February 20 coronavirus news

By Ben Westcott, Adam Renton and Amy Woodyatt, CNN

Updated 0200 GMT (1000 HKT) February 21, 2020
26 Posts
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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.

3:23 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

Basic questions about the coronavirus, answered

Clinical support technician Douglas Condie extracts viruses from swab samples so that the genetic structure of a virus can be analysed and identified in the coronavirus testing laboratory at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, on Wednesday, February 19, in Glasgow, Scotland.
Clinical support technician Douglas Condie extracts viruses from swab samples so that the genetic structure of a virus can be analysed and identified in the coronavirus testing laboratory at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, on Wednesday, February 19, in Glasgow, Scotland. Jane Barlow - WPA Pool/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.

2:53 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

Death toll from the virus in mainland China rises again after falling

A doctor puts on a protective suit as he prepares to check on patients at Jinyintan Hospital designated for coronavirus patients, in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province on Sunday, February 16.
A doctor puts on a protective suit as he prepares to check on patients at Jinyintan Hospital designated for coronavirus patients, in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province on Sunday, February 16. Chinatopix via AP

Every day, the total number of people killed by the coronavirus in mainland China grows, but it is unclear yet whether the daily increases have already peaked.

A total of 114 people in mainland China died from the coronavirus on Wednesday, according to the country's National Health Commission (NHC) -- 22 fewer deaths than the day before.

But it is still far above the double-digit figures of late January and early February.

Here's the breakdown from the NHC, as reported by the World Health Organization:

  • February 19: 114 deaths reported
  • February 18: 136 deaths reported
  • February 17: 98 deaths reported
  • February 16: 106 deaths reported
  • February 15: 142 deaths reported
  • February 14: 143 deaths reported
  • February 13: 121 deaths reported
  • February 12: 254 deaths reported
  • February 11: 100 deaths reported
  • February 10: 106 deaths reported
  • February 9: 97 deaths reported
  • February 8: 89 deaths reported
  • February 7: 86 deaths reported
  • February 6: 73 deaths reported
  • February 5: 73 deaths reported
  • February 4: 65 deaths reported
  • February 3: 64 deaths reported
  • February 2: 57 deaths reported
  • February 1: 45 deaths reported
  • January 31: 46 deaths reported
  • January 30: 43 deaths reported
  • January 29: 38 deaths reported
  • January 28: 26 deaths reported
  • January 27: 26 deaths reported
  • January 26: 24 deaths reported
  • January 25 15 deaths reported
  • January 24: 16 deaths reported
  • January 23: 8 deaths reported

Chinese authorities said 17 people had died from the virus before January 23.

2:33 a.m. ET, February 20, 2020

Novel coronavirus cases outside mainland China have passed 1,100

From CNN's Eric Cheung

An employee works in the pop-up Huoyan Laboratory in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province on Thursday, February 6.
An employee works in the pop-up Huoyan Laboratory in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province on Thursday, February 6. Chinatopix via AP

The novel coronavirus has spread throughout the world since the first cases were detected in central China in December.

More than 1,100 confirmed cases and 10 deaths from the virus have been recorded in 29 countries and territories outside mainland China:

  • Australia (at least 15 cases)
  • Belgium (at least 1 case)
  • Cambodia (at least 1 case)
  • Canada (at least 8 cases)
  • Egypt (at least 1 case)
  • Finland (at least 1 case)
  • France (at least 12 cases, 1 death)
  • Germany (at least 16 cases)
  • Hong Kong (at least 63 cases, 2 deaths)
  • India (at least 3 cases)
  • Iran (at least 2 cases, 2 deaths)
  • Italy (at least 3 cases)
  • Japan (at least 692 cases, including 624 linked to cruise ship; 3 deaths)
  • Macao (at least 10 cases)
  • Malaysia (at least 22 cases)
  • Nepal (at least 1 case)
  • Philippines (at least 3 cases, 1 death)
  • Russia (at least 2 cases)
  • Singapore (at least 84 cases)
  • South Korea (at least 82 cases)
  • Spain (at least 2 cases)
  • Sri Lanka (at least 1 case)
  • Sweden (at least 1 case)
  • Taiwan (at least 23 cases, 1 case)
  • Thailand (at least 35 cases)
  • United Arab Emirates (at least 9 cases)
  • United Kingdom (at least 9 cases)
  • United States (at least 15 cases)
  • Vietnam (at least 16 cases)

Read more about the patients in each place.