in Yokohama, Japan, will be released from quarantine on February 19, according to operator Princess Cruises.

More than 3,700 passengers and crew have been held on board the ship since February 4.

In a video statement released today, the company's executive vice president Rai Caluori said the "highest priority is providing guests and crew with their prescription medications, and more than 2,000 prescriptions have been brought on board."

He added that a team of seven pharmacists are assisting with the delivery of medication to guests. 

According to Caluori, the 1,405 crew currently working on board the ship will receive "normal pay and gratuities and paid time off following the quarantine."

Japanese health officials have confirmed 175 cases of the novel coronavirus on the Diamond Princess -- the largest concentration of cases outside mainland China.

4:51 a.m. ET, February 12, 2020

Staff are evacuated from a Singapore bank after coronavirus case confirmed

From Isaac Yee in Hong Kong

A view of the Marina Bay Financial Centre, where the DBS offices are located, in Singapore on March 8, 2019.
A view of the Marina Bay Financial Centre, where the DBS offices are located, in Singapore on March 8, 2019. ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images

Staff at a Singapore branch of DBS Bank were evacuated from their office today after one employee tested positive for the novel coronavirus.  

In a statement, DBS "confirms that one employee has been infected with the novel coronavirus" and that as a precautionary measure "we ensured that all employees on the affected floor of the Marina Bay Financial Center vacated the premises."

The bank added that it is currently conducting contact tracing with "all employees and parties the infected employee may have come into contact with." 

Meanwhile, office spaces and common areas like elevators and bathrooms are being deep cleaned and disinfected.

Singapore currently has 47 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.

4:33 a.m. ET, February 12, 2020

Experts are investigating if the coronavirus can spread through piping systems

From CNN's Helen Regan

Yesterday, health officials in Hong Kong partially evacuated residents from an apartment block over fears the coronavirus may have been transmitted via the building's pipes.

Two residents living on different floors of the building had been infected, health officials said. Three more cases have since been linked to the same building.

This has happened before: During the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, pipes became a major source of transmission. At one housing estate, there were more than 300 infections and 42 deaths after defective plumbing allowed the virus to spread through the building.

Investigation underway: Scientists believe the coronavirus is mainly transmitted by direct contact -- such as touching someone's hand -- and through droplets, like when an infected person coughs on someone else.

But because the two patients lived directly above one another, and the initial inspection found that a pipe had been disconnected from the bathroom's waste pipe, authorities decided to investigate whether the virus could have spread through the building's sewage system.

Microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung said at a news conference today that an improperly sealed pipe could have resulted in a virus transmission, by carrying infected feces into the building's ventilation system and blowing the virus into people's bathrooms.

How to protect yourself: While the investigation into the building continues, Hong Kong's Center for Health Protection has advised the public to maintain drainage pipes by regularly pouring water into drain outlets and to put the toilet lid down before flushing "to avoid spreading germs."

Read more here

4:13 a.m. ET, February 12, 2020

One of the UK's eight confirmed cases is a hospital worker

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London

One of the eight confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in the UK is an accident and emergency worker at Worthing Hospital in West Sussex, according to the British Department of Health.

Worthing Hospital is about 11 miles (18 kilometers) from Brighton, where a general practitioner clinic closed because of the coronavirus.

3:52 a.m. ET, February 12, 2020

Here's the latest on the coronavirus outbreak

Passengers wearing face masks on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, docked in Yokohama, Japan on February 12, 2020.
Passengers wearing face masks on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, docked in Yokohama, Japan on February 12, 2020. BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images

The novel coronavirus has reached 27 countries and territories outside mainland China. Authorities continue strict emergency measures -- some of which have led to unforeseen consequences, like thousands of people stranded at sea with nowhere to dock.

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

  • The numbers: The novel coronavirus has killed 1,115 people and infected 45,171 globally. All but two deaths have been in mainland China, and the vast majority of cases have also been in China.
  • Cases leveling off: The daily increase in cases in China appear to be leveling off, suggesting we may be reaching the peak of the outbreak -- but experts warn it is still a "grave threat," and that the data may be skewed because of various factors.
  • The cruise ships: Thousands are still stranded on two cruise ships -- one docked in quarantine in Japan, and another with nowhere to dock after being denied entry by Thailand and three other countries despite having no suspected cases.
  • Transmission modes: Hong Kong authorities are investigating whether the virus can spread through plumbing and piping systems, after two cases were confirmed in an apartment building yesterday.
  • China resumes business: The extended public holiday in China ended this week, so many people are trying to go back to work and businesses are reopening. But they're facing difficulties with mixed instructions from authorities, transport disruptions, and face mask shortages.
3:37 a.m. ET, February 12, 2020

How the coronavirus outbreak went global in two months

The novel coronavirus began in December in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, Hubei province. Now, it's spread to 27 other countries and territories, and killed more than 1,100 people, the majority in mainland China. Take a look at how we got here:

  • December 8: First patient develops symptoms of coronavirus in Wuhan.
  • December 31: Earliest cases of virus reported to World Health Organization (WHO).
  • January 1: Seafood and wildlife market in Wuhan, where the outbreak is believed to have originated, is closed for disinfection
  • January 7, 2020: Chinese authorities confirm that they have identified the virus as a novel coronavirus
  • January 9: First person dies of the virus, though his death wasn't announced until January 11.
  • January 13: Thai authorities report their first case -- a Chinese national who had arrived from Wuhan.
  • January 16: Japanese authorities confirm their first case.
  • January 17: Second person in China dies of virus. US airports implement screenings for symptoms.
  • January 21: US officials confirm their first case.
  • January 23: Wuhan is placed on lockdown, with movement halted in or out of the city. Lunar New Year celebrations are canceled in major Chinese cities, with 60 million people affected by travel restrictions. WHO says virus is not yet a public health emergency of international concern
  • January 28: Death toll tops 100. The number of confirmed cases in mainland China overtakes the deadly 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak
  • January 30: The US reports its first confirmed case of person-to-person transmission.
  • February 2: A Chinese man dies from the coronavirus in the Philippines -- the first time a death has been reported outside mainland China.
  • February 4: The Diamond Princess cruise ship is docked under quarantine in Japan's Yokohama Bay with more than 3,700 people on board.
  • February 7: Chinese whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang, who was targeted by Wuhan police for trying to warn friends, dies of the coronavirus. Chinese social media is flooded with grief, anger, and calls for freedom of speech.
  • February 8: The US Embassy in Beijing confirms that a US national died in Wuhan on February 6, marking the first confirmed death of a non-Chinese national.
  • February 10: A team of international experts from the WHO arrives in China to assist with containing the outbreak.
3:20 a.m. ET, February 12, 2020

10 Hong Kong residents in Hubei have been confirmed with the coronavirus

A total of 10 Hong Kong residents in China's Hubei province have been confirmed infected with the novel coronavirus, the city's government said today.

The government said the 10 people were part of three families. Seven people are staying in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei and epicenter of the outbreak, and three are in Enshi, in the province's west.

"After being informed of the situation, we immediately tasked the Wuhan Economic and Trade Office (ETO) to render all possible assistance to the Hong Kong people concerned," said the Hong Kong government in a statement.
"Thanks to the efforts devoted by Wuhan ETO in coordinating with the relevant authorities, six of them have been admitted to local hospitals within a short time, while the remaining four have made their own way to seek medical treatment from hospitals. At present, all of them are being treated in local hospitals and are generally in stable condition."
2:55 a.m. ET, February 12, 2020

Airbnb suspends bookings in Beijing until end of April

From CNN's Eric Cheung in Hong Kong

The logo of the online lodging service Airbnb displayed on a smartphone.
The logo of the online lodging service Airbnb displayed on a smartphone. LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images

Airbnb will extend the suspension of all bookings in Beijing until April 30, according to a statement from the company today.

"As efforts to control the novel coronavirus outbreak continue, we will comply with additional guidance issued for the industry during this public health emergency," the statement read.

All guests with canceled reservations will be refunded.

Airbnb had announced a Beijing suspension throughout February earlier this week, citing “official guidance that applies to all companies in the short term rental industry."

2:37 a.m. ET, February 12, 2020

Opinion: Why the coronavirus outbreak is an ethical minefield

From Frida Ghitis

Li Wenliang, the Chinese whistleblower doctor who died of the coronavirus after trying to warn people about it.
Li Wenliang, the Chinese whistleblower doctor who died of the coronavirus after trying to warn people about it. Li Wenliang

Editor's note: Frida Ghitis, a former CNN producer and correspondent, is a world affairs columnist. The opinions expressed here are hers.

The highly contagious virus is a minefield of ethical, political and moral dilemmas. That it emerged in China, a country ruled by an authoritarian, politically-repressive regime, wrapped the crisis in a uniquely chilling atmosphere.

Governments, public health experts and private firms are trying to figure out how to respond to the crisis, which has unsurprisingly created a multitude of tough decisions.

China's response: China's decision to put nearly 60 million people under lockdown in and around Wuhan is unprecedented and highly controversial. When a local doctor, Li Wenliang, tried to raise the alarm in December, authorities detained him and accused him of spreading rumors. He died of the virus last week.

Then a citizen journalist, Chen Qiushi, providing critical reporting from Wuhan, suddenly disappeared. Another citizen journalist was reportedly arrested on Monday amid reports of a growing number of arrests for criticism of the government's handling of the crisis.

But it's not just China's response that has raised questions. Whenever a contagion becomes so serious that the word "quarantine" becomes part of the discussions, the ethical cost of such prevention casts a shadow on every decision.

Quarantine quandary: Quarantine is a frontal assault on freedom. It literally deprives individuals of their liberties for the sake of the larger community, raising countless difficult questions.

How much power should authorities have over the daily lives of individuals? How much should individuals sacrifice for the sake of the community? How far should the state go in enforcing restrictions? Should people go to jail for violating a confinement to which they are forced because of no fault of their own? What to do when someone becomes ill on a ship holding thousands of healthy passengers? If you decide to keep the passengers on board, who will bring their food? How will they be protected?

Read the full op-ed here.