February 20 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton and Amy Woodyatt, CNN

Updated 0200 GMT (1000 HKT) February 21, 2020
29 Posts
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7:07 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

Japan's Health Ministry says 244 Diamond Princess passengers disembarked Thursday

From CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki and Junko Ogura in Tokyo

Passengers leave the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan on Thursday.
Passengers leave the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan on Thursday. Credit: Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images

After two weeks in quarantine, 244 passengers disembarked from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan, on Thursday, according to the Japanese Health Ministry.

These people had tested negative for the coronavirus, and were free to leave the vessel and travel.

The ministry also told CNN that it expected 800 passengers to disembark on Wednesday but only 443 left the ship. CNN previously reported 800 disembarked on Wednesday alone.

6:55 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

29 foreign citizens among coronavirus cases in China

From journalists Alexandra Lin and Akanksha Sharma in Hong Kong

China says 29 of its confirmed novel coronavirus cases involve foreign citizens, according to the country's State Council Information Office. Ten of the cases are in Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Among the total 29 cases: two have died, 18 were discharged and nine are still in isolation, receiving treatment.

In a Thursday press conference, Lian Weiliang, an official from the State Council and National Development and Reform Commission, said relevant embassies or consulates have been informed about the infected foreign citizens.

Lian Weiliang, Deputy Director of China's National Development and Reform Commission, speaks during a press conference in Beijing in March 2019.
Lian Weiliang, Deputy Director of China's National Development and Reform Commission, speaks during a press conference in Beijing in March 2019. Credit: Wu Hong/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

6:44 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

Three new coronavirus cases in Iran as schools close following deaths

From CNN’s Claudia Otto and Frederik Pleitgen in Tehran

Three additional coronavirus cases were confirmed in Iran on Thursday while five suspected others await examination, according to Iranian officials and state news agency IRNA.

The latest additions bring the total number of confirmed cases to five -- including two deaths -- in the country, Iranian health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpour said on Twitter.

Two cases were confirmed in the province of Qom, south of Tehran, and one other in the city of Arak, according to Jahanpour. 

Schools and universities shut: Schools and universities in Qom province have closed down on Thursday after the coronavirus deaths there, state news agency IRNA said.

Additionally, new facilities have been set-up to counter the outbreak, the Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said on Twitter.

Rabiei said that the government will follow up anti-coronavirus measures "with its full capacity and sensitivity."

The two deaths are the first linked to the novel coronavirus in the Middle East.

The virus has been contained after two people tested positive for the illness and later died of complications associated with their old age and frail health,” IRNA said quoting the dean of Qom Medical University, Mohammad-Reza Ghadir.
6:17 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

China reclassifies confirmed coronavirus cases, citing better testing capability

From CNN’s Shanshan Wang in Beijing

Laboratory technicians test samples of virus in Hengyang, China on Wednesday.
Laboratory technicians test samples of virus in Hengyang, China on Wednesday. Credit: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

Chinese officials cited improved testing capacity of the novel coronavirus as the reason for changing the way that "confirmed cases" are counted in Hubei province. 

"Confirmed case" definition changes: All official coronavirus cases from today must now be formally diagnosed before they are added to the totals.

The National Health Commission earlier explained that confirmed cases in Hubei province would now only include people who had positive lab test results from patient samples that match in nucleic acid and genetic sequencing for the virus. 

Wang Guiqiang, director of the Society of Infectious Diseases of the Chinese Medical Association said at a press conference Thursday:

In order to resolve the conflict between diagnosis and treatment, in Hubei, such clinical diagnosis was introduced to enable timely treatment of possible patients and reduce fatality rate."
“But now that the situation in Hubei has changed. The nucleic acid testing capability has been greatly improved. And now all suspected cases or unconfirmed cases can be tested for nucleic acids quickly. Nucleic acid testing is no longer an issue,” Wang added.

Confirmed cases: On Thursday, mainland China's national count dropped to 394 new cases, one of the lowest counts of new cases in weeks.

This appears to be partly due to the change in what is counted as a "confirmed case."

The total number of confirmed cases in mainland China is now 74,576, bringing the global total to 75,674.

5:45 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

UK to evacuate British tourists on Diamond Princess

From CNN's Simon Cullen in London

A passenger wearing a face mask looks out from a cabin of the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined at Daikoku pier cruise terminal in Yokohama on Thursday.
A passenger wearing a face mask looks out from a cabin of the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined at Daikoku pier cruise terminal in Yokohama on Thursday. S

The UK government has organized an evacuation flight for British nationals on board the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.

A total of 624 confirmed cases of the virus have been linked to the ship during its quarantine in Tokyo Bay.

 UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says the flight will depart Tokyo on Friday.

Details have been sent to those who have registered for the flight. We urge other British nationals still seeking to leave to contact us,” he said.
“We will continue to support British nationals who wish to stay in Japan.”
6:42 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

Patient tests positive after death in South Korea

From CNN's Sophie Jeong

Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant against the coronavirus in front of a church in Daegu, South Korea, on Wednesday, February 19.
Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant against the coronavirus in front of a church in Daegu, South Korea, on Wednesday, February 19. Lee Moo-ryul/Newsis via AP

A patient has died in South Korea, and tested positive for coronavirus after their death, according to the country's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The cause of death is still being investigated, a KCDC official said. 

The death comes amid a rapid jump in cases across the Asian nation.

According to the KCDC, there have been 22 new confirmed cases, bringing South Korea's total confirmed infections to 104 on Thursday.

Among the latest cases, 21 are from the south of the country, including five linked to a church and 13 linked to a hospital in Cheongdo County. One case is in the capital Seoul, according to the KCDC.

Patients and staff at Cheongdo Daenam hospital, where the death occurred, are being tested for the virus, and environmental disinfection is currently ongoing.

This post has been updated to more accurately reflect when coronavirus was detected in the deceased patient. 

4:35 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

Coronavirus could cost Air France-KLM $215m

Air France passenger aircraft stand on the tarmac at Charles de Gaulle airport in Roissy, France, on Tuesday, January 28.
Air France passenger aircraft stand on the tarmac at Charles de Gaulle airport in Roissy, France, on Tuesday, January 28. Anita Pouchard Serra/Bloomberg/Getty Images

One of Europe’s biggest airlines says coronavirus could cost it as much as $215 million.

Air France-KLM has suspended China operations for February and March. It also says it has seen wider demand for flights fall, especially across Asia.

Its cargo operations have also been hurt by the virus -- Air France KLM says in total the virus could cost it between $160m and $215m. That number is based on flights to China resuming in April.

Airlines around the world have responded to the coronavirus outbreak by suspending flights to and from China, severely disrupting travel by tourists and business executives in one of the world's busiest aviation markets.

4:28 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

China stands by expulsion of Wall Street Journal reporters over critical coronavirus opinion piece

From CNN’s Steven Jiang in Beijing

One day after announcing the expulsion of three Wall Street Journal reporters from China, the Chinese foreign ministry is standing by its decision, saying people who "maliciously smear China must pay their price."

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said yesterday that the press credentials for the three journalists would be revoked over an opinion piece titled "China Is The Real Sick Man of Asia."

It was written by a US academic and was critical of China's handling of the coronavirus epidemic, questioning what the consequences could be for the economy and political system.

Speaking today, Geng said the government was not interested when responding to a question about why the three journalists were kicked out for an opinion article they had no connection to.

“We are not interested in the structural divide at the WSJ. There is only one media agency called the WSJ, and it must be responsible for what it has said and done," he said.
“Those media who blatantly insult China, pitch racial discrimination and maliciously smear China must pay their price.”

When asked, Geng didn't directly link Beijing’s decision on the WSJ reporters to a US State Department move Tuesday, which requires five Chinese state media outlets to comply with rules governing foreign embassies and consulates.

3:46 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

Diamond Princess captain tells people onboard about two passenger deaths

From CNN's Sandi Sidhu in Tokyo

The Diamond Princess cruise ship at Daikoku Pier on February 20, in Yokohama, Japan.
The Diamond Princess cruise ship at Daikoku Pier on February 20, in Yokohama, Japan. Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images

Diamond Princess cruise ship captain Stefano Ravera has just made an announcement onboard the cruise liner, reporting that two passengers have died of the novel coronavirus, as heard on a video recording supplied to CNN by a passenger. 

Ravera read out a Princess Cruises statement:

"Our hearts go out to the families and friends and all others who are impacted by these losses. All of us at Princess Cruises, as well as the crew of the Diamond Princess, offer our sincere condolences." 

The two passengers who died were in their 80s and had been in hospital in Japan, but no further information is known about them at this stage.

There are 624 confirmed cases of the virus linked to the stricken ship, docked in Yokohama, Japan. Passengers who tested negative are still disembarking from the ship today.