BEIJING – The number of deaths from China’s coronavirus outbreak has risen to 722 on Saturday, surpassing the death toll from the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak on the mainland and Hong Kong almost two decades ago.
The total number of infections across China has now reached 34,546.
The virus has also killed two people outside mainland China, one in Hong Kong and another in the Philippines, and at least 25 countries have confirmed cases.
On Friday, the death of 34-year-old Wuhan doctor, Li Wenliang, who sounded the alarm about the virus in December only to be punished, sparked an outpouring of grief and anger over the government’s handling of the crisis.
The virus has prompted several governments to ban arrivals from China and urge their citizens to avoid travelling to the country. Some have recommended that their citizens leave China.
Major airlines have suspended flights to and from China.
Here are the latest updates:
Saturday, February 8
Wuhan opens second makeshift hospital to fight virus
Wuhan has opened another makeshift hospital, providing 1,500 beds, state media reported.
The first medical team has arrived at the Leishenshan hospital in virus-hit city and patients will be admitted, state-run CCTV reported.
It said the hospital has 32 wards and a surgical operating room.
Thailand reports 7 new coronavirus cases – health ministry
Thailand’s public health ministry reported seven new cases of the coronavirus, including three Thais and four Chinese.
The new cases brought the total reported in the country to 32, among the world’s highest number of infections outside of China.
“The seven new cases are all in hospital,” said Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, director-general of the Disease Control Department.
One of the Thai cases was part of the group of 138 evacuated from China’s coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan on Tuesday, Suwannachai told reporters.
Two more cases of coronavirus detected in UAE, total rises to 7
Two new cases of coronavirus infection have been detected in the United Arab Emirates, bringing the total number of people diagnosed with the disease to seven, the country’s health ministry said on Twitter.
Panic buying in Singapore after virus alert raised
Anxious Singapore shoppers formed long lines at grocery stores and cleared the shelves of essential items, after the city-state raised its alert level over China’s coronavirus outbreak.
Singapore, which has reported 33 cases, raised its alert level Friday to “orange”, the same as during the deadly 2003 SARS outbreak. The alert level indicates that the virus is severe and passes easily between people.
The announcement triggered panic in the city-state of 5.7 million starting late Friday, with shoppers – many wearing masks – rushing to stock up on items including rice, noodles and toilet paper.
American dies of coronavirus in Wuhan; Japanese fatality also suspected of being infected
A US citizen has died from the new coronavirus at the epicentre of the epidemic in China, the US embassy said Saturday, in what appears to be the first confirmed foreign death from the outbreak.
“We can confirm that a 60-year-old US citizen diagnosed with coronavirus died at a hospital in Wuhan, China, on February 6,” an embassy spokesman told AFP.
Meanwhile, the Japanese Foreign Ministry reported that a Japanese man “suspected of being infected” with the virus has also died in Wuhan, Kyodo News reported.
The man, in his 60s, had been hospitalised with severe pneumonia. He would be the first Japanese victim of the coronavirus outbreak if his infection is confirmed.
Three more coronavirus cases reported on the Diamond Princess cruise ship
Passengers on the cruise ship docked in Japan are facing more woes as government officials reported three more cases of coronavirus infection.
That brings to 64 the total number of infections on the Diamond Princess vessel, which was carrying 3,700 people.
China adds health expert to provincial committee of Communist Party in Hubei
China has appointed Wang Hesheng as a member of the provincial committee of the Communist Party in Hubei province, state television reported on Saturday.
Wang has served in the public health system for years, making him well-placed to help in the country’s fight against the coronavirus outbreak.
More planes with quarantined China passengers arrive in US
Hundreds more people evacuated from the Wuhan region of China began arriving on Friday at military bases across the US to begin a two-week quarantine.
There were no signs of illness among those who flew into Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, said Dr Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control’s Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology. She said fewer than 100 people, including babies, will stay at Lackland but did not provide an exact number.
The plane then left Texas and transported people to Omaha, Nebraska, where it landed Friday night. The passengers will be quarantined at a nearby Nebraska National Guard training base.
A military base in San Diego earlier Friday received 65 people, who will be quarantined.
Latest coronavirus study implicates faecal transmission
The digestive tract may be a secondary path of transmission for the novel coronavirus, scientists said following the publication of the latest study reporting patients with abdominal symptoms and loose stool.
The primary path is believed to be virus-laden droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze, though researchers in early cases have said they focused heavily on patients with respiratory symptoms and may have overlooked those linked to the digestive tract.
A total of 14 out of 138 patients (10 percent) in a Wuhan hospital who were studied in the new paper by Chinese authors in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) initially presented with diarrhoea and nausea one or two days before developing fever and laboured breathing.
Royal Caribbean bans China, HK, Macau passport holders from ships
Royal Caribbean Cruises said on Friday it would ban guests holding China, Hong Kong or Macau passports from boarding its ships.
Guests or crew members who have travelled to, from or through mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau, or been in contact with someone who has, less than 15 days before sailing will not be allowed to board the company’s ships under the new rules.
The company would also screen guests with flu-like symptoms and those who are unsure if they had been in contact with individuals who had visited any of the three locations in the past 15 days.
US offers $100m to China, others to fight coronavirus
The US will offer up to $100m to China and other impacted countries to combat the fast-spreading coronavirus, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
“This commitment – along with the hundreds of millions generously donated by the American private sector – demonstrates strong US leadership in response to the outbreak,” Pompeo said in a statement.
Has the coronavirus cracked China’s Great Firewall?
Al Jazeera’s Inside Story programme discusses how Chinese censors are struggling to contain online outrage over the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
China doing ‘very professional job’ against coronavirus: Trump
US President Donald Trump has said China is doing a “very professional job” in combating the coronavirus.
Trump said he had discussed the crisis with Chinese President Xi Jinping in a “very good” phone call late on Thursday and added that the US and China were “working together” on the issue.
WHO warns against hoarding of protective gear
Demand for masks, gowns, gloves and other protective gear has risen by up to 100 times and prices have soared due to the coronavirus, producing a “severe” disruption in supply, the WHO’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“This situation is exacerbated by widespread use of personal protective equipment outside patient care,” he told reporters in Geneva, adding that he had spoken to manufacturers and distributors to ensure supplies for those who need them.
He also said he could see practices such as hoarding in order to ensure higher prices and called for solidarity from the public and the private sector.
Singapore lifts virus alert to SARS level
Singapore has raised its coronavirus alert level to orange – a level reached during the 2003 SARS outbreak and the 2009 H1N1 influenza – which indicates the virus is severe and passes easily between people.
Singapore has reported 33 cases of patients infected with the new coronavirus.
Unfazed by virus, S Korea couples take part in mass wedding
South Korea’s Unification Church held a mass wedding amid the outbreak.
About 6,000 couples took part in the ceremony at the Cheongshim World Peace Centre in Gapyeong, about 60 kilometres (40 miles) northeast of the capital, Seoul.
The couples said they were unfazed by the new coronavirus and the organiser said the venue had been thoroughly sterilised and that a thermal surveillance camera had been put in place.
Italy contradicts China over possible air traffic restart
Italy has contradicted China’s assertions over a possible resumption of flights between the two countries.
Rome’s decision on January 31 to block flights to and from China was greeted with dismay by Beijing, which has been lobbying in the past few days to have the ban lifted.
“The block on flights is a measure take to immediately deal with any emergency and we will keep it in place as long as health authorities and therefore the scientific community tell us we should,” Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told a news conference in Madrid.
First Canadians repatriated from Wuhan land in Canada
A plane bringing home the first Canadians from Wuhan has landed at a military base in Canada, where the returnees will be quarantined.
The government-chartered jetliner landed at Trenton air force base east of Toronto, shortly after 6:30 am local time (11:30 GMT), after a stopover in Vancouver, Canadian TV showed.
The plane carried 176 passengers.
Hong Kong will deploy an army of volunteers to bolster plans to forcibly quarantine all arrivals from mainland China, warning that anyone caught breaching the new rules faces up to six months prison.Hong Kong unveils quarantine plans, up to six months in jail for dodgers
In a major escalation of its battle against the new coronavirus, the international finance hub has said anyone arriving from the mainland from Saturday will have to undergo 14 days compulsory quarantine.