February 14 coronavirus news

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9:42 a.m. ET, February 14, 2020

US can't assess coronavirus data coming out of China, health secretary says

From CNN's John Bonifield

The United States has to be guarded in making any assessment, pro or con, about the numbers and facts coming out of China about the novel coronavirus, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told CNN.

"Some of the data issues might just be the chaos of a public health crisis," Azar said, adding that it’s important for the World Health Organization to hold China to account for transparency and cooperation.

Azar reiterated the need to send experts from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to China, but did not know when that would happen. The CDC first offered to send its experts to China on Jan. 6. 

"It's dependent on the Chinese to make their decisions and facilitate that," Azar said. "The World Health Organization, we believe, has secured agreement to deploy a WHO team with our US public health experts as part of that team. We are ready to go and we are waiting for final clearance from the Chinese government to make that happen."

Azar defended the administration's policy that bans foreign nationals who have visited China in the past 14 days from entering the country, saying the Unite States has "limited public health resources" and needs to prioritize citizens who are returning from China.

 “Once they have been out of China for that 14 day incubation period they are welcome, as always, into the United States,” Azar said.

9:28 a.m. ET, February 14, 2020

US health secretary: We're seeing a "limited" coronavirus impact," but "that could change at any time"

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said his department and the rest of the government is "working aggressively" to protect the health of Americans.

He said so far, the US has seen "very limited impact," but acknowledged that "that could change at any time."

Azar responded to President Trump’s assertion that the virus will dissipate as the weather gets warmer, saying teams are hoping that's the case, and planning as if it's not.

“What the President is saying is, we hope it will respond the way regular coronaviruses do and be heat responsive. But it also could just as equally respond the way SARS — a coronavirus adaptation — responds and continue in the warm season. So the President there was expressing his hope, and my goodness, I'm sure we all hope that it will have that type of epidemiological curve but we’re planning as if it won’t.”

Watch more:

9:20 a.m. ET, February 14, 2020

Singapore confirms nine new cases of coronavirus

From journalist Isaac Yee in Hong Kong

A general view on February 6 shows the entrance to the Grand Hyatt Singapore hotel, the scene of a business meeting that has been linked to several novel coronavirus cases.
A general view on February 6 shows the entrance to the Grand Hyatt Singapore hotel, the scene of a business meeting that has been linked to several novel coronavirus cases. Credit: Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images

Health officials in Singapore have confirmed nine additional cases of coronavirus, bringing the citywide total to 67 cases.

None of the nine new cases had traveled to China recently, according to a statement from the Ministry of Health Friday.

At least six of the newly confirmed cases are linked to a cluster of cases related to the Grace Assembly of God church.

A further case involves a 61-year-old female Singapore citizen who is a family member of the 50th and 55th confirmed cases.

One of the two remaining cases is a 61-year-old male Singapore citizen who works at a private hospital in Singapore, and the remaining case is a 50-year-old Singapore citizen.

The Ministry of Health added that contact tracing for the confirmed cases is ongoing.

The Grace Assembly of God church cluster is currently the largest community cluster of cases in Singapore, with a total of 13 confirmed cases linked to it.

The other clusters include four cases linked to a construction site, three cases linked to a private business meeting in the Grand Hyatt hotel, nine cases linked to the Yong Thai Hang shop, and five cases linked to The Life Church and Missions Singapore.

According to the Ministry of Health, 17 confirmed cases have now fully recovered from the virus and have been discharged from the hospital.

A further 50 confirmed cases remain hospitalized, with six patients in a critical condition receiving treatment in the intensive care units of various hospitals.

8:52 a.m. ET, February 14, 2020

Two more Japanese virus cases make seven today

From CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki

Two more Japanese people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to an announcement from the country's health ministry.

One is a man in his 60s from Aicha Prefecture, the other a man in his 50s from Hokkaido. Neither has a history of travel to China, the ministry said.

That makes seven new Japanese cases today not from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which is quarantined in Yokohama. It brings the total in Japan to 257, of which 219 are from the vessel.

9:07 a.m. ET, February 14, 2020

Chinese President calls coronavirus “big test” – state media

From journalist Alex Lin in Hong Kong

Chinese President Xi Jinping visits a site for novel coronavirus prevention work in Beijing on February 10.
Chinese President Xi Jinping visits a site for novel coronavirus prevention work in Beijing on February 10. Credit: Pang Xinglei/Xinhua/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping called the coronavirus outbreak a “big test” for the country in a speech to Communist Party members, state television reported Friday night.

Efforts should be made to improve epidemic prevention and control, added Xi, who also called for an improvement in laws on public health and wildlife.

The President said biosecurity should be part of the country’s national security policies, and that China should avoid letting small infections turn into serious events by improving advance screening for diseases.

8:02 a.m. ET, February 14, 2020

Small businesses drive China's economy. The coronavirus outbreak could be fatal for many

From Laura He, CNN Business

The small companies that drive China's economy are worried about how much damage the novel coronavirus outbreak will cause. Without help or a reprieve from the disease, many may have only weeks to survive.

While some larger companies are reopening their doors after weeks of lockdowns designed to contain the epidemic, small businesses often can't comply with the strict health rules now required in many regions and many don't have the option of letting employees work from home.

A survey of 163 companies of all sizes across China found that less than half were able to get back to work this week, according to investment bank China International Capital Corp, which published the results. Even more alarming: A third of roughly 1,000 small and medium-sized companies surveyed by academics from Tsinghua University and Peking University last week said they could only survive for a month with the cash they have.

That could spell terrible news for China's entrepreneurs — and an even worse reality for the country's economy. About 30 million small and medium-sized businesses contribute more than 60% of the country's GDP, according to government statistics published last September. The taxes they pay account for more than half of government revenue, and they employ more than 80% of China's workers.

Read the full story here.

7:52 a.m. ET, February 14, 2020

Japan announces another virus case

From CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki

Another Japanese person has tested positive for coronavirus, making a total of five new cases today, according to the country's Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare.

The latest case is a Japanese citizen who returned from Wuhan Province in China on a government charter.

The individual tested positive on screening before leaving the post-repatriation quarantine period and will be hospitalized for treatment.

That brings the total in Japan to 255, of which 219 are from the Diamond Princess cruise ship which is docked in Yokohama port. The country has seen one death due to the virus.

9:03 a.m. ET, February 14, 2020

Hong Kong launches $3.2bn fund to deal with outbreak

From journalist Isaac Yee in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference in Hong Kong on February 11.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference in Hong Kong on February 11. Credit: Kin Cheung/AP

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced a series of new financial support measures to help alleviate the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak in a press conference Friday.

"Today's initiative to announce the setting up of this fund with the estimated amount of HK$25 billion (US$3.2 billion) is a commitment to the people of Hong Kong," said Lam.

Included in the fund will be subsidies for various business sectors that have been impacted by the outbreak, including a US$10,300 subsidy for travel agencies and retail businesses. Help for restaurants will range from US$10,300 to $200,000.

Lam also announced the government will give the Hospital Authority an additional US$650 million in funding to help deal with the outbreak.

Hong Kong's Legislative Council will meet next week to further discuss the details surrounding the fund.

6:31 a.m. ET, February 14, 2020

Russian woman escapes coronavirus quarantine by short-circuiting the lock

From CNN's Radina Gigova

A Russian woman who escaped a hospital ward where she was under quarantine for novel coronavirus is facing a lawsuit filed by heath authorities for endangering the public, according to Russian state media.

The woman had returned from China in early February and was undergoing observation at the Botkin Hospital for Infectious Diseases in St. Petersburg, according to state news agency TASS.

She fled the hospital without permission by short-circuiting the electronic lock on the door to her ward, St. Petersburg's chief sanitary physician said in a statement Thursday.

Nearly 230 Russian citizens are currently waiting to return from China, according to Russia's Federal Air Transport Agency.

Two coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Russia, according to the country's consumer watchdog, the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-Being. The two patients were Chinese nationals who traveled to Russia; one of them has recovered and left the hospital, TASS said.

Read the full story here.