February 17 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Amy Woodyatt, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 9:08 p.m. ET, February 17, 2020
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4:59 a.m. ET, February 17, 2020

Diamond Princess has 99 new coronavirus cases onboard

From CNN’s Junko Ogura in Tokyo

A police car drives past the Diamond Princess cruise ship at Yokohama port on Sunday.
A police car drives past the Diamond Princess cruise ship at Yokohama port on Sunday. Credit: Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images

A further 99 more people from the Diamond Princess cruise ship have tested positive for novel coronavirus, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare announced on Monday.

It’s the largest single-day increase of cases stemming from the ship to date, and comes as multiple countries around the world prepare to follow the United States in evacuating their citizens from the ship.

There are now a total of 456 cases originating from the Diamond Princess, which had around 3,600 people quarantined onboard over coronavirus fears -- more than 10% of everybody on the ship.

The new cases brings the total number of coronavirus cases in Japan to 513 -- by far the highest number of cases outside of mainland China.

Of the 99 cases, 70 are asymptomatic, the ministry said. They will be moved to onshore medical facilities.

4:43 a.m. ET, February 17, 2020

How the coronavirus outbreak went global in two months

Philippine citizens arriving in Angeles, Philippines, after being evacuated from Wuhan, China, on February 8, 2020.
Philippine citizens arriving in Angeles, Philippines, after being evacuated from Wuhan, China, on February 8, 2020. Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs via Getty Images

The novel coronavirus began in December in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, Hubei province. Now, it's spread to 28 other countries and territories, and killed 1,775 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: 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 21: US officials confirm their first case.
  • January 23: Wuhan is placed on lockdown, and Lunar New Year celebrations are canceled in major Chinese cities. Around 60 million people are affected by lockdowns and travel restrictions in other parts of China. 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: WHO declares a public health emergency of international concern.
  • February 2: A Chinese man dies in the Philippines -- the first coronavirus death outside 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 6: Death toll tops 500 globally.
  • February 7: Chinese whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang, who was targeted by Wuhan police, 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 11: The death toll tops 1,000 globally. The WHO names the coronavirus Covid-19.
  • February 15: The first coronavirus death in Europe is confirmed.
  • February 17: In the early hours of the morning, American passengers on the Diamond Princess fly out of Japan on a US-chartered evacuation plane.
4:31 a.m. ET, February 17, 2020

Experts from the World Health Organization have arrived in China on a joint mission

Twelve international and World Health Organization (WHO) experts landed in Beijing yesterday, for a WHO-led joint mission with Chinese national experts.

The experts will be reviewing data, holding workshops, and making field visits to three provinces to study the coronavirus outbreak. The visiting experts will stay as long as needed, said WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“The goal of the joint mission is to rapidly inform the next steps in the Covid-19 response and preparedness activities in China and globally,” Ghebreyesus said last week.

After arriving, the experts held their first meeting with their Chinese counterparts.

CDC snubbed: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered to send experts to China, but the offer has not yet been accepted. 

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told CNN that the CDC first offered to send experts to China on January 6. 

"It's dependent on the Chinese to make their decisions and facilitate that," Azar said. "We are ready to go and we are waiting for final clearance from the Chinese government to make that happen."
4:17 a.m. ET, February 17, 2020

Thieves stole 600 toilet paper rolls in Hong Kong amid fears of coronavirus shortages

From CNN's Jessie Yeung, Eric Cheung and Chermaine Lee

Toilet paper is stacked for sale outside a store in Hong Kong on February 8.
Toilet paper is stacked for sale outside a store in Hong Kong on February 8. Credit: Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images

Police in Hong Kong have arrested two men and are searching for a third after the group stole about 600 toilet paper rolls, in a robbery likely sparked by coronavirus fears that have gripped the city.

Early Monday morning, a delivery worker was transporting goods to a supermarket in the city's Mong Kok district. He had placed about 50 packs of toilet rolls, containing about 600 rolls, outside the supermarket when three men stole them, police said.

Several hours later, police found the stolen toilet rolls in a nearby guesthouse, and arrested two of the men. They are investigating the incident as a robbery, and are still looking for the third suspect.

Why are people stealing toilet rolls? Earlier this month, the Hong Kong government announced it would close some borders with mainland China -- sparking unsubstantiated rumors that supply chains from China would be cut off.

The city government denied the rumors and tried to reassure the public -- but to no avail. Residents rushed to supermarkets to load up on supposedly endangered goods such as toilet paper rolls, rice, hand sanitizer, and other cleaning products.

Soon, supermarkets sold out entirely of toilet rolls, food staples, and other crucial goods; photos inside supermarkets showed barren shelves and empty aisles.

People are scared and angry: The toilet roll crisis sparked controversy in Hong Kong. After photos circulated on social media of residents hoarding multiple packs, some accused the panic buyers of unnecessarily creating chaos and confusion.

Read the full story here.

4:04 a.m. ET, February 17, 2020

India is sending a flight to Wuhan that will bring medical supplies and leave with Indian nationals

From CNN's Vedika Sud in New Delhi

The Indian government is sending a planeload of medical supplies to Wuhan later this week to help China combat the coronavirus epidemic, the Indian Embassy in Beijing said on its official Twitter account.

The Embassy said the flight will take Indians in Wuhan and Hubei province back to their home country when it leaves China, but the plane has "limited capacity."

3:49 a.m. ET, February 17, 2020

If you're just tuning in, here's what you should know

STR/AFP/Getty Images
STR/AFP/Getty Images

The number of coronavirus cases worldwide has topped 71,000, according to the latest numbers from China's National Health Commission.

Here's the latest:

More deaths in Hubei: A total of 105 people in mainland China were killed by the virus Sunday, China's National Health Commission said -- 100 of whom were in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. The global death toll is 1,775, including five people outside mainland China.

New cases: Thailand, Japan and South Korea announced new cases on Monday.

Americans evacuated: More than 300 Americans previously onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which had been quarantined in Japanese waters, left the country on flights chartered by the United States government Monday Japan time. The first flight has landed back in the US. The US Departments of State, and Health and Human Services said in a joint statement that a total of 14 passengers were confirmed to have the novel coronavirus as they were evacuated.

Malaysia bars ship passengers: The Malaysian government announced it will not allow passengers who were on board the Westerdam to enter its borders. The move follows reports that an American woman who had traveled on the cruise ship tested positive for the virus after flying from Cambodia, where the ship had docked, to Kuala Lumpur.

China's top political event under threat: Beijing is considering delaying its annual meeting of the National People's Congress (NPC), a gathering of the the country's nearly 3,000 national legislators, as the government continues to deal with the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, state media reported.

3:40 a.m. ET, February 17, 2020

Beijing is considering postponing its most important political event of the year

From CNN's Steven Jiang in Beijing

Chinese President Xi Jinping and the other attendees of the fourth and last Plenary Meeting of the National People's Congress stand and listen to the National Anthem at The Great Hall Of The People on March 15, 2019 in Beijing.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and the other attendees of the fourth and last Plenary Meeting of the National People's Congress stand and listen to the National Anthem at The Great Hall Of The People on March 15, 2019 in Beijing. Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images

The Chinese government is considering delaying its annual meeting of the National People's Congress (NPC), a gathering of the the country's nearly 3,000 national legislators, as the government continues to deal with the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, Chinese state media reported.

The annual meeting is a highly choreographed political and propaganda spectacle that ranks high on the ruling Communist Party’s agenda.

The annual plenary session has not been delayed or suspended since the end of the tumultuous Cultural Revolution in the late 1970s. It went as scheduled in 2003 amid the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic, which originated in China and hit the country hard. SARS eventually spread across the world to infect more than 8,000 people, killing at least 774.

The full session of the NPC was due to open on March 5. Instead, the NPC Standing Committee, a smaller group of fewer than 200 people, will meet in the capital on February 24 to review a proposal to postpone the plenary session, according to state-run news agency Xinhua.

“As the country is currently at a critical stage of containing the spread of the virus and winning the battle on the outbreak, we must focus our energy on this effort,” Xinhua quoted Zang Tiewei, a senior NPC official, as saying. “Of the nearly 3,000 NPC delegates, many -- including major officials at the provincial and local levels as well as in other fields -- are fighting on the frontlines and playing important roles.”

The proposal to delay the NPC’s full gathering is aimed to “ensure concentrated energy on the containment effort, and to ensure the safety and health of the masses,” Zang added.

3:32 a.m. ET, February 17, 2020

Coronavirus crisis raises questions over China's relationship with the World Health Organization

Analysis by CNN's James Griffiths in Hong Kong

World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.
World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. Pool/Getty Images

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.

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.

Taiwan sidelined: The WHO's praise of China's response have 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.

Independence questioned: The WHO's position regarding China has also renewed a longstanding debate about whether the WHO, founded 72 years ago, is sufficiently independent to allow it to fulfill its purpose. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to questions regarding Beijing's relationship with the WHO. A spokesman for the WHO directed CNN to comments made by Tedros this week, when he again praised China for "making us safer."

Read more here

3:19 a.m. ET, February 17, 2020

Japan won't hold a public birthday celebration for the Emperor this year due to coronavirus fears

From CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

In this file photo, Japan's Emperor Naruhito gives an address at the opening of the 201st ordinary session of the Diet at the upper house of the parliament on January 20 in Tokyo.
In this file photo, Japan's Emperor Naruhito gives an address at the opening of the 201st ordinary session of the Diet at the upper house of the parliament on January 20 in Tokyo. Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

The Japanese Imperial Household says that it is canceling next weekend’s public birthday celebration for Emperor Naruhito due to fears that large crowds could facilitate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

It would have been the first public birthday celebration as emperor for Naruhito, who turns 60 on February 23. He took the throne last year after his father's abdication.

Japan has confirmed a total of 414 coronavirus cases -- 357 related to the Diamond Princess and 57 with no connection to the ship.