● Chinese leader Xi Jinping has been informed that the situation in Wuhan “remains gloomy and complex”.
● South Korea and Japan both peaked on Saturday cases, with the number of cases in South Korea doubling in a day. A fifth person died in Iran from the virus, while Italy now has 50 confirmed cases, making it the largest hot spot in Europe.
● China reported only 397 new cases on Saturday, as the rate of increase continued to decline, but 109 more people died. There is still much skepticism towards Chinese numbers as the criteria for diagnosing coronavirus continue to change.
● A team of international epidemic experts added Wuhan to his itinerary in China, following questions about why they would not go to the center of the coronavirus epidemic that caused over 2,000 deaths in the country.
● Chinese scientists said they isolated coronavirus strains in the urine, increasing the possibility that it could be transmissible that way, as well as via fecal matter and respiratory droplets.
BEIJING – Scientists are investigating reports that the incubation period for coronavirus may be longer than the 14 days currently believed, potentially questioning the current quarantine criteria for containing the virus in the midst of an increasingly urgent effort to stop the spread of the epidemic in Northeast Asia and throughout Asia world.
South Korea and Japan both reported a sharp peak in Saturday cases, while 109 other people died in China and a fifth person died from the virus in Iran. Italian authorities said Saturday that the country is witnessing a sudden increase in coronavirus cases, with around 50 confirmed in the past two days – an outbreak that represents the largest still in Europe.
Meanwhile, Chinese scientists have reported that the virus may be transmissible through urine.
A team of experts from the World Health Organization was due to arrive in Wuhan on Saturday, the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic.
On Friday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed the urgency of curbing the spread of coronavirus, after previous cases had been reported in Iran and Lebanon.
“Even if the window of opportunity is narrowing to contain the epidemic, we still have a chance to contain it,” he told reporters in Geneva. “If we don’t, if we waste the opportunity, then there will be a serious problem in our hands.”
Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who has not visited Wuhan since the outbreak, has been informed that the situation in the city and Hubei province “remains bleak and complex,” according to a report from the official Xinhua news agency released on Saturday. .
“The national inflection point for the epidemic has not yet come,” says the report after a meeting of Communist Party leaders.
The Chinese National Health Commission reported Saturday that 397 new coronavirus cases were diagnosed on Friday, bringing the total to over 76,000. The infection rate outside of Hubei appears to have slowed significantly, although there has been a lot of confusion regarding the statistics this week as officials have repeatedly changed the criteria to confirm cases.
New cases discovered on Friday included a 70-year-old man in Hubei who was confirmed infected after 27 days of isolation, while a man in Jiangxi province tested positive after 14 days of centralized quarantine and five days of solitary confinement. home. On Thursday, authorities reported that a Hubei man had tested positive for coronavirus after what appeared to be a symptom-free 38-day incubation period.
Coronavirus cases in South Korea skyrocket; triple cases in Japan
In Seoul, Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Saturday that 229 additional coronavirus cases were detected, bringing the total to 433, more than doubling in the space of a day. This makes it the hardest hit country outside of China.
“Aside from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, [South] Korea now has the largest number of cases outside of China and we are working closely with the government to fully understand the transmission dynamics that led to this increase, “said Tedros.
Most of the new cases have been traced to existing groups in a church in the southern city of Daegu and in a hospital in nearby Cheongdo county, according to the KCDC.
The South Korean government has designated Daegu and northern Gyeongsang province as “special care areas” where containment and support efforts will be concentrated.
More than half of South Korean cases are related to the Daegu branch of the Shincheonji church of Jesus, the temple of the tabernacle of testimony.
Since church members attended a funeral in the nearby Cheongdo Daenam hospital, 111 cases of coronavirus have been reported, including two patients who died of the virus.
The hospital’s mass infection centers on its closed psychiatric ward, where a confined environment could have aggravated the transmissions, said Jung Eun-Kyeong, director of the KCDC.
A 40-year-old man was found dead in his home in the city of Gyeongju, east of Daegu, after being infected with the virus. He is the third person to die from the virus in South Korea.
In Japan, the number of coronavirus cases rose to 121 on Saturday, more than tripling in a week. That number excludes the 634 people aboard the Diamond Princess who contracted the virus.
One of the last cases was a 60-year-old teacher in a public middle school east of Tokyo, who complained of nausea while working. The mayor of the city of Chiba said the school will be closed until Wednesday, NHK public broadcaster reported.
The teacher hasn’t traveled abroad in the past two weeks and has no record of having been in contact with a known infected person, pointing out that the virus is spreading almost invisibly across the country, experts say.
Italy and Iran impose new measures to contain a sudden spike
As numbers suddenly increased in Italy, the government hurried to contain the new outbreak, asking about 50,000 people to stay indoors and suspending all public events – including religious ceremonies and school – in 10 small towns south of Milan.
Until a few days ago, Italy had seen only three confirmed infections, including a couple of Chinese tourists.
“There is a fairly evident, very strong contagion,” said Giulio Gallera, chief health officer of the northern Lombardy region, who saw most of the cases.
Italian officials on Friday attributed the country’s first death to the coronavirus and on Saturday said that even a 77-year-old woman had tested positive for the virus after being found dead at her home. But the Italian authorities said the woman suffered from other health conditions and was unsure if the virus killed her.
As of Saturday afternoon, there have been 39 confirmed cases in the prosperous Lombardy region, which includes the country’s financial center, Milan. There were 12 other cases in the nearby northern region of Veneto.
The regional president of Veneto, Luca Zaia, said that it is becoming more difficult to understand how the virus jumps from one place to another.
“This shows that having other cases of contagion is absolutely possible,” said Zaia.
According to Italian media reports, one of the first people to come up with the virus was a 38-year-old who had dined with someone who had just returned from China. But about three weeks passed between that dinner and the moment the man had a fever. In the middle, he ran a half marathon, played football and traveled to several cities, according to La Repubblica, an important Italian newspaper.
Iran, meanwhile, has announced its fifth death from the virus, bringing the country’s total confirmed cases to twenty-eight.
The outbreak in Iran has so far focused on the holy Shi’ite city of Qom, where authorities suspended schools and religious meetings on Wednesday as a precaution. On Saturday, Iranian authorities also closed schools in the capital, Tehran, and issued a temporary ban on state-run cinema and art-related events across the country. Fars news agency reported.
Other countries in the region also reacted with alarm, particularly after the first case of coronavirus in Lebanon on Friday was discovered to be a woman who had just traveled from Qom.
In recent days, Iraq and Kuwait have suspended direct flights to Iran, while Iraq has temporarily suspended new visas for Iranian citizens and, together with Turkey, has imposed restrictions on travelers who had arrived recently from Iran.
Israel, meanwhile, announced Saturday that nine Koreans who had recently toured Israel have tested positive for the virus. They are working to track down anyone who may have come into contact with tourists, who have visited major cities including Jerusalem.
Efforts to free the Diamond Princess cruise ship continue
Meanwhile, tests continue on crew members aboard the Diamond Princess. At least 74 crew members have so far found the virus.
All passengers have now been tested and almost all have left the ship, whether to return home if tested negative, to local hospitals or government facilities if they have the virus, or to their home countries.
Some passengers were asked to stay on board to serve an additional quarantine if their cabin mate contracted the virus, but this group also lands on Saturday to serve the rest of the quarantine in a government facility, according to local media reports.
More than 200 port calls to Japan by international cruise ships have been canceled since the beginning of February due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, a survey by Kyodo News showed on Saturday, with lost revenue from passengers arriving on the ground and hitting another blow to the weak Japanese economy.
Controversy continues to simmer about infection control procedures on board the ship, after a doctor complained Tuesday of the “chaotic” and frightening conditions on board.
Six people working on the boat or with passengers, including four government officials, a doctor and an ambulance driver, contracted the virus.
Media reports wondered why approximately 90 government officials who worked on the ship returned to work without being tested for coronavirus. When asked about this, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said the government “is trying to confirm which operations the staff has been specifically involved in.”
American woman in Malaysia declared coronavirus-free
The 83-year-old woman who tested positive for coronavirus when she arrived at Kuala Lumpur airport after disembarking from the cruise ship MS Westerdam in Cambodia has recovered, Malaysia’s health authorities said.
The woman “is showing good improvements and signs of healing, however, she is still being monitored and managed in the hospital for a mild cough,” said Malaysia’s chief executive officer, Noor Hisham Abdullah, in a statement.
The woman repeatedly tested negative on the ship and when she landed in Sihanoukville, then twice she tested positive during the transit to Kuala Lumpur airport on February 15th. This kicked off a global rush to track down hundreds of other passengers who had then disembarked planes heading home.
The woman was taken to the hospital and received additional antiviral and oxygen treatment, and showed improvement 72 hours after starting the treatment, Abdullah said. Two other tests, conducted 24 hours apart, both tested negative for coronavirus.
But the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention question whether the woman was ever infected, saying she “never had coronavirus to our knowledge”.
“I confirmed that all passengers were tested and returned negative for coronavirus, including the person who initially tested positive,” said CDC spokesman Richard Quartarone. The woman “may have had respiratory disease, but if she did, it wasn’t covid-19,” she said, using the official name of the virus.
Cambodia’s Ministry of Health had previously authorized the 747 crew members who were still aboard Westerdam and the 781 passengers who were still in the country of coronavirus infection.
Chinese scientists isolate coronavirus strains in the urine as the WHO prepares the visit
Separately, Chinese scientists continue to study how the virus is transmitted.
A research team led by renowned Chinese pulmonologist Zhong Nanshan has isolated live coronavirus strains in urine samples from infected patients, Zhao Jincun, a breathing expert at the State Key Laboratory, told reporters in Guangdong on Saturday.
The team of scientists had previously stated that the virus, in addition to being transported in respiratory droplets, seemed transmissible through faecal matter, emphasizing the need to practice good hand washing as a preventive measure.
Zhao did not directly say that the virus could be transmitted through urine, simply observing that the strains had been isolated and that this had implications for public health control. They are continuing to work on virus isolation and a cure, the Guangzhou newspaper reports.
But he said people should pay more attention to personal and family hygiene to prevent the spread of the virus and recommend that you wash your hands frequently, close the toilet lid before rinsing and make sure that the bathroom drains are not blocked.
WHO experts also participated in an investigative mission to China this week, holding meetings in Beijing and traveling to the Sichuan and Guangdong provinces. But it was not planned to travel to Wuhan, where the outbreak began in a live animal market and which remains under tight control in an attempt to contain the virus.
This led to speculation that the Chinese government, which was targeted for its slow response to the outbreak and in which health workers are on the verge, did not want experts to visit.
But the WHO said late on Friday that the experts would travel to the center of the epidemic on Saturday, although they did not provide further information on their itinerary.
Denyer reported from Tokyo, Chico Harlan from Rome and Miriam Berger from Washington. Lyric Li in Beijing, Akiko Kashiwagi in Tokyo, Min Joo Kim in Seoul and Stefano Pitrelli in Rome contributed to the news.