POLITICS

Coronavirus updates: 1,700 health workers infected, more ‘wartime’ measures, first fatality in Japan

Coronavirus updates: 1,700 health workers infected, more ‘wartime’ measures, first fatality in Japan

• Passengers finally begin to leave coronavirus-hit cruise ship in Japan

China confirms more than 1,700 health workers infected, 6 dead

• Coronavirus cases, deaths continue to increase

• First fatality in Japan, increasing deaths outside mainland China to 3

• Another city in China announces wartime measures

• White House official accuses China of lack of transparency


Egypt confirms coronavirus case, 1st in Africa

Egypt confirmed Friday its first coronavirus case and said the affected person is a foreigner who had been put into isolation at a hospital.

The health ministry said in a statement that it had immediately informed the World Health Organization and had taken all necessary preventative measures.

Everyone who had come into contact with the person will be quarantined in their homes for 14 days, Dr. Khaled Mujahid, from Egypt’s Ministry of Health, said in the statement. The building where the person was staying had been “sterilized,” he said.

The health ministry did not give bioreportsality of the affected person or any other details. — Charlene Gubash and Reuters

Could smoking make coronavirus infection worse?

Does smoking make a person more vulnerable to the coronavirus?

It’s an “excellent hypothesis,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, said Friday during a briefing.

It’s well established that illnesses tend to be more severe in smokers, so it makes sense that smoking would be associated with more serious coronavirus cases.

Ryan acknowledged there is a “marked difference between males and females in this outbreak in terms of severity.” Smoking rates in China are higher in men than in women, he added.

Whether the hypothesis holds true remains to be seen as the outbreak continues to unfold.

“I’m sure through the studies and the observations that are happening, there will be a lot of interest to look at smoking as a risk factor,” Ryan said. — Erika Edwards

Passengers finally begin to leave cruise ship in Japan

Passengers on the quarantined cruise ship off the coast of Yokohama, Japan, finally started disembarking Friday, before being quarantined.

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The ministry said 11 passengers left the ship Friday, before they were quarantined at a government designated facility until at least Feb. 19. — Arata Yamamoto

2020 Tokyo Olympic games will go ahead as planned, for now

The International Olympic Committee said Friday there is no need to cancel the 2020 games, as they have been working closing with the WHO.

“Advice that we have received externally from WHO is that there is no case for any contingency plans of canceling the games or moving the games,” John Coates, the chairman of the 2020 Coordination Committee, told reporters.

The games are scheduled to take place between July 24 and Aug. 9. — Arata Yamamoto

U.S. says it’s ready to help North Korea combat virus

The United States expressed deep concern about North Korea’s vulnerability to the outbreak of the new virus, and said it was ready to support efforts by aid organizations to contain the spread of the illness there.

North Korea has moved to strengthen quarantines and other preventive measures to protect itself from the coronavirus illness spreading from China, its neighbor.

North Korea has yet to report a case of the new virus, but state media have hinted that an uncertain number of people have been quarantined after showing symptoms. Experts say an epidemic in North Korea could be dire because of its chronic lack of medical supplies and poor health care infrastructure. — The Biorports

More than 1,700 health workers infected, 6 dead

China’s National Health Commission Vice Minister Zeng Yixin said Friday that 1,716 health workers have been infected by the virus and six of them have died as of Tuesday.

At a press conference on protecting medical workers, Zeng said the number of infected medical staff is increasing.

“At present, the duties of medical workers at the front are indeed extremely heavy; their working and resting circumstances are limited, the psychological pressures are great, and the risk of infection is high,” Zeng said.

Chinese officials and hospitals have repeatedly noted a shortage of protective equipment, including face masks, as the disease took hold in Hubei and spread throughout the country. — Reuters

Coronavirus cases increase as death toll approaches 1,400

Another 5,090 cases of the coronavirus and a further 121 deaths were reported by authorities across China, all but five of them were in Hubei province, the center of the outbreak.

China’s National Health Commission has so far confirmed more than 63,000 cases of COVID-19, the new name for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, as of Friday morning.The current death toll, 1,380, represents a decrease in deaths previously reported in Hubei province.

A medical worker in protective suit gets onto an ambulance at a hospital, following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country, in Xuanhua district of Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, China Feb. 13.China Daily / Reuters

The commission said it deducted 108 deaths from Hubei “due to repeated statistics,” making the death toll there 116.

Officials in Hubei have changed the way they are diagnosing and reporting cases. They are now identifying cases based on what the patients’ lungs look like on CT scans, rather than waiting for lab results to confirm infection with the virus. — Leou Chen

Another Hubei area declares ‘wartime control’ measures

Authorities in Yunmeng County of Hubei province announced a lockdown to be implemented Friday morning on residential areas, and buildings would be sealed and vehicles banned. Those who violate the rules “will be detained, in accordance with relevant regulations during wartime management.”

Similar wartime control measures were also implemented in the cities of Shiyan and Xiaogan in Hubei province Thursday. —Dawn Liu

First fatality in Japan

Japan confirmed its first fatality from the coronavirus Friday, which increases the total number of deaths outside mainland China to three. There has been one fatality in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered his prayers and condolences to the family of the person Friday morning.

The Japanese leader said the government is coordinating with local municipalities and working on expanding testing systems in the country as well as “further accelerating the treatment system for infected people.”

The fatality was a woman in her 80s who had been treated at a hospital near Tokyo since Feb. 1 after developing symptoms. Her infection was confirmed after her death. — The Biorports

Senior U.S. official accuses China of lack of transparency

White House adviser Larry Kudlow criticized China for lack of transparency when reporting the numbers on the current outbreak.

“We are a little disappointed that we haven’t been invited in and we’re a little disappointed in the lack of transparency coming from the Chinese,” Kudlow, the director of bioreportsal Economic Council, told reporters Thursday.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Geng Shuang responded Friday, saying China is working in an “open, transparent and highly responsible manner” with the international community for the sake of global public health. China has been active and open toward cooperation with the U.S., he noted. — Ed Flanagan

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