The death toll from a new coronavirus epidemic in China surged past 1,500 on Saturday, a day after people returning to the capital, Beijing, from holidays were ordered to quarantine themselves for 14 days to try to contain its spread.
State Councillor Wang Yi, who also serves as China’s foreign minister, acknowledged that the infection, now known as COVID-19, was a huge challenge, but defended Beijing’s management of the epidemic and lashed out at the “overreaction” of some countries.
“Through our efforts the epidemic is overall under control,” he told the Reuters News Agency on Friday.
More than two dozen countries have confirmed cases and several nations have suspended trade and travel links with China in a bid to contain the spread of the virus. Three deaths have been recorded outside mainland China – one in Hong Kong one in the Philippines, and the most recent in Japan.
Egypt reported its first case of the coronavirus on Friday, becoming the first country in the African continent to confirm a case, and the second in the Middle East region, after the United Arab Emirates diagnosed its first cases late last month.
Here are the latest updates:
Saturday, February 15
Chinese gymnasts pull out of World Cup in Australia due to coronavirus travel ban
The Chinese gymnastics team entered into next week’s World Cup in Melbourne has pulled out due to Australian government travel restrictions put in place to limit the coronavirus outbreak.
Canberra extended restrictions on foreign nationals travelling from China for another week on Thursday, effectively ruling out China’s participation at the February 20-23 World Cup, which offers qualifying points for this year’s Tokyo Olympics.
“It has been a very challenging few weeks for us all, but none more so than for the Chinese gymnasts and officials who have been training and preparing to come to Melbourne,” Gymnastics Australia CEO Kitty Chiller said in a statement.
Citing the Chinese Gymnastics Association, Chiller said the delegation from China “are well and have shown no sign of infection”.
But “despite this, we all have to respect the Australian Government’s travel restrictions”.
No ‘Plan B’ for Tokyo Olympics
Tokyo Olympic organisers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said there is no “Plan B” for the 2020 Games, which open in just over five months and have been jolted by the coronavirus outbreak in neighbouring China.
John Coates, head of an IOC inspection team, told reporters on Friday that “Tokyo 2020 remains on track”.
“Certainly the advice we’re received externally from the WHO [World Health Organization] is that there’s no case for any contingency plans or cancelling the games or moving the games,” he added.
China reports 143 new deaths from coronavirus on mainland
China’s National Health Commission said the death toll from COVID-19 had reached 1,523 in the mainland as of the end of Friday, up by 143 from the previous day.
All but four of the deaths were in Hubei, where some 56 million people remain under quarantine.
Across mainland China, there were 2,641 new confirmed infections on Friday. The total accumulated number so far has reached 66,492.
Japanese man who visited Hawaii confirmed with coronavirus
A man who visited Hawaii was confirmed to have coronavirus when he returned home to Japan, according to officials in Hawaii.
Health officials were tracking down details about his travel in the US island chain, including his flight information and people with whom he had close contact.
The man was in Hawaii January 28 to February 7, and had cold-like symptoms during his last few days there, said Hawaii Health Director Bruce Anderson. He only developed more serious symptoms when he returned to Japan, where he was tested and found to be positive for the illness, Anderson.
Because of when his symptoms began, officials believe he became infected in Japan or while in transit to Hawaii, said state epidemiologist Dr Sarah Park.
“Our focus at this point is to try and understand who potentially this person may have had close, prolonged contact,” Park said, adding that they’re concentrating on his whereabouts while on Oahu because that’s where he developed symptoms.
Death toll in China surges past 1,500
The death toll from China’s new coronavirus epidemic surged past 1,500 after 139 more people died in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak.
The province’s health commission also reported 2,420 new cases of the COVID-19 strain, about half the number from the previous day.
At least 1,519 people have now died from the outbreak that first emerged in Hubei’s capital, Wuhan, in December and snowballed into a nationwide epidemic a month later.