- Total cases stand at 31,439 as death toll climbs to 639
- China claims the growth in people under medical observation has peaked, and is now slowing.
- Japan reports 41 additional cases, for a total of 61 aboard the quarantined cruise ship
- Senior CCP official orders Wuhan to round up infected residents for mass quarantine camps
- Beijing completes second coronavirus hospital in Wuhan
- Wuhan hospital confirms that doctor who was one of first to warn about virus died on Thursday
- Economists warn China faces difficult dilemma in deciding when workers should return to work
- Taiwan halts visas for citizens of Macau and Hong Kong
- Germany confirms 13th case
- 2 suspected cases found in South Africa
- Dubai reports 3rd death outside China
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Update (1955ET): Just when you thought it was safe to buy the f**king record high melt-up, TBS News reports that Japanese authorities have found another 42 people on the Diamond Princess cruise ship anchored in Yokohama have tested positive for Coronavirus.
Japan says 273 people on the cruise ship were tested and 61 were found positive, and the 41 new patients have been sent to hospitals in 5 separate prefectures.
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Update (1925ET): China has just released its latest "official" data on the coronavirus, and just as we had suspected (given the precipitous slowdown from exponential growth yesterday), the acceleration has now 'officially' ended with 185,555 people under medical observation today, DOWN 309 from the 186,354 the prior day.
Mission Accomplished? Bear in mind that the average increase for all prior days was 17,159.
Of course, the number of cases and deaths is still increasing with 637 dead in China and 31,161 cases.
Even here China appears to be manipulating the data and instead of using an exponential growth rate as is the case for epidemics, is applying a quadratic equation to goalseek the numbers.
That said, according to the official data, the number of new confirmed and suspected cases appears to be slowing, assuming of course any Chinese 'data' can be trusted.
We wonder if the almost nationwide lockdown and policy shift to remaining in your home unless "severely" ill was the factor behind the slowdown in people receiving medical attention? Or whether it is a miracle that no 'expert' saw coming... apart from The WHO who all along claimed the "extreme measures" by China were "breathtaking."
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Update (1615ET): A senior Chinese official has ordered Wuhan authorities to immediately round up all residents infected with the novel coronavirus and place them in isolation, quarantine camps, or designated hospitals, according to the New York Times.
City investigators have also been ordered to go to each home and check the temperature of every resident, as well as conduct interviews with infected patients' close contacts.
"Set up a 24-hour duty system. During these wartime conditions, there must be no deserters, or they will be nailed to the pillar of historical shame forever," said Sun Chunlan, a vice premier in charge of leading the CCP's response to the outbreak.
The city’s authorities have raced to meet these instructions by setting up makeshift mass quarantine shelters this week. But concerns are growing about whether the centers, which will house thousands of people in large spaces, will be able to provide even basic care to patients and protect against the risk of further infection. -NYT
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Update (1440ET): Dubai just reported that a woman from the Philippines has died in the UAE. In response, the UAE has suspended flights to China except to Beijing. The Manila Times reported the death, citing the Philippines' labor secretary.
The virus's global death toll has climbed to 568.
The victim was identified as Amalia Collado Dapronoza, 58. Her death comes as 178 other patients remain under observation in the tiny Gulf kingdom. The Philippines is one of several countries planning to rescue its citizens from Wuhan, and a group of 45 filipinos from Wuhan are set to return to the Philippines on Feb. 9.
In Hong Kong, 3,600 people were preparing to spend a second night confined aboard the World Dream as authorities test everyone aboard after eight passengers caught the virus. Health officials in the financial hub said they were also asking some 5,000 Hong Kongers who had traveled on the ship since mid-January to contact them.
We mentioned earlier that Beijing had finished building the second of two coronavirus hospitals built in Wuhan over the past week and a half. Well, here's a cool time-lapsed video of its construction:
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Update (1230ET): Beijing has finished construction on the second coronavirus hospital in Wuhan - so hopefully more of the desperate patients stuck dying in their homes might soon have a bed at a public facility where their treatment can be overseen by doctors.
Chinese state media said the Leishenshan hospital, which will join the Huoshenshan hospital that opened Monday, will provide 1,600 beds and be staffed by 2,000 medical personnel. The project took roughly ten days.
As we reminded readers earlier, the WHO appears to have gladly taken up the task of backing up Beijing's propaganda. But on Thursday, it confirmed a bit of bad news, saying that the doctor who was punished for his early warnings about the outbreak had succumbed to the virus. Now, Wuhan Central Hospital is denying that Li Wenliang, one of eight doctors who was punished by local police for his warnings, has died.
Instead, they said he was alive, but in critical condition, according to SCMP.
"In the fight against the pneumonia epidemic of the new coronavirus infection, our hospital's ophthalmologist Li Wenliang was unfortunately infected. He is currently in critical condition and we are trying our best to resuscitate him," it said in its official Weibo account.
Li, 34, an ophthalmologist at the Wuhan Central Hospital, was found to be infected with coronavirus on Saturday.
"We are very sorry to hear the loss of any frontline worker who is committed to care for patients...we should celebrate his life and mourn his death with his colleagues," said Michael Ryan, director of the World Health Organisation's health emergencies programme, said during a briefing on Thursday.
With Citadel's Ken Griffin becoming the latest to warn about supply chain disruptions related to the virus, Beijing is facing a difficult choice when it comes to deciding when workers should return to their desks or assembly lines.
In a separate SCMP story, economist Lu Zhengwei said allowing the workforce to return to their jobs was crucial both for supporting the economy and ultimately ending the epidemic.
"It’s obviously desirable for employers who are now paying rent, salaries and social welfare for their employees, for nothing in return," he said, adding that most small and medium enterprises in China could only last about a month in the current situation.
Meanwhile, a handful of new deaths have been confirmed by the SCMP:
As the death toll climbs, doctors told the NYT that the number of deaths and cases are likely being undercounted.
Many doctors believe that the number of deaths and infections are undercounted because hospitals and laboratories are under severe strain to test for the virus. Local officials in Hubei, the center of the outbreak, have called on health care workers to speed up the process.
As we reported below, there have been many anecdotal reports about sick people being turned away by hospitals in Wuhan.
Advisory firm Oxford Economics has lowered its growth outlook for China to 5.4% in 2020, down from 6%, and Goldman analysts believe the outbreak will ultimately shave 2 percentage points off global GDP by the time it's all said and done.
Earlier, Taiwan halted visas for citizens of Hong Kong and Macau, saying on Thursday that it would suspend its online and landing visa services indefinitely for Hong Kong and Macau citizens, while non-citizens of Hong Kong and Macau with a history of travel to mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau would also be barred from visiting Taiwan. These measures will no doubt further infuriate Beijing, which has lashed out against "fearmongering" abroad.
"Beginning [midnight Thursday], we will suspend online and landing visa application services" until further notice, announced Chiu Chui-cheng, vice-chairman of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which sets the island’s policies towards mainland China.
They're also temporarily banning cruise ships from docking - can't say we blame them.
More suspected cases of the virus have been discovered in Africa, though none have been confirmed yet. Still, African health officials have been scrambling to brace for outbreaks; they're hoping to suppress the virus before the outbreaks can overwhelm their fragile health systems, according to News24.
Two suspected coronavirus cases have been reported in KwaZulu-Natal although there was not yet any laboratory confirmation, the provincial health department said on Thursday.
Spokesperson Noluthando Nkosi said one case was being handled by a departmental facility, while the other was at a private facility in Durban.
"The department is monitoring the treatment and management of these patients quite closely."
Nkosi said the public would be notified should there be any new developments, urging people to "remain calm and avoid being misled by false statements which are peddled on social media platforms."
On Wednesday, a patient in Limpopo was cleared after being held in isolation at Ellisras Hospital in Lephalale.
In other news, Germany has confirmed its 13th coronavirus case, a case we imagine will also be found to be a human-to-human infection.
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Update (1100ET): Is this the WHO's "Mission Accomplished?"
During a press conference in Switzerland Thursday evening, Dr. Tedros, the WHO's director-general, thanked the Gates Foundation (which committed $100 million) and Japan (which contributed $10 million) for answering the organization's call for more funding to help suppress the coronavirus outbreak that has now claimed more than 560 lives, mostly in China. He also claimed that the number of new and suspected cases is finally starting to slow, a sign that the outbreak could be subsiding, and that the China-led response has been a success.
Though researchers have already mapped the virus's DNA and are already working on a remedy, there is still a lot we don't know about the virus, Dr. Tedros said. We don't know where it came from (though there are theories) and we don't 100% understand how it spreads. There are also many tools we don't have, like a vaccine, that will hopefully soon be developed. In effect, "we're shadow-boxing with the virus," Dr. Tedros said. "We need to bring it into the light."
The organization continued to sidestep questions about China's censorship and its initial reluctance to share information about the outbreak with the international community.
Responding to a reporter's question, the WHO rep confirmed that the doctor who was one of the first to detect the virus before being ignored and eventually sickened has now died.
Dr. Li Wenliang, the Chinese whistleblower doctor who warned the public about the outbreak back in December, succumbed to the virus in Wuhan on Thursday, the WHO said.
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Thousands of athletes around the world breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe confirmed that the Summer Olympics in Tokyo won't be delayed. Then again, if the outbreak continues to worsen in Japan and the broader region, who is going to want to come if they don't feel safe?
As the second week of global pandemic panic comes to a close, China, increasingly frustrated that their ruse with the WHO didn't manage to calm the international community, again registered its "strong objections" to the growing number of travel bans directed at its citizens.
The warning followed a decision by Taiwan's health authority to ban all international cruise ships from docking at the island from Thursday as the number of suspected outbreaks aboard cruise ships grows.
The global death toll has ticked higher, reaching 566 overnight, while the total number of confirmed cases has broken above 28,000 to 28,384.
More than a dozen countries have imposed some kind of restriction on foreigners who have recently visited China. Within China, images of police clad in hazmat suites and touting infrared thermometers have become frighteningly common. Many airlines cancelled passenger routes to China, and some are extending those cancellations out to March or April.
"China is strongly concerned and dissatisfied," said a spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry. "We hope relevant countries will bear in mind overall relations and people’s interests and resume normal operation of flights to guarantee normal people-to-people exchange and cooperation."
"I must stress that certain countries’ ill-advised decisions to suspend flights to and from China are neither cool-headed nor rational," she added.
But while Beijing tries to spin the narrative to accuse other countries of racism, some brave journalists have shared the stories of families brave - or foolish - enough to speak out against the regime.
One resident of Wuhan who has been stuck in the city since the quarantine told the BBC that his uncle died in a quarantine because of supply shortages.
The image of life in Wuhan is every bit as bad as the most chilling conspiracies would have you believe.
"My uncle actually died in one of the quarantine points because there are no medical facilities for people with severe symptoms. I really hope my father can get some proper treatment but no-one is in contact with us or helping us at the moment."
"I got in touch with community workers several times, but the response I got was, 'there's no chance of us getting a bed in the hospital.'"
Beijing, which just announced a spate of new treatment-related projects in Wuhan and the surrounding area, seemingly can't get beds online fast enough. Because the government is literally condemns some elderly patients to die in their homes.
But for people like us, we can't even get a bed now, let alone get one in the new hospitals.
If we follow the government's guidelines, the only place we can go now is to those quarantine points. But if we went, what happened to my uncle would then happen to dad.
So we'd rather die at home.
Many are saying that if they knew authorities would lock down Wuhan last week, they would have left for the holiday earlier.
What I want to say is, if I knew they were going to lock down the city on 23 January, I would have definitely taken my whole family out, because there's no help here.
If we were somewhere else, there might be hope. I don't know whether people like us, who listened to the government and stayed in Wuhan, made the right decision or not.
In news from outside China, Indonesia is reportedly planning to build a quarantine center on an uninhabited island to isolate coronavirus victims, even though Indonesia has yet to record a single case of the virus, though 243 have been quarantined on the island of Natuna.
Across the globe, health officials are racing to develop treatments and testing methods for the virus. Wuhan, ground zero of the outbreak, opened an emergency test laboratory on Wednesday to begin human trials.
Over in Hong Kong, a top public health official has declared a community outbreak, according to the SCMP.
A day after the city government revealed that it would impose a mandatory 14-day quarantine on anybody crossing into Hong Kong from China, the city government has provided some more details on how it will combat the crisis. Most of the new cases in the city are being caused by human-to-human transmission. Six people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus over the past few days, five of whom had not left the city recently. Of the 21 cases in total, eight are believed to have no travel history relevant to the coronavirus.
Circling back to the mainland, local authorities in the city of Tianjin announced on Thursday that it would ban the exit and entry of its villages and compounds, becoming the latest city to essentially quarantine its entire population. Over in Wuhan, authorities are now demanding that all residents report their temperatures at least once per day.
So, that's 60+ million people under quarantine in China. And though the pace of new cases in the country has slowed slightly, the virus is accelerating, especially in Asia.