February 19 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton, Jack Guy and Ivana Kottasová, CNN

Updated 1745 GMT (0145 HKT) December 21, 2020
17 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
2:20 a.m. ET, February 19, 2020

Diamond Princess disembarkation is raising concerns among health experts

From  Emiko Jozuka, Yoko Wakatsuki, Sandi Sidhu, Will Ripley and Mick Krever

People are seen on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked at Daikoku Pier on Wednesday, February 19, in Yokohama, Japan.
People are seen on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked at Daikoku Pier on Wednesday, February 19, in Yokohama, Japan. Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Passengers who have tested negative for the novel coronavirus began disembarking from the stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship Wednesday, despite mounting evidence from infectious disease experts they could unknowingly be carrying the virus back into their communities.

A total of 545 confirmed cases of the virus have been linked to the ship during its quarantine in Tokyo Bay.

CDC highlights risk: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) commended Japan's quarantine measures but said they may not be sufficient to prevent transmission among individuals in the ship.

"The CDC believes the rate of new infections on board, especially among those without symptoms, represents an ongoing risk," it said in a statement released Tuesday.

"To protect the health of the American public, all passengers and crew of the ship have been placed under travel restrictions, preventing them from returning to the US for at least 14 days after they have left the Diamond Princess."

Expert raises alarm: A Japanese infectious disease specialist who visited the quarantined cruise ship alleged there is inadequate infection control on board.

"Inside the Diamond Princess, I was was so scared ... there was no way to tell where the virus was ... bureaucrats were in charge of everything," said Kentaro Iwata, an infectious disease specialist at Kobe University in a YouTube video published Tuesday.

Read more here.

2:05 a.m. ET, February 19, 2020

Video shows subdued Shanghai as coronavirus fears linger

CNN's David Culver visits Shanghai, China, where streets in the normally vibrant financial hub are mostly empty and businesses shuttered as fears of the novel coronavirus linger.

He finds residents going to extraordinary measures to protect themselves from the virus, with face masks being just one line of defense.

In the heart of the city's financial district there's hardly any traffic and the lunch-time rush is almost non-existent. Meanwhile, one finance worker says the outbreak may come at a cost.

1:55 a.m. ET, February 19, 2020

Hundreds of Westerdam passengers test negative for coronavirus

From CNN's Isaac Yee in Hong Kong

People on a deck of the Westerdam cruise ship watch a helicopter take off in Sihanoukville on Tuesday, February 18.
People on a deck of the Westerdam cruise ship watch a helicopter take off in Sihanoukville on Tuesday, February 18. Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images

A total of 781 passengers from the Westerdam cruise ship are one step closer to returning home after Cambodian health authorities said they had tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

After being unable to find a port for days, the Westerdam finally was able to berth in Cambodia on February 13.

At the time, no cases of the virus had been reported aboard the ship.

However, an 83-year-old American passenger tested positive for the virus in Malaysia while she was on transit home after disembarking the ship. That left hundreds of passengers either stuck on board the vessel or in hotels in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh as authorities scrambled to investigate the infection.

A ship in limbo: On board the ship when it docked were 1,455 passengers from several countries and more than 700 crew. As of Tuesday, only 1,000 people were left onboard the Westerdam, while another 500 or so were in Phnom Penh.

The Cambodian government said the negative test results were from both passengers on the ship and in the city.

No quarantine: Those still awaiting testing are not being held under any strict quarantine measures, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Dr. Or Vandline said.

She added that the passengers in Phnom Penh still awaiting their test results are being allowed to move around the city if they need to as long as they "exercise precaution." The ministry has also advised passengers still in Cambodia to contact health officials if they are feeling unwell.

Both Malaysia and Thailand have said they will not allow Westerdam passengers to pass through their countries on their way home.

UPDATE: This post has been updated to accurately reflect the quarantine measures imposed on Westerdam passengers waiting for test results.

1:09 a.m. ET, February 19, 2020

People in Tokyo are strengthening coronavirus precautions as infections rise in Japan

From CNN's Emiko Jozuka in Tokyo

A man wearing a mask looks out of a window at a building in the Asakusa district on Sunday, February 2, in Tokyo, Japan.
A man wearing a mask looks out of a window at a building in the Asakusa district on Sunday, February 2, in Tokyo, Japan. Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

On the streets of Japan's capital, there's no sense of panic or alarm, but people are steadily increasing their precautions against the deadly novel coronavirus that is spreading globally.

Seven new cases of the novel coronavirus in Japan were announced Tuesday, bringing the country's total to 68 outside of the 545 infections linked to the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama.

In Tokyo, people can regularly be seen wearing surgical face masks, despite a shortage of the protective wear making them increasingly hard to find.

Many convenience stores and supermarkets are limiting the purchase of face masks to one packet per person. Some shops have also posted signs saying when the next mask delivery will be to avoid having to constantly respond to customer queries.

No panic: But unlike other countries, there has been no sign of panic buying of supplies such as toilet paper or canned food in Japan.

Japanese companies are increasingly recommending people work from home if possible, as alcohol hand wash has appeared in lifts and corridors of major buildings across Tokyo.

Speaking on Tuesday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged citizens who had cold-like symptoms to stay at home.

But there's no doubt that tensions are steadily increasing in the country as health experts warn Japan has entered the "next phase" of the outbreak spreading locally in the country.

For now, Japan is on alert, not alarmed.

12:57 a.m. ET, February 19, 2020

Basic questions about the coronavirus, answered

A medical worker checks the body temperature of a patient at an exhibition center converted into a hospital in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on Friday, February 17.
A medical worker checks the body temperature of a patient at an exhibition center converted into a hospital in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on Friday, February 17. Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

There's still a lot we don't know about the novel coronavirus, officially called Covid-19, and scientists around the world are racing to gather data and develop a treatment.

Here's what we can tell you so far:

  • Is there a cure? There's no cure, but patients can be treated for symptoms and may recover. A vaccine could take 12 to 18 months, according to World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
  • What are the symptoms? Coronavirus symptoms can look like the flu -- a runny nose, cough, sore throat, possibly a headache and maybe a fever, which can last for a couple of days.
  • How does the virus spread? The virus is thought to spread from person to person through respiratory droplets emitted by coughing or sneezing. There's also a possibility the virus can exist in and spread through contaminated fecal matter. There's currently no evidence that the virus is airborne -- meaning, for instance, it doesn't travel across a large room.
  • Who is at risk of infection? People of all ages can be infected with the virus, but older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions are especially vulnerable to severe complications.
  • How can I protect myself? Take the same precautionary measures you would during flu season. Wash your hands often with soap and water, cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough, avoid close contact with people or large gatherings, and wear a face mask.

12:57 a.m. ET, February 19, 2020

US senator is playing a dangerous game with coronavirus conspiracy theory

Analysis by CNN's Chris Cilizza

Sen. Tom Cotton walks to the Senate floor for the start of impeachment trial proceedings at the US Capitol on Tuesday, January 21, in Washington DC.
Sen. Tom Cotton walks to the Senate floor for the start of impeachment trial proceedings at the US Capitol on Tuesday, January 21, in Washington DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Sen. Tom Cotton isn't an infectious disease expert.

Which is why it's odd that the Arkansas Republican decided to wildly speculate about the origins of the novel coronavirus during an appearance on Fox News this past Sunday. Asked by anchor Maria Bartiromo "why do these diseases keep coming out of China," Cotton responded:

"This virus did not originate in the Wuhan animal market. Several of the original cases did not have any contact with that food market. We don't know where it originated ... we also know that just a few miles away from that food market is China's only bio safety level 4 super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases. We don't have evidence that this disease originated there ... but we at least have to ask the question."

So, in short, what Cotton is suggesting is that either the virus is the result of an experiment gone bad or a purposeful release of a bio-weapon.

Big news, right? Except that there's no evidence to back up Cotton's claim. On TV, the US senator floated a totally evidence-free conspiracy theory about the disease.

Read the full analysis here.

12:11 a.m. ET, February 19, 2020

Coronavirus infections outside of mainland China have passed 1,000

From CNN's Eric Cheung

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 75,000 people and caused over 2,000 deaths -- the vast majority of cases and all but six deaths in mainland China.

A spike in infections in Singapore, Japan, South Korea and onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship has pushed the total number of cases outside mainland China to at least 1,011 as of today.

More than half of the cases outside mainland China -- a total of 545 -- are linked to the Diamond Princess, anchored off Yokohama, Japan as passengers begin to leave a 14-day quarantine today.

Other than the Diamond Princess, the places with the largest number of cases are:

Singapore: 81 cases

Japan: 68 cases, 1 death

Hong Kong: 62 cases, 2 deaths

South Korea: 46 cases

Thailand: 35 cases

Read more here.

11:38 p.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Diamond Princess captain praises passengers' "strength" as long quarantine ends

From CNN's Emiko Jozuka, Yoko Wakatsuki, Sandi Sidhu and Will Ripley

The quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship sits docked at Daikoku Pier on Wednesday, February 19, in Yokohama, Japan.
The quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship sits docked at Daikoku Pier on Wednesday, February 19, in Yokohama, Japan. Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

After testing negative for the coronavirus, and a short wait at shoreside facilities, some of the Diamond Princess passengers are finally disembarking.

It will take several days to get everyone off the ship, with passengers over 70 likely to be first to go.

The cruise ship has been in quarantine for 14 days, and in that time more than 500 people on board has tested positive for the virus.

In a message to departing passengers, captain Stefano Ravera thanked the passengers for their patience and resilience.

"Well, it goes without saying that after our extended journey together, we will be sad to see many of you go," he said on Tuesday. "The strength and the togetherness that you have shown over the last few weeks has been incredible."

Were safety measures satisfactory?: As the passengers begin to depart, questions are being raised over the Japanese government's quarantine of the vessel.

A Japanese infectious disease specialist who visited the quarantined cruise ship alleged in a YouTube video that there was inadequate infection control onboard.

"Inside the Diamond Princess, I was was so scared ... there was no way to tell where the virus was ... bureaucrats were in charge of everything," said Kentaro Iwata, an infectious disease specialist at Kobe University in the video published Tuesday.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said Diamond Princess passengers will not be allowed back into the US for at least 14 days.

Read more here.

11:22 p.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Symptom-based screening for travelers is "ineffective," new report says

From CNN Health's Michael Nedelman and Nadia Kounang

A quarantine officer checks health documents from arriving passengers before they pass through customs at Beijing Daxing International Airport on Friday, February 14.
A quarantine officer checks health documents from arriving passengers before they pass through customs at Beijing Daxing International Airport on Friday, February 14. Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

Simply checking travelers for symptoms such as fever or cough is not enough to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus, a new report by German researchers said Tuesday.

Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the paper assessed the screening process used on 126 people who were evacuated from Wuhan, China, to Germany.

Despite going through multiple screenings once arriving in Germany, two of the travelers ultimately tested positive for the coronavirus.

"A symptom-based screening process was ineffective for detecting (the virus)," the paper said.

Virus may live on surfaces for days: There is still much we don't know about the novel coronavirus, including how long it can survive on surfaces outside the human body.

The Chinese government is taking no chances, even cleaning or destroying cash which has been known to be touched by infected patients.

A new study has suggested that might be wise -- some coronaviruses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) could survive on surfaces for up to nine days.