BEIJING – An update report by Al Jazeera on COVID-19 claims China on Thursday removed the top political leadership in Hubei, the province at the center of the escalating coronavirus outbreak, shortly after health officials there reported 242 people died from the virus on Wednesday – more than twice the number of the previous day and the highest daily toll since the outbreak began.
This has raised the death toll to 1,367.
The province and its capital Wuhan where the infection now known as COVID-19 is thought to have originated in late December also reported more than 14,800 new cases of the infection after adopting new clinical methods to diagnose the virus.
The number of infected across China rose to 59,805.
At least 25 countries have confirmed cases and several nations have evacuated their citizens from Hubei.
Three deaths have been recorded outside mainland China – one in Hong Kong, one in the Philippines, and the most recent in Japan.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned the virus poses a “grave threat” to the world, with chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, saying the virus could have “more powerful consequences than any terrorist action”.
Economic Advisor: White House ‘disappointed’ in China’s transparency
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow Thursday said the Trump administration was “disappointed” with China’s response to the coronavirus and the fact that no United States health officials have been invited in to help with the outbreak.
“We thought there was better transparency coming out of China, but it doesn’t appear to be,” Kudlow said.
Trumps says China handling Coronavirus ‘professionally’
US President Donald Trump praised China over its handling of the fast-moving coronavirus outbreak in an interview that aired on Thursday, adding that the United States was working closely with Beijing.
“I think they’ve handled it professionally, and I think they’re extremely capable,” Trump said in a podcast broadcast on iHeart Radio.
Asked if China was telling the truth about virus, Trump said: “Well, you never know. I think they want to put the best face on it”.
Indian generic drugmakers may face supply shortages from China
Shortages and potential price increases of generic drugs from India loom if the coronavirus outbreak disrupts suppliers of pharmaceutical ingredients in China past April, industry experts told Reuters news agency.
An important supplier of generic drugs to the world, Indian companies procure almost 70 percent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for their medicines from China.
India’s generic drugmakers say they currently have enough API supplies from China to cover their operations for up to about three months.
WHO: No major change in ‘trajectory’ of coronavirus outbreak
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that a spike of 14,000 coronavirus cases in China on Thursday was the result of new counting methods, and did not represent a major shift in the outbreak.
“This increase that you’ve all seen in the last 24 hours is largely, in part, down to a change in how the cases are being reported,” Michael Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies programme, told reporters.
Ryan also said he expected members of a WHO-led international mission to China to arrive over the weekend.
US confirms 15th case of COVID-19
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday confirmed the 15th case of the coronavirus in the United States, and said the person under federal quarantine at an airbase in Texas was the latest confirmed case.
It is the first person under quarantine at the airbase among a group of people that arrived from China on February 7 who had symptoms and tested positive for the disease, the CDC said.
Beijing florist gives out hand sanitiser with Valentine’s Day flowers
It’s the eve of Valentine’s Day and flower seller Cai Xiaoman is enclosing a special gift – a small bottle of hand sanitiser to ward off coronavirus – as she sends out her last few bouquets to customers in Beijing.
It has been a tough month for her. Sales are down 90 percent in the midst of an outbreak. Wearing a face mask, Cai carefully sprays her hands with alcohol and puts on a pair of gloves before packaging her flowers. She then puts hand sanitiser into the bouquets she creates.
She says she was inspired by a customer who asked her to sanitise a bouquet before she delivered it. She is now giving sanitiser to other customers as a personal gesture.
“I think this is very heart-warming, and I want my customers to feel comfortable,” she told Reuters news agency. “Because now the outbreak is severe, and everyone is scared. I hope this will end soon.”
Cambodia says no passengers on castaway cruise ship have coronavirus
None of the 20 passengers on board a cruise ship which docked in the Cambodian port town of Sihanoukville on Thursday have the coronavirus, a spokesman for the Southeast Asian country’s health ministry told Reuters news agency.
The MS Westerdam, carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, docked in Sihanoukville in the evening after anchoring offshore early in the morning to allow Cambodian officials to board the vessel and collect samples from passengers with any signs of ill health or flu-like symptoms.
China’s Huanggang city to tighten virus control measures
The Chinese city of Huanggang, near the epicentre of the outbreak of the coronavirus, said on Thursday that starting from Friday it would tighten epidemic control measures including sealing residential complexes and only allowing essential vehicles on roads.
Food and the delivery of other essential goods will be arranged by designated personnel, the city said in a statement.
Apple to reopen some stores in Beijing
Apple will reopen some stores in Beijing on February 14 with reduced operating hours, it said on its website, while many of its other stores in mainland China will remain shut as the country continues to battle a coronavirus outbreak.
The company said on February 8 that it was making preparations to reopen its official outlets after shutting down all of them earlier this month.
Xi pledges to minimise impact of virus, maintain momentum of economy
China will definitely be able to minimise the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and will maintain the development momentum of the country’s economy, President Xi Jinping said on Thursday, state media reported.
China will strive to achieve this year’s development targets, Xi added, in a telephone call with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, the report said.
Qatar to reschedule oil and gas shipment to China: energy minister
Qatar Minister of Energy Saad al-Kaabi said the country’s energy companies are actively participating in meeting some of the requests to reschedule or redirect Qatari oil and gas shipments to China amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Al-Kaabi said in a statement on Wednesday that Qatar supports its Chinese energy counterparts in order to support all efforts made by its government to deal with the outbreak.
Japan confirms its first coronavirus death: Health minister
Japan reported its first coronavirus death, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said.
The victim is an 80-year-old woman living in Kanagawa prefecture, which borders on Tokyo, Kato told a news conference.
Singapore reports 8 new cases, total tally jumps to 58
Singapore reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus cases, with eight newly infected patients bringing its total to 58, the health ministry said.
All of the new cases were linked to previous patients, the ministry said. Of the 58 confirmed cases reported, 15 have recovered and been discharged from hospital while seven are in critical condition in intensive care, it added.
Malaysia confirms 19th case
A Chinese national has become the 19th person in Malaysia to be infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus (Covid-19), the health ministry revealed.
The 39-year-old woman arrived in Malaysia with four other people from Wuhan on January 25. According to local media reports, she is the daughter of the 16th coronavirus victim, and a friend of the 14th victim.
Singapore, Hong Kong World Rugby Sevens Series postponed
The Singapore and Hong Kong legs of the World Rugby Sevens Series have been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, World Rugby announced.
The Singapore tournament, which was due to take place on April 11-12, will now take place on October 10-11, and the Hong Kong leg has been moved from April 3-5 to October 16-18.
Second citizen journalist in Wuhan vanishes: activists
A second citizen journalist reporting on the epidemic in Wuhan has disappeared, activists said.
Fang Bin, a seller of traditional Chinese clothing, stopped posting videos or responding to calls and messages on Sunday, said activists Gao Fei and Hua Yong, citing Fang’s friends. His phone was off on Wednesday.
Another citizen journalist, Chen Qiushi, vanished on Friday.
Bin had posted videos online of Wuhan’s overcrowded hospitals, including relatives mourning their deceased and patients lying in hospital beds.
Commune in Vietnam under lockdown after increase in virus cases
Official media in Vietnam have reported that a commune of 10,000 residents northwest of the capital Hanoi was put in lockdown due to a cluster of cases there.
The online newspaper VN Express cited a senior official of Vinh Phuc province as reporting an increase in cases in Son Loi commune.
Vietnam has confirmed 16 case of the diseases, most of them in the Vinh Phuc province.
North Korea imposes quarantine measures on all foreign visitors
North Korea will impose a month-long quarantine on all foreign visitors and others suspected of having COVID-19, the official Korean Central News Agency said on Thursday.
The decision to extend the quarantine period to 30 days was based on research studies suggesting the incubation period of the virus could be as long as 24 days.
The report did not confirm the country’s previous quarantine period, but the Russian embassy in Pyongyang said in a Facebook post earlier this month that North Korea was putting foreign visitors under a 15-day quarantine.
North Korea has yet to report a case of the virus, but state media reports have hinted that an uncertain number of people have been quarantined after showing symptoms.
China replaces head of its Hong Kong and Macau affairs office
China is replacing the head of its office that oversees matters in Hong Kong, the human resources ministry announced in Beijing on Thursday.
Xia Baolong, a 67-year-old vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), will replace Zhang Xiaoming.
Ma Guoqiang, the party chief in Hubei’s capital Wuhan, has been fired, the state-run Global Times reported.
The paper said the removal of the provincial bosses amid complaints over their handling of the outbreak showed the central government was responding swiftly to the crisis. (IA/sovereignph.com/AJ)