February 18 coronavirus news

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5:05 a.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Filipino domestic worker is Hong Kong's 61st coronavirus patient

Hong Kong now has 61 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus, according to the city's health department.

The latest patient is a 32-year-old woman from the Philippines who works in Hong Kong as a domestic helper, Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Center for Health Protection said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Her employer was the 52nd person to become infected with the virus in the city, Chaung added.

The woman started to have a cough and fever on February 2 but got better after self-medicating and didn't go to the doctor, Chaung said.

Her employer tested positive on Thursday, February 13. The domestic helper first tested negative, but remained in hospital for monitoring. She tested positive on Monday.

Chaung warned initial tests may not pick up enough of the virus, causing people to test negative even when infected. This is why a patient is tested again if their condition deteriorates or they have had close contact with confirmed cases.

Health officials are contacting about a dozen friends of the 61st case who gathered with her outside City Hall on February 9.

Hong Kong is home to 385,000 foreign domestic workers, from countries including the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. They are the economic backbone of the city, enabling more mothers to work and generating $12.6 billion to Hong Kong's economy each year, according to one report.

4:46 a.m. ET, February 18, 2020

"Credible risk" of coronavirus pandemic, says French health minister

French Health and Solidarity Minister Olivier Veran addresses media during a news briefing on the coronavirus.
French Health and Solidarity Minister Olivier Veran addresses media during a news briefing on the coronavirus. Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images

French health minister Olivier Veran said on Tuesday there is a “credible risk” the novel coronavirus outbreak could turn into a pandemic.

This is a working assumption and a credible risk and France is ready to deal with all possible outcomes,” Veran told French radio network, France Inter.

“We have a very strong health system,” Veran added.

The minister said he had recently met with the daughter of the 80-year-old Chinese tourist who died from coronavirus last Saturday in France -- the first fatality from the outbreak in Europe.

“Out of the 12 confirmed cases of coronavirus in France, four patients remain in hospital,” Veran said.

There are two French citizens who tested positive for the virus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. They have not asked to be repatriated, according to Veran.

Not a pandemic: Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, said the organization is still not classifying the coronavirus outbreak as a "pandemic" because they were not seeing an "efficient community transmission outside of China."

4:18 a.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Evacuated American says she didn't know people on the plane had tested positive for coronavirus until it landed

American evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland on February 17, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas.
American evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland on February 17, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas. Edward A. Ornelas/Getty Images

An American who was evacuated on a US-chartered jet from a cruise ship docked in Japan told CNN that she wasn't aware that other passengers on the plane had tested positive for novel coronavirus until they landed.

Sarah Arana was one of more than 300 US citizens evacuated from the Diamond Princess and flown to the United States.

Fourteen passengers from the Diamond Princess had tested positive for coronavirus before they boarded the flight.

"I didn't hear a single word about that until I literally heard it on the news when we landed," Arana said. "It was widely being reported everywhere else and we were never informed about that."

But Arana felt she was in good hands while on the evacuation flight and when she landed on US soil. 

"On the plane we were with specialists ... very knowledgeable doctors and CDC professionals," she said. "I have no doubt that they did everything with extreme caution."

Read the full story here.

4:06 a.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Quarantine is nearly over for some Americans evacuated from Wuhan

US citizens who arrived at the Marine Corps Air Station in Southern California earlier this month in the first evacuation flights from Wuhan -- the epicenter of the outbreak -- are nearing the end of their quarantine.

The US State Department flights from Wuhan landed at MCAS Miramar in San Diego County, on February 5 and February 7.

About 160 people are expected to be released Tuesday morning, Capt. Matthew Gregory, MCAS Miramar's director of communication, confirmed to CNN Monday night. Another group is expected to be released on Thursday. Gregory did not have details on Thursday's release.

There have been two confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus among the group. The first and second patients arrived on different planes and were housed in separate facilities, CDC officials said.

As Americans are returning to the US on government-chartered evacuation flights, commercial airlines are keeping tabs on passengers leaving the country who may have been exposed to people infected with the virus.

3:45 a.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Just joining us? Here's the latest on the coronavirus outbreak

Chinese women wear protective masks on their way to work in Beijing.
Chinese women wear protective masks on their way to work in Beijing.  Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The number of coronavirus cases worldwide has topped 73,000, after China's National Health Commission reported more than 1,880 new confirmed cases.

Here's the latest:

The numbers: 98 additional deaths were recorded in mainland China on Monday, China’s National Health Commission said -- including 93 in Hubei province. The global death toll is 1,873, including five people outside mainland China.

Wuhan hospital director death: Liu Zhiming, head of the Wuchang hospital in Wuhan, died from the coronavirus this morning, the first hospital head to die of the virus. China will designate medical workers who died while working to combat the virus as "martyrs."

Cruise ship evacuations: The UK, Canada, Italy and Hong Kong are sending flights for their citizens onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Japan. The US has evacuated more than 300 Americans from the ship, 14 of which have tested positive for the virus. 

Disembarking the Diamond Princess: Japan's health minister has confirmed that Diamond Princess disembarkation will begin on Wednesday.

Westerdam concerns: Questions are being raised over how an 83-year-old American woman, who had been on the first charter flight taking 143 Westerdam cruise liner passengers to Malaysia, was infected, and whether authorities will be retesting the other 2,257 passengers and crew, about half of whom who have already left the ship.

More flights reduced: Singapore Airlines says it is temporarily cutting flights across its global network due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. Destinations affected include Frankfurt, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Paris, London, Tokyo, Seoul, and routes across Australia and Southeast Asia.

Economic woes: Apple warned investors on Monday that the outbreak is hurting its business more than previously expected by limiting how many devices it can make and sell in China. The closing of Chinese plants has also disrupted supply chains globally, threatening to cause a recession in Germany and smartphone shortages worldwide.

3:29 a.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Westerdam passenger infected with coronavirus: What we know and what we don't

A general view of the Westerdam cruise ship docked at Sihanoukville port on February 15, 2020.
A general view of the Westerdam cruise ship docked at Sihanoukville port on February 15, 2020. Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images

Questions are being raised over how an 83-year-old American woman, who had been on the first charter flight taking 143 Westerdam passengers to Malaysia, was infected with coronavirus after the cruise operator said no cases had been found on board.

It's not clear whether authorities will be retesting the other 2,257 passengers and crew of the Westerdam, about half of whom who have already left the ship.

The ship: The Westerdam was stuck at sea for days, after Japan, Guam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand turned it away over coronavirus concerns. On Friday, Cambodia finally allowed the ship to dock and passengers disembarked. No coronavirus cases were reported.

What we know about the patient:

  • The woman arrived in Malaysia with a cough.
  • She had no fever or difficulty breathing, but told Malaysian authorities she felt unwell.
  • A chest X-ray confirmed she had signs of pneumonia. 
  • After subsequent tests, she was diagnosed with the coronavirus. She is in a stable condition.

Flights canceled: All other Holland America charter flights to Malaysia for the remaining Westerdam passengers have been canceled. The Thai government also announced Monday that it would no longer be accepting any Westerdam passengers until February 28.

Where did she get the virus? It isn't clear from official statements where the American woman contracted the virus or how long she has had it. The Westerdam left Singapore on January 16 for what was supposed to be a 30-day trip around Asia. The ship visited Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, according to marinetraffic.com. But after departing Hong Kong on February 1, where 768 guests joined the boat, it quickly became unwelcome in ports around the region.

Westerdam representatives said the company had checked that no one onboard the ship had traveled to mainland China in the 14 days prior to the cruise.

Everyone was screened: Holland America Line, which operates the Westerdam, confirmed the virus case but was insistent that everyone on the ship had been screened on February 10, five days before the positive diagnosis.

Read the full story here.

3:17 a.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Canadian charter plane to arrive in Tokyo on Wednesday

A charter plane hired by the Canadian government is due to arrive in Tokyo on Wednesday, according to a government email sent to passengers on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

“The departure date will be confirmed once final arrangements have been made with the Japanese government and the cruise ship company,” the email, which was obtained by CNN, reads. “You will be notified 24 hours before the flight leaves.”

Passengers who get on the flight will have to undergo a further 14-day quarantine once they arrive in Canada.

In a statement to CNN on Tuesday, Global Affairs Canada said that the plane would bring citizens to Canadian Forces Base in Trenton, “after which passengers will be assessed and transported to the NAV Canada Training Institute in Cornwall, Ontario, to undergo a further 14-day period of quarantine.”

When the quarantine started, there were 256 Canadians on the Diamond Princess. Of that number, 32 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

3:00 a.m. ET, February 18, 2020

How the coronavirus has hit China's massive state sector

A worker produces protective face masks at a factory in Qingdao in China's eastern Shandong province.
A worker produces protective face masks at a factory in Qingdao in China's eastern Shandong province. STR/AFP/Getty Images

China's State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), is the powerful central body that oversees the country's state sector.

There are about 460,000 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in China. Ninety-six of those are “central enterprises,” which are massive state-owned businesses.

Together, the SOEs contribute 40% of China’s GDP.

During a news conference on Tuesday, the SASAC said the government was still assessing the overall loss of this sector due to the coronavirus and it expects SOEs to be hurt even more this month compared to January.

Here's what came up:

Back to work: More than 80% of the over 20,000 state-owned manufacturing subsidiaries have resumed work.

Airline refunds: The three biggest airline operators -- Air China, China Eastern and China Southern -- refunded 13 million tickets and canceled 78,000 flights between January 20 and February 13.

Face mask production: The government has ordered some SOEs to start making facial masks. By February 16, 11 of oil and gas enterprise Sinopec’s production lines were producing 620,000 face masks per day.

Importing protective equipment: Beijing is also importing face masks from overseas and donating them to Hubei province at the outbreak's epicenter. So far, they have donated 1.74 million imported face masks, 61,800 protective clothing suits, 27,000 clinical goggles, and 348,000 clinical gloves.

2:42 a.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Kyoto launches an "empty tourism" campaign amid coronavirus outbreak

The Bamboo Forest in Kyoto's Arashiyama neighborhood.
The Bamboo Forest in Kyoto's Arashiyama neighborhood. JNTO

Kyoto is usually packed with tourists from all over the world.

But as the coronavirus outbreak keeps visitors away from the historic streets of Japan's former capital, a group of shopkeepers have launched an "empty tourism" campaign to lure them back. 

Merchants from five shopping streets in Kyoto's Arashiyama neighborhood -- a popular tourist district on the western outskirts of the city that's filled with temples and shrines -- have devised an advertising campaign dubbed "suitemasu Arashiyama." It translates to "empty Arashiyama" or "there are few people around in Arashiyama." 

The posters created for the campaign showcase how any would-be travelers could have the district's most-visited spots all to themselves. 

One poster shows a monkey with the caption: "It's been a while since there were more monkeys than humans." Underneath, there's a photo of Togetsukyo Bridge -- normally crowded with Instagrammers -- with no tourists about. 

Another depicts Arayshiyama's beautiful bamboo grove accompanied with several hashtags, including "#nopeople" and "#nowisthetime."

Kyoto has enjoyed many busy traveler-filled winters over the past few years, to the point where the city was facing overtourism. 

However, due to the effects of the coronavirus outbreak, locals report that the neighborhood has had fewer visitors so far in 2020 than in 2019.

Read the full story here.