February 16 coronavirus news

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3:14 a.m. ET, February 16, 2020

Cambodia asks Malaysia to re-examine positive coronavirus test of American Westerdam passenger

From CNN’s Isaac Yee in Hong Kong

Health officials in Cambodia have asked Malaysia to re-examines the positive coronavirus test results of an American traveler who was on board the Westerdam cruise ship.

The request was made by the Cambodian Ministry of Health shortly after Malaysian health authorities confirmed the case, according to Cambodian state media.

The Westerdam docked in Cambodia late last week after it was turned away from several other ports in Asia due to fears of the coronavirus, because the ship had docked in Hong Kong.

State media initially reported that all passengers and crew on board the Westerdam underwent temperature checks and "not one person had an elevated temperature." Health examinations conducted on the Westerdam passengers followed the international health regulations of the World Health Organization, according to state media.

As of February 15, Cambodia had one confirmed case of the novel coronavirus.

3:05 a.m. ET, February 16, 2020

If you're just joining us, here's what happened overnight

Global infections and deaths: More than 69,000 cases of the novel coronavirus have been recorded worldwide, with the vast majority in China. There have been 1,669 deaths from Covid-19, the disease the virus causes, all but four of which occurred in mainland China.

China on lockdown: Much of China remains on lockdown or quarantine, which is having a major toll on the country's economy. Millions across China are working from home.

Cruise ship evacuations: Outside of China, the largest outbreak is on board the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship quarantined at Yokohama, a port south of Tokyo. Thousands of passengers have been under strict controls on board for almost two weeks now.

Some will leave Sunday evening Japan time, when a US government chartered flight is due to fly Americans to California. They will then be put in another 14-day quarantine -- a decision that has angered some.

Other passengers are due to begin disembarking next week.

3:11 a.m. ET, February 16, 2020

Beijing police could be making 7.6 million phone calls

From CNN's Lily Lee in Beijing

Police in Beijing are calling residents and asking about their travel history, as the Chinese capital introduces strict lockdown measures to contain the novel coronavirus.

On Sunday afternoon, I was called by an officer from my local police station, who asked for my travel history prior to the recent Lunar New Year holiday. He also asked about my health and whether I'd had contact with people from Hubei, the province at the center of the outbreak.

The police officer said the authorities are calling every person in my neighborhood with a Beijing address but not a Beijing hukou, or household registration -- that's an easy way of identifying people who come from elsewhere in the country and, therefore, may have traveled back home during the Lunar New Year.

There are over 7.6 million non-Beijing hukou holders in Beijing, meaning if this procedure is being carried out in every district, police could be making millions of phone calls.

2:40 a.m. ET, February 16, 2020

The US is finally evacuating Americans from the Diamond Princess. Here's why that's made them mad

From CNN's Mick Krever

On Saturday afternoon, the US Embassy in Tokyo sent a notice to Americans on board the Diamond Princess laying out plans to evacuate nearly 400 Americans back home.

Once there, another 14 days of mandatory quarantine would begin. Anyone who chose not to get on the flight would have to wait another 14 days in Japan to ensure they were symptom-free before returning to the US.

That decision has prompted anger among the American passengers, with many demanding answers to two simple questions about the US response: Why did the American government wait so long to make the about-face decision? What prompted such a dramatic shift in US policy?

Read more here

2:15 a.m. ET, February 16, 2020

The coronavirus crisis is raising questions over China's relationship with the WHO

Analysis by CNN's James Griffiths

Sitting alongside Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was effusive in his praise of the country's response to the coronavirus crisis.

"We appreciate the seriousness with which China is taking this outbreak, especially the commitment from top leadership, and the transparency they have demonstrated," Tedros said, in comments that would be repeatedly quoted in China's state media for weeks.

This was in late January, after Xi had taken control of the situation due to local officials' apparent failure to contain the outbreak to Hubei province.

As the two men met in the Chinese capital, the number of cases was rising, and revelations were emerging that officials in Hubei province and Wuhan -- the city where the virus was first detected -- had sought to downplay and control news about the virus, even threatening medical whistleblowers with arrest.

Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the World Health Organization, attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, on January 28, 2020 in Beijing, China.
Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the World Health Organization, attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, on January 28, 2020 in Beijing, China. Getty Images

Days later, the WHO declared a global public health emergency, and once again Tedros praised Beijing's response.

While China did act quickly following Xi's intervention, placing several major cities on lockdown and pouring resources into the battle against the virus, it has maintained tight control over information about the virus and efforts to control its spread have veered on the side of draconian.

The WHO's praise of China's response has led critics to question the relationship between the two entities. The UN agency relies on funding and the cooperation of members to function, giving wealthy member states like China considerable influence. Perhaps one of the most overt examples of China's sway over the WHO is its success in blocking Taiwan's access to the body, a position that could have very real consequences for the Taiwanese people if the virus takes hold there.

The WHO's position on China has renewed a longstanding debate about whether the WHO, founded 72 years ago, is sufficiently independent to allow it to fulfill its purpose.

Read more here

1:53 a.m. ET, February 16, 2020

"I'm very frustrated and disappointed:" Cruise ship passenger blasts US quarantine

From CNN's Sandi Sidhu

A planeload of American passengers from the virus stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship due to be evacuated back to the US on Sunday. But some are unhappy at the prospect of another two-weeks in quarantine once they arrive.

Speaking to CNN, Karey Mansicalco said she was "frustrated and disappointed with the US government right now."

"Of course if this happened 12 days ago it would have been a relief, but it's like they've waited until the 11th hour, to decide they're coming to get us," she added. "And then implement another 14 day quarantine? It is completely ridiculous."

Mansicalco said the State Department had told passengers they could trust the Japanese government and would not face another quarantine once they returned home.

"It was repeated over and over and then a few days before I get off this boat you are going to, say, just kidding, 14 more days for you," she said. "It is like a prison sentence for something I did not do. And I am furious. I am really really upset."

She is self-employed as a realtor, so the extended period away from work is "detrimental."

"This is going to affect my business for the entire year," she added. "If it does not self-destruct I would be surprised. A month and a half away from a business where you cannot work as a salesperson is impossible."
"I have been counting the days down -- in three days I am going to be home and I am going to, back to setting whilst estate and doing my own thing," she said. "And tomorrow you are going to pick me up and take me back to the United States and start another 14 days!"

She added she hoped President Donald Trump could "set us free."

"Bring us back home, test us and then if we don't have the virus, then you need to let us go. We've done our time."

1:37 a.m. ET, February 16, 2020

Coronavirus discrimination alleged at Indiana hotels

From CNN's Shawn Nottingham and Dave Alsup

Two Hmong men say they have been discriminated against out of fear of the novel coronavirus while looking for a hotel room in Indiana.

Kao Lor and his uncle Lee Lor were traveling through the state on their way to pick up a car when they stopped to get a room at a Super 8 Motel in the northern Indiana city of Plymouth.

After entering the hotel, Kao Lor says an employee asked if he was Chinese. Lor began recording the encounter. In the video a man, who later identified himself as an employee, asks Lor if he is Chinese, and when Lor asks why he needs to know the man responds, "Ever heard of the coronavirus?"

The back and forth continues between Lor and the man with the hotel employee later saying: "If you are from China, I need to know."

When Lor asks why, the man said he has been told "anyone from China has be picked up and quarantined for two weeks." The employee tells Lor it is company policy.

Eventually Lor and his uncle decided to try another hotel.

Watch the video here

1:27 a.m. ET, February 16, 2020

Australia says it is "examining options" to help citizens on board Diamond Princess

From CNN's Mick Krever in Tokyo

The Australian government has emailed its citizens on board the virus-stricken Diamond Princess, currently under quarantine at the Japanese port of Yokohama.

"You may have already seen the news that the US government is planning to assist US passengers on the Diamond Princess to return to the United States in the coming days," the email said. "We understand the US Embassy will send out information to US passengers on the ship about their plans shortly."

It added:

"The Australian government is also examining options to assist Australians on board the ship. We will contact you again as soon as any decision is taken.
We understand this is a very stressful situation for you on the ship. Please be assured we are working hard to assist all Australian passengers and your welfare is our paramount concern.
Australian medical officers are working closely with the Japanese authorities and the health representatives of other countries."
12:45 a.m. ET, February 16, 2020

Will the coronavirus infect the global economy?

With the head of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warning that the virus will likely be with us "beyond this season, beyond this year," attention is turning to how to contain it while avoiding too much disruption to the global economy.

China is struggling to return to work after businesses were shut and schools suspended for weeks. Millions are now working from home, with Chinese President Xi Jinping warning on Monday that the country needed to stabilize its economy and avoid mass layoffs.

But it's not just China that's affected -- the closing of Chinese plants has disrupted supply chains globally, threatening to cause a recession in Germany and smartphone shortages worldwide.

Economists say the current level of disruption is manageable. If the number of new coronavirus cases begins to slow, and China's factories reopen soon, the result will be a fleeting hit to the Chinese economy in the first quarter and a dent in global growth.

If the virus continues to spread, however, the economic damage will increase rapidly.

"This is continuing to grow in scope and magnitude," said William Reinsch, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "It could end being really, really big, and really, really serious."

Read more here