Australian Diamond Princess passenger tests positive
An eighth Australian passenger from the Diamond Princess cruise ship has tested positive for the virus. His partner had already tested positive, and so he has been in isolation, and will now receive treatment.
Back to the Australian authorities, who are giving a lot of detail about the response plans and current situation in the island country.
Minister Greg Hunt says more than 3,000 tests have been done in Australia, of which only 15 in the general population have come back positive.
Under Australian law and the official declaration by Murphy, the federal government has quarantine powers, as well as the individual states, and that includes forcible quarantining of people. (The context to this is a discussion on ABC TV’s Q&A program on Monday, which saw disturbing footage of Chinese authorities forcibly taking people from their homes and to quarantine. Expert panellists noted that Australia had the power to do the same.)
“The states themselves have their own bio security arrangements and, for example, they have been monitoring the home isolation and they have powers. If they need them. We have powers if we need them.”
Just to jump in, while the Australian press conference continues, we brought you the updated infection numbers from China a short time ago.
The death toll of 52 people on Tuesday is the lowest daily figure from mainland China in more than three weeks, AFP is reporting.
The number of fresh cases has declined in China, with multiple provinces reporting zero new infections in recent days.
Only five cases were reported outside the epicentre, the lowest in over a month.
Amid questions on how long an event they are preparing for, Murphy notes that a slow paced outbreak puts far less pressure on the health system, even if it has a longer impact.
“There’s always a possibility with a new virus that it could persist and come back on a seasonal basis. We don’t know these things.”
Health minister Greg Hunt says it is a possibility that events like AFL matches could be cancelled, but that it was a “last resort”.
Asked about this year’s Olympics in Japan, Hunt says the health of the general population and athletes is the priority, and assessments would be made closer to the date. Athletes will be the first to know, but in the meantime “just keep training”.
Australia is still contained, with no community transmissions, the country’s chief medical officer has said. This means Australians don’t need to start behaving in ways other than normal, or wear masks.
But authorities are preparing “because of the developing international scenario”, and based on modified pandemic plans that have been developed for years.
“We are working very closely with the states and territories who run the public hospitals with primary care, the general practices. Aged care is a big part of our plan,” Professor Brendan Murphy has told reporters.
Asked about the growing likelihood that a pandemic would be declared, Murphy said that “doesn’t really change what we’re doing at all”.
“More cases in Australia, more community transmissions in Australia, definitely does.”
In the eventuation of that, public health authorities would do contact tracing if it was a small outbreak. If it was bigger then authorities would respond differently where they were “not trying to fully contain but limit the spread of transmission”.
If it got to a certain size they might start closing schools or changing configurations of hospitals, he says.
The message, essentially, is that authorities are flexible and will adapt to the circumstances.
406 new cases in mainland China, 52 dead
Chinese authorities have reported that 406 new cases were confirmed on Tuesday, a drop on Monday’s 508, bringing the total number of cases in mainland China to 78,064, and 2,715 dead.
Of the 406, 401 were in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak. The previous day saw 499.
52 people died from Covid-19 in Hubei province on Tuesday, fewer than the 68 reported on Monday.
There was one new confirmed case in the province of Shandong, two in Sichuan, one in Heibei, as well as four new confirmed cases in Hong Kong and one in Taiwan, according to Tencent.
More Chinese provinces have downgraded their emergency response levels, within China’s four-tiered alert system, Reuters is reporting.
The northwestern Chinese regions of Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang and the southwestern province of Sichuan have downgraded their emergency response level after assessing that health risks from the coronavirus outbreak have receded, state media has reported.
The provinces of Gansu, Yunnan, Guangdong, Shanxi, Guizhou and Anhui have also cut their emergency response levels in the last few days.
Some regions, including Fujian in the southeast, are also starting to dismantle emergency roadblocks designed to screen incoming vehicles and curb the contagion.
China quarantines 94 people on flight from Seoul
China has quarantined 94 air passengers arriving from Seoul after three people on the flight were discovered to have fevers, state media reported Wednesday.
The three passengers, all Chinese, arrived in the city of Nanjing on Tuesday morning and were discovered after customs personnel boarded the aircraft on landing to screen passengers for symptoms, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said.
The three were immediately sent by ambulance to a hospital for isolation and testing, while 94 people who had sat near them on the plane were sent to a hotel to be quarantined, CCTV said.
None of the three people with fevers had any history of travel to Wuhan, where the outbreak originated.
Agence France-Presse has further detail from South Korea:
An 11th person had died of the disease, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) added in a statement on its website – a Mongolian man in his 30s who became the first foreign national to fall victim to the outbreak.
Yonhap news agency reported that he had been in hospital in the South awaiting a liver transplant.
The vast majority – 90% – of the new infections were in Daegu, the country’s fourth-largest city and the epicentre of the outbreak, and the neighbouring province of North Gyeongsang.
Between them they account for more than 80% of the national total.
The streets of Daegu – which has a population of 2.5 million – have been largely deserted for days, apart from long queues at the few shops with masks for sale.
Authorities urged the public to exercise extra caution, advising citizens to stay home if they have a fever or respiratory symptoms.
“The government will mobilise all resources and means” to try to control the outbreak, Prime Minster Chung Sye-kyun told a meeting in Daegu, where he is leading the government response, Yonhap news agency reported.
Here’s a bit more detail on the new cases in South Korea:
Of the 169 new cases, 134 were from Daegu city, where a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which has been linked to outbreaks, is located.
The BBC’s correspondent in South Korea is reporting that an official in Daegu who had a meeting with the president has tested positive for coronavirus.
169 new cases in South Korea
South Korea has reported 169 more cases of new coronavirus, mostly in and around Daegu, bringing total infections to 1,146, according to the Associated Press.
Virgin ceases all services from Australia to Hong Kong
The impact of months of civil unrest and now coronavirus has seen Australian airline, Virgin, lose more than $130m in earnings on its flight routes to Hong Kong, my colleague Alyx Gorman reports from the company’s half yearly call.
The company had already said last year it would wind up its Melbourne-Hong Kong route, but keep the daily Sydney-Hong Kong flight, however then in February said the Sydney route would also end.
The inpact of Hong Kong’s months of protests and now coronavirus has prompted the airline to exit early. Virgin will cease all services to Hong Kong in March.
CEO Paul Scurrah said: “the coronavirus meant we moved faster on a withdrawal.”
“It’s pretty much across the board with a leaning towards leisure destinations heavily reliant on Chinese tourism,” said Scurrah of the other affected routes.
The company said there was a potential $50m-55m impact on the Virgin Group’s domestic earnings in 2H20, including $14m on Tigerair and $35m-40m on Virgin Australia Domestic. The domestic demand was impacted by low GDP growth and the Australian bushfire crisis.