China battles coronavirus outbreak

The death toll in China from the new coronavirus has risen to 170, as more countries announced plans to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak.

Some 7,711 people in China are now confirmed to have the infection, which has spread from Wuhan’s Hubei province to every one of China’s 31 provinces.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday urged governments around the world to “take action” over the SARS-like virus, cases of which have been confirmed in almost 20 countries.

The WHO will hold an urgent meeting on Thursday over whether the outbreak should be declared a global health emergency – a designation that can lead to increased international coordination.

Here are the latest updates:

Thursday, January 30
India confirms first case of coronavirus
India has reported its first case of the coronavirus in the southern state of Kerala, the government said in a statement.

The patient has tested positive for the virus and is stable and in isolation at a hospital, the statement added.

Philippines confirms first case of coronavirus: Health minister
Philippine health officials have confirmed the first case of the new coronavirus in the country.

A 38-year-old Chinese woman, who arrived in the country from Wuhan on January 21 tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Health Secretary Francisco Duque told a news conference.

Duque said the patient, confined in a government hospital, is currently asymptomatic.

China confident of minimising transmission risk on planes
China is confident it can minimise the risks of the virus being transmitted on airplanes and that the small number of cases reported abroad show it is having success in controlling its spread, an official at the civil aviation authority said.

Zhu Tao, a director at the Civil Aviation Administration of China, also told reporters during a briefing on the outbreak that foreign airlines which have cancelled flights to China are responding to a change in market conditions.

UK delays evacuation flight
The United Kingdom has delayed a planned evacuation of its citizens from Wuhan because it has not yet got the correct permissions from Chinese authorities for a flight to leave.

The UK has planned to fly back its citizens to a Royal Air Force base but the flight is now unlikely to take off on Thursday.

“We are doing everything we can to get British people in Wuhan safely back to the UK,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman said. “A number of countries’ flights have been unable to take off as planned. We continue working urgently to organise a flight to the UK as soon as possible.”

Israel’s El Al suspends flights to Beijing
El Al Israel Airlines has said it was suspending flights o Beijing until March 25.

Israel’s flag carrier said its Thursday flight from Beijing to Tel Aviv would return as scheduled.

China urges food producers to resume production
China’s agriculture ministry urged feed producers and slaughter houses to speed up the resumption of production, in a bid to increase supplies amid the outbreak.

Factories typically close during the Lunar New Year holidays.

The outbreak has led to a jump in prices and insufficient supply of food in some Chinese cities due to panic buying and disruptions to transportation.

Australia defends choice of remote detention centre to house Wuhan evacuees
Australia’s conservative government has defended its decision to use a detention centre thousands of kilometres from the mainland to quarantine locals evacuated from Wuhan.

Some health officials have criticised the decision to move the people to Christmas Island – about 2,600 kilometres (1,616 miles) from Australia that had been used to hold thousands of refugees between 2002 and 2018.

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said there was no other way to safely accommodate the returnees.

South Korea’s Moon urges calm amid protests
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has urged his citizens not to give in to fear as the government prepared to evacuate nationals from Wuhan.

“The weapons that will protect us from the new coronavirus are not fear and aversion but trust and cooperation,” Moon said in a speech, decrying “fake news” for having stirred excessive anxiety.

On Wednesday, protesters used tractors to block the roads to facilities earmarked for quarantine centres, calling for them to be located further away from homes and schools.

China says will punish officials who slack off in fighting virus
China’s anti-corruption watchdog said it would severely punish officials who slacked off in fighting the coronavirus.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said on its website that anyone who did not effectively carry out President Xi Jinping’s instructions in the fight against the virus would be punished.

CCDI also said it would punish those who were found derelict in their duty and misappropriated rescue funds and materials.

 

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