Coronavirus Live Updates: Cases Up Nearly 60%, as Airports Expand Screenings

ImageA nearly empty street in Beijing on Tuesday.
Credit…Nicolas Asfouri/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Death toll exceeds 100 as number of infections skyrockets.

The outbreak of the mysterious new coronavirus is rapidly spreading, the Chinese authorities said on Tuesday, as the official account of known cases jumped nearly 60 percent overnight and the death toll exceeded 100 for the first time.

◆ China said on Tuesday that 106 people had died from the virus, which is believed to have originated in the central city of Wuhan and is spreading across the country. The previous death toll, on Monday, was 81.

◆ The number of confirmed cases increased to 4,515 on Tuesday, from 2,835 on Monday, according to the National Health Commission. The youngest confirmed case is a 9-month-old girl in Beijing.

◆ Most of the confirmed cases have been in the central Chinese province of Hubei, where several cities, including Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, have been placed under what amounts to a lockdown. Of the total cases, 2,714 are in Hubei.

◆ Thailand has reported 14 cases of infection; Hong Kong has eight; the United States, Taiwan, Australia and Macau have five each; Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia each have reported four; Japan has seven; France has four; Canada have three; Vietnam has two; and Nepal, Cambodia and Germany each have one. There have been no deaths outside China.

The United States is expanding screening for coronavirus at airports and borders.

The United States is expanding the screening of travelers arriving from Wuhan — to 20 airports and land crossings, from five airports, federal officials said on Tuesday.

“Right now, there is no spread of this virus in our communities at home,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at a news briefing in Washington.

“The coming days and weeks are likely to bring more cases including the possibility of person-to-person spread,” he said. “Our goal is to contain this virus and prevent sustained spread of the virus in our country.”

Officials also announced that after repeated offers of assistance, Chinese authorities agreed on Tuesday to allow in teams of international experts, coordinated by the World Health Organization, to help with research and containment.

“Americans should know this is a potentially very serious public health threat, but at this point Americans should not worry for their own safety,” said Alex M. Azar, secretary of health and human services, at the briefing.

France confirms fourth case of the virus.

A fourth case of the new coronavirus was confirmed in France, Jérôme Salomon, an official in the health ministry, announced on Tuesday.

The patient is a tourist from Hubei province, Mr. Salomon said. He was in serious condition in the intensive care unit of a Paris hospital, and the authorities were seeking out anyone who had been in close contact with the man, who is in his eighties.

The previously identified cases affected a 48-year-old man in Bordeaux and a 31-year-old man and 30-year-old woman in Paris.

France is also working with China to repatriate French citizens in Wuhan, with a first flight scheduled for later in the week. Agnès Buzyn, France’s health minister, said on Tuesday that about 500 to 1,000 French citizens could qualify.

Those who return without any symptoms will be quarantined for 14 days, and those who present possible symptoms will be hospitalized.

Other European countries have also asked France to help bring back some of their own citizens on those flights, Ms. Buzyn said.

Germany and Japan say the virus has spread in their countries.

Health officials on Tuesday reported what appear to be the first known cases of human-to-human transmission of the virus in Europe — specifically, in Germany — and in Japan. Another case was recently reported in Vietnam.

The cases show that countries across the world are now faced with the task of limiting the spread of the disease on their own soil, not just seeking to identify and quarantine ailing patients who had traveled from China.

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said the first Japanese national — and the sixth person in Japan overall — to be diagnosed with the coronavirus was a man in his 60s. He had never been to Wuhan, but he had worked as a bus driver earlier this month for two different group tours from that city, officials said.

The man began experiencing symptoms on Jan. 14, was hospitalized on Saturday and was confirmed to have the coronavirus on Tuesday.

The infected German, whose case was also confirmed on Tuesday, is a 33-year-old man from Bavaria who had been in contact with a Chinese woman in Germany, officials said. The woman was diagnosed with the virus after flying home to China. The man was in good condition, German officials said.

“It was to be expected that the virus would come to Germany,” Jens Spahn, Germany’s health minister, said in a statement on Tuesday. “But the Bavarian case shows us that we are well prepared.”

The World Health Organization said on Friday that there appeared to have been a case of human-to-human transmission in Vietnam, where a person who had never been to China, but who had a relative who had visited Wuhan, was confirmed to have the virus.

Hong Kong puts significant limits on travel from the mainland.

Hong Kong on Tuesday put in place a broad series of restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus by limiting the number of mainland Chinese travelers entering the territory, one of Asia’s busiest travel and financial hubs.

The restrictions — which included the suspension of high-speed and other train services between Hong Kong and the mainland, a 50 percent reduction in the number of flights — and a ban on tourism visas for many travelers — were announced by Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive.

The regulations, which apply to some plane, rail, bus and ferry arrivals, will begin on Thursday. They follow days of rising pressure from health care workers, epidemiologists and even pro-Beijing politicians who have traditionally supported Mrs. Lam’s government.

Hong Kong has so far recorded eight confirmed cases of the virus.

Tibet, the only region in China that has yet to report any cases, has temporarily closed all tourist sites, state news media reported. Major Chinese cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, have suspended long-distance bus services.

The medical faculty of the Chinese University of Hong Kong called for more restrictions on border checkpoints as the virus spreads across China.

Workers from Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority have planned a strike for next week to demand a law requiring the wearing of masks in public and banning all visitors from entering the city through the mainland.

Ethiopia and Ivory Coast test suspected cases.

Numerous African countries are shoring up coronavirus screening efforts at major airports, and samples from at least five potentially infected patients were being tested.

Ethiopia’s state minister of health confirmed on Tuesday that four potential cases were isolated in the capital, Addis Ababa, pending laboratory tests. On Monday, officials in Ivory Coast said they were testing a suspected case related to a female student who had traveled from Beijing to the capital, Abidjan.

The epidemic comes as travel between China and African states has increased at a rapid pace. As Beijing has ramped up its diplomatic, economic and political support for African states, Chinese firms and migrants have been setting up shop in cities from Nairobi to Johannesburg.

Data from the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University put the number of official Chinese workers as of 2017 at over 202,000. African entrepreneurs have moved to Chinese cities, while African students now make up a large percentage of the foreign student body in China.

On Tuesday, Kenya Airways announced that the health authorities had quarantined a passenger who traveled from Guangzhou.

Because of the Chinese New Year celebration, “a good number of African students living in Wuhan or Hubei traveled home before the extent of the virus became clear,” said Hannah Ryder, chief executive of the Beijing-headquartered consultancy Development Reimagined.

“It’s unclear how exposed they may have been and if governments have the resources to check on them,” she said.

World Health Organization buries updated global risk assessment in a footnote.

The World Health Organization revised its global risk assessment for the coronavirus outbreak from “moderate” to “high,” but concealed the change in a footnote buried in a report published on Monday.

The change to the report, which coincided with a visit to China by the organization’s director-general, risked confusing the public about the severity of the outbreak, which has killed more than 100 people in China and been found in at least 14 countries.

In a statement, the organization said the director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and Chinese officials “discussed measures to protect the health of Chinese and foreigners in outbreak areas, including possible alternatives to evacuation of foreigners if there are ways to accommodate them and protect their health.”

Chinese state-run media reported that Dr. Tedros met with President Xi Jinping of China and spoke highly of Chinese efforts. Mr. Xi urged the health organization to assess the epidemic in an “objective, fair, calm and rational manner.”

In Hubei, medical workers have complained about a desperate need for resources to treat thousands of patients who have at times overwhelmed hospitals.

The group, which is a United Nations body, was criticized when it refused twice in recent days to declare the outbreak a global emergency, despite its spread.

Shortage of test kits in China prompts concern that cases have been underreported.

A shortage of medical kits in China needed to quickly diagnose the coronavirus has slowed the country’s ability to respond to the outbreak and fueled concerns that the number of cases has been underreported.

China’s Medical Products Administration said on Sunday that it had approved four new virus detection kits, including one that sequences the genetic makeup of the disease.

But China’s three leading medical device manufacturers said they did not have the capacity to quickly produce the products, according to state news media reports.

Residents in Wuhan who arrived at hospitals to seek testing were told that medical workers did not have the kits needed to confirm a diagnosis.

“For any new emerging virus, most local hospitals or public health laboratories will not able to make a diagnosis” said Yuen Kwok-yung, the chairman of the infectious diseases department at Hong Kong University. “Thus many cases will not be investigated at all if they are mild.”

A woman in Wuhan told The South China Morning Post that her uncle learned he had viral pneumonia after a CT scan, but that the doctor could not confirm it was the new virus because no testing kits were available.

China may have to rely on outside technical support as front line responders battle to contain the virus’s spread, experts said. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said Sunday that it would commit $5 million to help China respond to the crisis, including “efforts to identify and confirm cases.”

U.S. health officials recommend avoiding China, and businesses follow suit.

As the outbreak continues to spread, global companies have begun to limit their workers’ travel to mainland China, and China’s biggest companies have urged employees to work from home.

On Monday, health officials in the United States urged travelers to avoid any nonessential travel to China, and many companies cited that as justification for internal travel bans. The new guidance, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that transportation in and out of Hubei Province, the center of the outbreak, is restricted, and that there is “limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas.”

Companies with large operations or interest in China, like General Motors, Honeywell, Bloomberg and Facebook, have all warned employees not to travel within mainland China in a flurry of emails in recent days.

Honeywell, which has offices and operations across China, said it had restricted travel to certain regions, without specifying them. A spokesperson for General Motors said the company had issued a global ban on travel to China, under which only “business-critical” travel would be allowed.

Bloomberg told its employees in Hong Kong and mainland China to work remotely until further notice, and it barred other employees from traveling to either place for the next 30 days, according to an email seen by The New York Times. Facebook said it asked all employees to suspend nonessential travel and asked those who had recently been in China to work from home for a period of time.

The authorities in China have extended the Lunar New Year holiday to Feb. 3, and some of China’s biggest cities have gone further, telling businesses not to open until the next week. The country’s biggest technology companies, including Alibaba, Tencent, Bytedance, Sina, Maimai, Netease and Didi, told employees to work from home from Feb. 3 to Feb. 10.

Netease, an internet and entertainment platform, asked employees returning from another city within China to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

Worries rise about the outbreak’s economic impact.

After sharp losses around the world on Monday, investors on Tuesday continued to assess the long-term economic effects of the coronavirus epidemic.

The verdict was mixed. Investors abandoned stocks in Asia, while markets in Europe steadied. In the United States, the S&P 500 was up more than 1 percent on Tuesday.

Many of Asia’s stock markets were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday, but those that were open — Japan’s and South Korea’s — fell as futures trading in China slumped. Money poured into safe-haven assets like gold and pushed up the value of the United States dollar.

Hong Kong’s stock market will reopen on Wednesday. In China, where authorities have extended the New Year holiday by a week, the major exchanges in Shenzhen and Shanghai said they would remain closed until Feb. 3.

“The coronavirus is the No. 1 threat to financial markets currently as global investors are becoming jittery on the uncertainty,” said Nigel Gre, the founder of the investment group deVere Group.

Back in New York from Wuhan … and into a self-imposed quarantine.

Some of the last passengers who arrived at Kennedy International Airport before direct flights from Wuhan were canceled have quarantined themselves at home.

Scott Liu, 56, who leads an association for immigrants from Hubei, said he confined himself to his house in Queens. He said he and his fellow passengers on the Wuhan flight learned of the lockdown in that city mid-flight.

He said he has not felt sick, but is taking precautions because he knows symptoms take time to appear. His friends have dropped off on his doorstep traditional Lunar New Year dishes like lotus root and pork rib soup, salted fish and dumplings. Last year, they were host to a big New Year celebration at a banquet hall in Flushing.

This year, Mr. Liu said, “all the events here are canceled.”

“Everybody is in a state of panic,” he added.

Reporting was contributed by Chris Buckley, Russell Goldman, Elaine Yu, Raymond Zhong, Austin Ramzy, Sui-Lee Wee, Alexandra Stevenson, Cao Li, Eimi Yamamitsu, Tiffany May, Joseph Goldstein, Jeffrey E. Singer, Peter S. Goodman, Roni Caryn Rabin, Motoko Rich, Paul Mozur, Christopher F. Schuetze, Abdi Latif Dahir, Simon Marks and Aurelien Breeden. Jin Wu, Zoe Mou, Albee Zhang, Amber Wang, Yiwei Wang and Claire Fu contributed research.


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