A patient suspected of carrying coronavirus, arrives at Kyungpook National University Hospital in Daegu, South Korea Credit: YONHAP/EPA-EFE/REX
By Jordan Kelly-Linden, Sarah Newey and Global Health Security Team
An evacuation flight for Britons stuck on a cruise ship docked off the coast of Japan over coronavirus fears will leave Tokyo on Friday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.
There were 78 British passengers on the cruise liner when cases of the coronavirus strain known as Covid-19 started to emerge. Four British cases have since been confirmed by the Foreign Office and two of the most high profile – Dave and Sally Abel – have made it to hospital for treatment.
Meanwhile, two Japanese passengers from the coronavirus-hit cruise ship have died, public broadcaster NHK said on Thursday. The victims – a man and woman in their 80s – were the first fatalities from the outbreak on the vessel.
As fears about China’s new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak grow, so too do the number of myths about the virus – many of them more dangerous than the disease itself.
Mouthwash, garlic and antibiotics have all been touted as possible cures. But do any of them actually work?
Coronavirus, fake news, and the makings of a global infodemic
Corvid-19 is the first major flu outbreak of the hyper-digital age – and false information is spreading faster than the virus itself.
Alice Hallexplores the online phenomenon and asks: why are young people drawn to creating possibly misleading content about the coronavirus?
WHO teams up with Africa
The World Health Organization is co-ordinating with the African Union (a continental organisation representing 55 African states) to prepare the continent’s countries for potential arrivals of people infected with coronavirus, Dr Tedros has said.
According to a study published in The Lancet, Egypt, Algeria and South Africa are at a high risk of importing new coronavirus cases from China.
Last week a patient in Egypt was diagnosed with coronavirus, but is reportedly now in recovery.4:02PM
‘Our objective is containment’
Dr Tedros said that the WHO had not received enough money to fight the outbreak.
“Considering the urgency and considering that we are fighting with a very dangerous enemy, we are surprised that the response is not really something we would expect.
“I’ve said it many times. Because of the serious measures china is taking the number of cases in the rest of the world is a small.
“But it doesn’t mean that the small number of cases will stay the same for long. Now is the time to attack the virus while it is actually manageable. If we don’t hit hard now, we might face with a serious problem.
“Wasn’t without reason some couple of weeks ago I said this virus is very dangerous and is public enemy number one. But it is not being treated as such.”
He added that the global objective is still containment: “Our objective still is containment. We believe as WHO that there is still a chance to contain the outbreak.
Dr Tedros concluded the press conference by saying that “this virus will be around for some time”.4:00PM
Awaiting drug trial results
Dr Tedros said the WHO are awaiting the results of two clinical drug trials for treatment options for the coronavirus.
“One combines two drugs for HIV (Lopinavir and Ritonavir) and the other is testing an antiviral called Remdesivir. We expect preliminary results in three weeks.”
He added that he has written to the CEO’s of 12 protective equipment manufacturers asking them to prioritise health workers and received a “good signal”. 3:59PM
Deaths on cruise not unexpected, WHO says
Dr Tedros said that more that more than half of Covid-19 cases outside of China are among passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where two fatalities were confirmed today.
He added that the deaths, while “very unfortunate” were not unexpected due to the observed death rate in China.
“Considering the number of cases [on board], more than 600, and that elsewhere the observation that there is a fatality of 2%, then this is what we would really expect.”
He added that the Japanese authorities had pursued an approach to contain and halt infections on the cruise, as well as prevent wider transmission within Japan. 3:45PM
Protest as plane carrying evacuees from Wuhan arrives in Ukraine
A plane carrying Ukrainian citizens and other nationals evacuated from Wuhan, China, arrived today at Kharkiv Airport in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior said in a statement.
Video circulating on social media showed local residents in the town protesting the arrival of evacuees, blocking roads and confronting police.
In a Facebook post, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on citizens to stop “attempts to block routes, block hospitals, not allow Ukrainian citizens into Ukraine.”
“The evacuees will live at the National Guard’s private medical center in Novi Sanzhary,” he said.
“It will be completely isolated and put into strict bacteriological safety. Within two weeks it will probably be the safest object in the country.
I sympathize with our evacuees, because I already know what it is like to be under personal protection, and their protection will be much more serious than that of the president.”
“That is, there is no bacteriological danger. But there is another danger that I would like to say. The danger of forgetting that we are all human and we are all Ukrainian. “
There are currently no diagnosed cases of coronavirus in Ukraine.3:32PM
‘South Korean outbreak manageable’
Speaking at the World Health Organization’s daily coronavirus press conference, director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea is so-far “manageable”:
“I think the number of cases are really manageable and I hope South Korea will do everything to contain this outbreak at this early stage.”
Dr Oliver Morgan, director of the Health Emergency Information and Risk Assessment Department in the World Health Organization, added:
“The number of cases in South Korea reported today are from several distinct clusters which Korean authorities are following closely.
“While number seems high they are mostly linked to known existing outbreaks, that hasn’t changed and does not signal a particular change in global epidemiologically.”
COVID-19 coronavirus: in pictures
A laboratory technician holds up samples of the Covid-19 virus
Employees check latex gloves at a factory in Malaysia
Jockeying for control
Police officers visit residents in remote areas in Altay to promote the awareness of the virus and its risks
No bad blood
Chinese health officials are urging patients who have recovered from the coronavirus to donate blood so that plasma can be extracted to treat others who are critically ill
Check this out
In a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus, an undisclosed supermarket in China seems to have installed huge plastic barriers on the ceiling to circle and protect its checkout staff.
View the (interesting) footage here: 2:34PM
‘Like a ghost town’
Our travel correspondent Greg Dickinson is lucky enough to journey to some pretty far-flung exciting destinations in the name of ‘work’. And this week he added one more location to his list: Oxfordshire outlet shopping centre Bicester Village.
As storms have swept through Britain and coronavirus fears have peaked, the usually bustling tourist destination has seen a significant drop in visitors, with some describing it as something of a ghost town.
Greg hopped on a train to find out if the rumours were true.
Sales of yeast rise across China
The coronavirus outbreak across China has shaken up consumer habits, causing a surge in sales of instant noodles and yeast, a new study has found
Searches for bakery-related goods to make bread and pastries have seen a significant jump since the outbreak began, a report released by Meituan-Dianping, a leading Chinese food delivery company, found.
Sales of yeast also rose by nearly 40 per cent while dumpling wrappers went up by seven times the usual demand.
The news come as many cities across China are put into a sustained lockdown by local and national government officials.
In some areas, residents have reported that they’re only allowed to leave their home every few days for a short period of time – a situation that has no doubt forced more people to fire up their hobs and cook at home.1:45PM
Are cruise ships really ‘floating Petri dishes’?
Cruises are notorious as breeding grounds for bugs and the Diamond Princess has certainly played up to this stereotype.
Today, two passengers become the first fatalities in the ship’s virus outbreak, as new infections continue to mount.
Anne Gulland takes a look at why ships full of holiday-makers have long been dubbed “floating Petri dishes”.
Out of pocket holiday-makers
Holidaymakers have been waiting weeks for refunds on flights to China they have been forced to cancel over the Coronavirus outbreak, Harry Brennan reports, as Lastminute.com has been inundated with requests.
Unhappy passengers include Catherine Smith, 29, from London, who was due to fly to Malaysia via Beijing in April.
She cancelled her trip after the Foreign Office warned against all but the most essential travel to mainland China and airlines including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic suspended flights to the country.
But Caroline was kept waiting for four weeks for a refund on her £1,000 return flights, despite confirmation from her airline that she was entitled to her money back.
“We had to do everything through Lastminute.com and it’s been awful. The customer service is non-existent and at one point they hung up on me,” she said.
After Telegraph Money contacted the company about the delay, Ms Smith was refunded.
Airline profits rocked by fierce headwinds from coronavirus
Two of the world’s most prominent airlines have warned of a hit to profits from the coronavirus outbreak, Tom Rees reports.
Air France-KLM said Covid-19 has had a “severe effect” that could knock profits by as much as €200m (£167m), with China accounting for more than 5pc of the giant’s flights last year.
Meanwhile, Qantas predicted the virus would wipe up to A$150m (£77m) off annual profits after cutting its flights to Asia by 15pc until at least the end of May.
Newspaper slams China for ‘direct threat to free speech’
A Nepalese newspaper on Thursday slammed Beijing for trying to muzzle free speech after it was accused of “deliberate” and “malicious” smearing by the Chinese embassy in the Himalayan nation, AFP has reported.
The embassy had sharply criticised the Kathmandu Post on Tuesday for publishing a syndicated column which argued that China’s authoritarian system of government had worsened the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
The reaction from the embassy came as China ordered three Wall Street Journal reporters to leave the country over an op-ed headline that Beijing had deemed racist, one of the country’s harshest moves against foreign media in years.
The Kathmandu Post said in an editorial:
“The undiplomatic – and frankly menacing – manner in which the Chinese embassy made its objections known is condemnable.
“The actions of the embassy… can be perceived as a direct threat to the Nepali people’s right to a free press, freedom of opinion and freedom of expression.
“China can… express its reservations. What it cannot do, especially in a democracy, is demand that articles be taken down and then issue veiled threats against the editor of a foreign newspaper.”
Hubei businesses to remain closed until mid March
People’s Daily, a Chinese state run media outlet, has tweeted that officials in Hubei province – the region at the epicentre of the outbreak – have asked businesses and schools to remain closed until March 10.
In a more lighthearted post, the outlet has also tweeted a video of health workers taking a break from the outbreak response to dance. “Drop the beat!” reads the caption: 12:21PM
Confirmed case definition changes
China reported a dramatic decrease in new coronavirus infections on Thursday, as health officials changed the way they counted confirmed cases for the second time in over a week.
According to the Hubei health commission, the Chinese government will no longer count “clinically confirmed” cases among the official total infections.
This is a reversal of the decision made last week which was said to include patients who had tested negative for the virus but still showed symptoms.12:13PM
New cases did not have contact with Chinese nationals, Iran says
Mohammad Mahdi Gouya, Iran’s deputy health minister, has said that three new patients diagnosed on Thursday did not appear to have had any contact with Chinese nationals.
State-run IRNA news agency reported that the three new cases are all Iranians residing in Qom. One of the infected is said to have visited the city of Arak.
Iranian authorities were now investigating the origin of the disease, and its possible link with religious pilgrims from Pakistan or other countries.
All schools and universities, including religious Shiite seminaries, have been shut down in the holy city of Qom, IRNA reports.
An official in Iran’s health ministry, Kiyanoush Jahanpour tweeted that the number of confirmed cases of the virus in Iran has risen to five, including the two elderly Iranian patients who died on Wednesday in Qom.11:58AM
Jump in Diamond Princess cases
An additional 13 people on board the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship have been diagnosed with coronavirus, Japanese authorities confirm.
This takes the number of infected passengers up to 63411:41AM
British Airways suspends flights to mainland China until April
A spokesman for British Airways said:
“In line with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s continued advice against all but essential travel to mainland China, we are cancelling flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai until 17April 2020.
“We continue to fly to and from Hong Kong.
“We will be contacting customers on cancelled flights so we can discuss their travel options, including rebooking onto other carriers where possible, full refunds or booking with BA for a later date of travel. Customers can also find the latest information and options on BA.com.
“Safety is at the heart of everything we do and we will keep the situation under review.”
Covid-19 could have originated in pangolins
Coronaviruses found in pangolins are 85.5 to 92.4 per cent similar to the one behind the Covid-19 outbreak which originated in China, research by a team of Chinese virologists has found.
Similarities raised by the study suggest that the scaly anteater should be considered as a possible intermediate hosts for transmitting the virus to humans.
The research was led by Guan Yi, an expert whose work was key during the Sars outbreak.
Pangolins are believed to be the world’s most-trafficked animal, coveted for the use of their scales in traditional Chinese medicine and as a luxury food in Asia.
Nearly 900,000 pangolins are thought to have been trafficked across Southeast Asia in the last two decades, said Traffic, a wildlife watchdog, in a new report Thursday about the challenges in tackling the illicit trade.11:11AM
Diamond Princess passengers to land in Wiltshire
The plane carrying British passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship will land at the MoD base Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, the Press Association reports.
Around 70 Britons will be on the repatriation flight, which is expected to leave Tokyo late tomorrow night.10:44AM
Coronavirus is much more similar to flu than first thought
Scientists in China who studied nose and throat swabs from 18 patients infected with the new coronavirus say it behaves much more like influenza than other closely related viruses, Reuters reports.
In at least in one case, the virus was present even though the patient had no symptoms, confirming concerns that asymptomatic patients could also spread the disease.
Unlike Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which causes infections deep in the lower respiratory tract that can result in pneumonia, COVID-19 appears to inhabit both the upper and lower respiratory tracts.
That would make it not only capable of causing severe pneumonia, but of spreading easily like flu or the common cold.
The findings add to evidence that this new virus, though genetically similar, is not behaving like SARS, said Kristian Andersen, an immunologist at Scripps Research in La Jolla who uses gene sequencing tools to track disease outbreaks.
“This virus is clearly much more capable of spreading between humans than any other novel coronavirus we’ve ever seen. This is more akin to the spread of flu,” said Andersen, who was not involved with the study.
Westerdam passengers journey home
Britons in Cambodia who left the Westerdam cruise ship and have been cleared for travel are being assisted by the Foreign Office to make their way home, sources told the PA news agency.
The group, who have all tested negative for coronavirus in Cambodia, are receiving health advice and being helped with commercial flight bookings.
The number of Britons in the group has not been disclosed and it is unclear whether some have already come back to the UK.
Public Health England said airport health teams will meet the flights and speak to Westerdam passengers about any symptoms.
If they do not have symptoms, the group will be given health advice and told to self-isolate at home for 14 days, PHE said.
If they have symptoms, they will be taken to hospital for testing.10:28AM
Coronavirus cost could reach $1.1tn
A leading economic forecaster has said that the coronavirus could cost the global economy more than $1tn in lost output if it turns into a pandemic, the Guardian reports.
Oxford Economics warned that the spread of the virus to regions outside Asia would knock 1.3% off global growth this year, the equivalent of $1.1tn in lost income.
The consultancy said its model of the global economy showed the virus was already having a “chilling effect” as factory closures in China spilled over to neighbouring countries and major companies struggled to source components and finished goods from the far east.9:49AM
Three Iranians test positive
Three Iranian patients have tested positive for the new coronavirus disease, state-run news outlet ISNA reports.
Two elderly Iranian citizens reportedly succumbed to the virus in Qom (about 86 miles south of the capital Tehran) on Tuesday.
According to the ISNA, five hospitals have now been designated for the treatment of cases.9:36AM
First death in South Korea
South Korea has become the latest country outside of mainland China to report a fatality in the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not provided any details about the case, but it comes as the country recorded a jump in cases – 82 have now been identified.
Other deaths outside mainland China have been in Iran, the Philippines, Japan, France, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
A fight against the weather
Photos have emerged of the lengths authorities are going to in order to reach remote communities.
Here, police officers wearing protective face masks ride horses through a snow storm, on their way to visit residents who live in Altay, in farwest China’s Xinjiang region, to promote the awareness of the coronavirus.
David and Sally Abel post pictures from hospital bed
A British couple diagnosed with coronavirus in Japan have said they are “in the best place” as they posted pictures from their hospital beds.
David and Sally Abel, from Northamptonshire, have been transferred for hospital treatment from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has been quarantined near Yokohama, Japan.
In a Facebook post, Mr Abel said: “We arrived in lovely hospital a couple of hours ago. Taken by ambulance blues and twos the entire journey.
“Outside the hospital I came over a bit weird and nearly passed out. Every pore on my body opened and I was wheelchaired to our room.
“Full health inspection and now we know what’s going on. We both contracted a cold (unaware of) and it has not yet turned into pneumonia. (we do have coronavirus).
“Tomorrow the big tests commence. chest x-rays, ECG, chest scan, urine + more.
“We are both in the best place! They do know what they are doing and our two nurses are gorgeous. Sally likes the Dr too.”
Mr Abel said that following treatment, the couple will need three rounds of all-clears on coronavirus tests.5:43AM
South Korea’s ‘super-spreader’
A sharp rise in cases of the novel coronavirus in South Korea has been traced back to a “super-spreader” of the illness who is believed to have infected at least 40 people after attending church services in the city of Daegu, Julian Ryall reports.
The South Korean government reported 31 new cases of the virus on Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed infections so far to 82.
Of the 31 new cases, 30 are in Daegu, 190 miles south-east of Seoul, and 23 of those confirmed infections have been linked to a 61-year-old woman who was diagnosed with the illness on Monday. Seventeen cases were linked to the woman, who has not been named, earlier in the week.
The outbreak is likely to worsen, however, as at least 1,000 people attended church services at the same time as the women. The Shincheonji Church of Jesus has been shut down by the authorities. The woman also used public transport to travel around Daegu.
Japan hits back at criticism
The rapid spread of the virus and the quarantine operation has sparked criticism of Japanese authorities just months before Tokyo is due to host the Summer Olympics.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga defended Japan’s efforts. He told a news conference that after measures were put in place to isolate passengers on Feb. 5, the number of new infections was now almost at zero. “In that sense, we believe the isolation was effective,” he said.
The health ministry said it had conducted “consultations on appropriate infection control in the ship” with experts and taken a range of measures.
It also released a video showing passengers how to wash and disinfect their hands properly and had “proper hygiene management” for medical workers entering and coming off the ship.
In addition, risky and safe areas were strictly divided and there was a station installed for safely removing contaminated gear, the ministry said.
“We’ve been doing our best in the circumstances,” Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told MPs on Thursday morning.
“I want you to understand that not only our officials at the health ministry but also Self-Defence Forces officials and medical officials are working desperately hard,” he added.
British embassy comments on evacuation flight
A spokesperson for the British Embassy in Tokyo says every one of the 78 British nationals aboard the ship, both passengers and crew, have been contacted individually and “strongly urged” to register for the evacuation flight that is scheduled to leave Tokyo on Friday, Julian Ryall reports.
The embassy does not have an exact number of people who will be boarding the flight, however, as some are dual nationals who are not residents of the UK and may choose to fly to their country of residence.
Similarly, those who have been diagnosed with the virus and are being treated in Japanese hospitals will not be aboard the flight, the official said.
The embassy will continue to offer consular support to any British nationals who remain in Japan after Friday’s flight and assist those who complete the quarantine period and are allowed to return to the UK aboard commercial flights. 3:32AM
Biggest drop in new cases in a month
China reported the biggest drop in new cases from the coronavirus outbreak in nearly a month on Thursday, AFP reports. .
The National Health Commission said that more than 74,500 people have now been infected nationwide by the virus, which first emerged in central Hubei province in December.
The death toll jumped to 2,118 on Thursday after 114 new deaths were reported – most in Hubei province, the hard-hit epicentre of the outbreak.
Most of the new cases were in the provincial capital Wuhan, where the virus first emerged.
Hubei health officials said on Thursday there had been 615 new cases in Wuhan and 13 more elsewhere in the province.
However, the Hubei health commission said it was reducing the number of previously reported cases in a number of cities in the province by 279.
Even without the adjustment, the number of new cases was sharply lower than the province’s daily updates of recent weeks. On Wednesday, there were 1,693 new cases reported in Hubei.
National health officials said the over-reporting in Hubei was after nucleic acid tests were carried out on patients previously confirmed using lung imaging.
After the adjustment, the number of new cases confirmed nationwide was 394, the National Health Commission said.2:47AM
Two cruise ship passengers reportedly die
Two passengers from the Diamond Princess have reportedly died from the coronavirus – the first reported fatalities from the virus-stricken cruise ship.
Broadcaster NHK, citing a government source, reports that the victims were a man and woman in their 80s. 1:35AM
180 Australians arrive in Darwin after cruise ship quarantine
Around 180 Australians evacuated from a virus-stricken cruise ship have arrived in the city of Darwin to begin a second quarantine period.
The former cruise ship passengers will spend the next two weeks in a camp facility near the northern Australian city, Australian health officials said.
The group of Australian evacuees was flown from Japan in the early hours of Thursday morning on a Qantas 747 chartered by the Australian government.
Not evacuated were 46 Australians from the Diamond Princess who tested positive for the coronavirus and who will be treated in the Japanese health system.
More than 200 people are already quarantined at the Howard Springs facility after being evacuated from Wuhan, the central Chinese city that is the epicentre of the viral outbreak. The new group will be kept separate from the Wuhan evacuees, who remain in good health, Di Stephens, acting chief health officer of the Northern Territory, of which Darwin is the capital, said before the flight left Japan.
“These people need to go into quarantine because we are not entirely convinced that the quarantine procedures on that ship were 100% effective,” Stephens said. “They’ll be completely separated at the facility, they’ll have separate medical staff looking after them and separate support staff in that quarantine zone.”1:25AM
South Korea reports 31 new cases
South Korea reported 31 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the number of people infected in the country to 82, Korea’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said in a statement.
Of the new cases, 23 cases were traced to church services that a 61-year-old patient who has tested positive had attended in the central city of Daegu, the agency said.
On Wednesday, Shincheonji Church posted a statement on its website confirming 10 of its members were infected by the woman, who had attended services.
Here’s a look at the number of confirmed cases worldwide.
Britons left in limbo
British passengers on the coronavirus-hit cruise ship moored near Tokyo have criticised the “slow” response from the UK government, stating that they feel like they have been “left behind”.
On Wednesday, around 500 passengers who tested negative were allowed to disembark, but the British Foreign Office (FCO) has urged UK nationals to stay on board until they can organise the flight home.
A FCO spokesperson told the Telegraph on Wednesday that staying on the ship “is the best way to guarantee getting on a flight.”
But Britons feel like the advice has left them in limbo. Elaine Spencer, who is on board the Diamond Princess, said:
“We’re still waiting for them [the FCO] to give us a flight and at the moment we feel like we’ve been left behind.”
More than 621 people have been infected with the virus on the liner. At least six of those infected are believed to be British. 12:39AM
Evacuation flight planned for Friday
The Foreign Office has confirmed an evacuation flight will depart on Friday from Tokyo to the UK for British citizens on board the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.
Source The Telegraph.
“We’ve organised an evacuation flight for British nationals on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship to depart Tokyo on Friday.
“Details have been sent to those who have registered for the flight. We urge other British nationals still seeking to leave to contact us.
“We will continue to support British nationals who wish to stay in Japan.”