February 22 coronavirus news

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8:02 p.m. ET, February 22, 2020

Global death toll rises to 2,458 as Hubei province in China reports more deaths

From CNN’s Shanshan Wang in Beijing and Taylor Barnes in Atlanta:

Doctors look at a lung CT image at a hospital in Yunmeng county, Xiaogan city, in China's central Hubei province on February 20.
Doctors look at a lung CT image at a hospital in Yunmeng county, Xiaogan city, in China's central Hubei province on February 20. Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

The Hubei health authority reported that 96 more people died of the coronavirus in China's Hubei province on Saturday, February 22, raising the death toll in the outbreak's epicenter to 2,346.

Hubei authorities confirmed an additional 630 cases of the virus in Hubei on Saturday, including 32 cases in prison. The total number of cases in the epicenter of the outbreak is now 64,084.

There are 40,127 patients hospitalized in Hubei, including 1,845 who are in critical condition, according to the health authority, and 15,299 patients have been discharged.

The Hubei report brings the total number of deaths in mainland China to at least 2,441. The global death toll is at least 2,458, with 17 deaths outside of mainland China. Iran has reported five deaths from the coronavirus, while Japan has reported three deaths, and Hong Kong, Italy and South Korea reach reported two deaths. Taiwan, the Philippines, and France have each reported one death.

The global number of confirmed coronavirus cases now exceeds 78,572, with the vast majority of cases in mainland China.

China’s National Health Commission is expected to release numbers for all of China’s provinces later today.

6:53 p.m. ET, February 22, 2020

Kuwait to repatriate 700 citizens from Iran amid coronavirus outbreak

From CNN’s Sharif Paget in Atlanta

Kuwaitis coming back from Iran wait at Sheikh Saad Airport in Kuwait City on February 22 before being taken to a hospital to be tested for coronavirus.
Kuwaitis coming back from Iran wait at Sheikh Saad Airport in Kuwait City on February 22 before being taken to a hospital to be tested for coronavirus. Yasser Al-Zayyat/AFP/Getty Images

Kuwait has started operating charter flights to evacuate more than 700 passengers out of Iran, where five people have died from the novel coronavirus, Kuwait Airways and Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) said on Saturday.

“Kuwait Airways announces that, in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Public Health and the General Administration of Civil Aviation, it has begun and will complete today [Saturday] … a number of private flights to evacuate more than 700 passengers from the Iranian city of Mashhad,” the airline said on its Twitter page.

The first of five flights carrying 130 passengers arrived in Kuwait International Airport on Saturday, KUNA reported.

10 new cases of coronavirus were reported in Iran on Saturday, according to the country's health ministry, as reported by the state news agency IRNA. This brings the country’s total to 28 cases.

4:55 p.m. ET, February 22, 2020

Israel expands restrictions on foreign nationals as fears mount

From CNN's Amir Tal and Oren Liebermann

Israeli Professor Galia Rahavm, the head of infectious diseases, stands in one of the rooms where Israelis returning from China will stay under observation and isolation to control the spread of the coronavirus, at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer near Tel Aviv on Wednesday, February 19.
Israeli Professor Galia Rahavm, the head of infectious diseases, stands in one of the rooms where Israelis returning from China will stay under observation and isolation to control the spread of the coronavirus, at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer near Tel Aviv on Wednesday, February 19. Heidi Levine/AFP/Getty Images

Israel expanded its restrictions on the entry of foreign nationals to include anyone who has been in South Korea and Japan in the last 14 days, the Health Ministry announced Saturday afternoon. 

A Korean Air flight from South Korea landed at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport Saturday evening. Only 12 Israelis were allowed off the plane and were immediately taken to their homes, the ministry said. Approximately 200 foreign nationals were not allowed off the plane. Instead, the plane was refueled and sent back to its origin.

Last week, Israel announced that any foreign national who had been in Thailand, Singapore, Macau, or Hong Kong in the previous 14 days would be denied entry.

Israel has already barred foreigners who have recently traveled through China from entering the country. 

Earlier Saturday, the Health Ministry warned that nine South Korean tourists who had been part of a tour group in Israel were diagnosed with coronavirus upon returning to South Korea. Anyone who came into close contact with the tourists for an extended period of time was instructed to self-quarantine.

Already, 20 workers of Israel's Natural Parks Authority who encountered the tour group will self-quarantine until at least Wednesday, the ministry said.

A class of 30 students and two teachers who came into contact with the tour group will self-quarantine until Thursday. Another teacher is already being tested at Soroka hospital in Tel Aviv.

Late Saturday, the ministry announced that another group of 60 students and 6 adults, including teachers and security guards, would self-quarantine, after coming into contact with the South Korean tourists. None of this latest group is showing any symptoms or coronavirus, the ministry said.

3:38 p.m. ET, February 22, 2020

Number of coronavirus cases in Italy rises to 62

From CNN's Livia Borghese in Rome

Deserted streets are pictured in Codogno, Italy, on February 22.
Deserted streets are pictured in Codogno, Italy, on February 22. Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images

The number of people currently infected with novel coronavirus in Italy has risen to 62, with 46 cases in the northern region of Lombardy, 12 cases in the region of Veneto, three cases in Rome and one case in the Piedmont region.

Alberto Cirio, governor of the Piedmont region, announced the latest case on Twitter.

Here's the full breakdown:

  • 46 from Lombardy (including 1 dead)
  • 12 from Veneto (including 1 dead)
  • 3 from Rome
  • 1 from Piedmont

The first death was a 78-year-old man from Veneto region who died at a hospital in Padua on Friday, according to Italian news agency ANSA.

During a press conference on Saturday, the head of the Lombardy health department, Giulio Gallera, said the second patient to die of coronavirus in Italy was a 77-year-old woman in Lombardy. She was found dead in her house.

“We still have to investigate the relation between the death and the virus,” Gallera added.

According to the website of the Lombardy region, train stations of the three villages mostly affected by the coronavirus – Codogno, Maleo, Casalpusterlengo – will be closed from Saturday, with trains no longer stopping there.

“All the people tested positive have been in contact, directly or indirectly with the hospital of Codogno,” said Attilio Fontana, the governor of Lombardy region. Gallera said “patient one” was a 38-year-old man at the Codogno hospital who did not travel to China but met a friend who had.

Three previous cases from Rome – one Italian and two Chinese tourists – have now recovered.

3:08 p.m. ET, February 22, 2020

US State Department raises travel advisory for South Korea

From Gregory Clary

The US State Department raised the travel alert for Americans to Level 2 on Saturday for travel to South Korea due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to a release from the department.

The alert advises travelers to “exercise increased caution” and follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines in preventing illness such as avoiding sick people and frequent hand washing.

12:32 p.m. ET, February 22, 2020

Italy sees spike in coronavirus cases, as 10 villages shut down

From CNN's Livia Borghese in Rome

Personnel move new beds into a hospital in Codogno, Italy, on Friday, February 21.
Personnel move new beds into a hospital in Codogno, Italy, on Friday, February 21. Luca Bruno/AP

The total number of confirmed cases in Italy has risen to 55, a spike that is attributed to a rise in cases in the country's north.

This includes 39 confirmed cases in the northern region of Lombardy and 12 in the Veneto region, the head of the Lombardy health department, Giulio Gallera, said at a press conference Saturday.

A 77-year-old female patient with coronavirus was found dead in her Lombardy home, he confirmed.

“We can say she is the second victim of coronavirus in Italy,” Gallera said. But he added that authorities still had to "investigate the relation between the death and the virus."

Infections spike: In Lombardy, 35 people tested positive in the town of Codogno, two in the city of Cremona, and two near the city of Pavia, Gallera added. 

All public activities have also been suspended in 10 villages south of Milan, Gallera added.

According to the Lombardy region website, train stations in three places affected by the outbreak -- Codogno, Maleo, Casalpusterlengo -- will be closed from Saturday.

“All the people (who) tested positive have been in contact, directly or indirectly with the hospital of Codogno,” the governor of Lombardy region, Attilio Fontana, said.

Gallera said “patient one” was a 38-year-old man at Codogno hospital, who did not travel to China but met a friend who had. 

Authorities have been testing colleagues, heath workers, and other people who had close contact with the first patient.

12:15 p.m. ET, February 22, 2020

Japanese health minister admits 23 passengers were released from cruise ship without being retested for coronavirus

From CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo

The Japanese Ministry of Health has discovered that 23 passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship were released after their quarantine without being retested, a condition of their release.

“I (feel deep) remorse that an operational mistake invited such a situation and we would like to make sure that such a situation will never occur again,” health minister Katsunobu Kato said during a press conference Saturday.

The ministry also confirmed that one of the ship’s passengers, a woman in her 60s from Tochigi Prefecture in Japan, tested positive for coronavirus after disembarking the Diamond Princess on February 19.

She was among the 443 passengers cleared to leave the ship on the first day of disembarkation after a 14-day quarantine.

She is the first known case of infection after the end of the passenger quarantine period.

4:48 p.m. ET, February 22, 2020

"We are clearly at the brink" of pandemic, says top infectious disease doctor

From CNN's Chandelis Duster

Dr. Anthony Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci CNN

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN he thinks "we are clearly at the brink" of a coronavirus pandemic.

In an interview with CNN's Michael Smerconish on Saturday, the nation's top infectious disease doctor said: "Our fate is going to be determined by the ability of countries outside of China that have travel-related cases. And now they're starting to develop sustained transmission from person to person to person."

"So when you get countries like Japan and South Korea that have these cases that are person to person to person without any real ability to point to where it came from, that's the makings of a pandemic," Fauci said.

"And if you have multiple countries like that, then the horse is out the barn. And it's going to be very difficult to prevent more cases from coming here to our own country."

Fauci said, however, that the risk to the US is still "very low," but warned that could "change rapidly." He also said evacuating Americans off the Diamond Princess cruise ship was a "difficult decision," but he believed it was "without a doubt the correct decision."

11:11 a.m. ET, February 22, 2020

Israel releases warning on 9 South Korean tourists who tested positive for coronavirus on returning home

From CNN's Amir Tal and Oren Liebermann

In a strong statement, Israel's health ministry warned that nine South Korean tourists who visited the country recently have tested positive for coronavirus upon returning home.

The ministry called on anyone who may have come into close contact with the tour group for an extended period of time to self-quarantine. 

The tourists visited some of the most popular sites in Israel and the West Bank from February 8 to 16, increasing the chance of a large-scale exposure in the region, the ministry said Saturday.

Providing a list of dates and locations, the ministry warned that anyone who came within two meters of the group for more than 15 minutes should self-quarantine for 14 days.

The group visited Masada in southern Israel, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

The potential for a large-scale exposure appears to be high given the number of tourists who regularly visit these sites and others.

The release of the statement on a Saturday is an indication of how seriously authorities are taking the threat of coronavirus spreading in Israel. Government statements are rarely released on Saturday in Israel since it is the Sabbath.

This comes after Israel announced its first case of the coronavirus on Friday. The victim is an Israeli woman who returned from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.

She was one of 11 passengers flown back from the Diamond Princess. The other 10 tested negative for the virus. All of the passengers remain quarantined in hospital.