1,868 dead, infections top 72,000: Virus update

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People on a deck of the Westerdam cruise ship watch a helicopter take off in Sihanoukville on Tuesday, as authorities checked if any passengers that remained could have the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Japan said it expected to remove all passengers from the stricken Diamond Princess by Friday and South Korea said it would evacuate its citizens from the luxury cruise liner, which remains docked at the port of Yokohama.

Health authorities from the Netherlands to Thailand are tracking travellers from the Westerdamcruise liner as they fan out toward home, after an American passenger was found to be infected.

The moves come as Hong Kong’s government seeks close to HK$28 billion ($3.6 billion) in funding from the city’s Legislative Council for virus control and prevention measures, leader Carrie Lam said, following weeks of criticism from groups who said she wasn’t doing enough to protect the financial hub.

China reported that 1,886 additional coronavirus cases emerged Monday and there were 98 more deaths, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 72,436.

Key Developments

– China death toll 1,868; mainland cases rise to 72,436

– Hubei says 1,807 new cases; 93 more deaths

– Hong Kong seeks billions for virus measures

Diamond Princessguests expected to disembark by Friday

– South Korea evacuating its citizens from ship

– Chinese study says most virus cases are mild

Westerdampassengers head home, stoking global concerns

– Macau casinos will reopen

– Apple misses quarterly revenue target over virus

Hong Kong wants virus funding ‘soon as possible’: Lam (9.35am)

Lam revised a previous funding request for “at least” HK$25 billion after further review and industry consultation, she told reporters at a weekly briefing before meeting with Hong Kong’s Executive Council.

“I sincerely hope legislators could pass the funding application as soon as possible. We will explain the urgency and implementation timetable for each measure in the documents submitted to LegCo,” she said.

Medical personnel in the city previously went on strike in a bid to pressure the chief executive to fully seal off the mainland border, but she stopped short. Hong Kong has also been plagued in recent weeks by a shortage of surgical masks and runs on products including hand sanitizer and toilet paper.

South Korea evacuating citizens from Diamond Princess(9.20am)

South Korea’s health ministry said it would send a plane to evacuate its citizens from the stricken Diamond Princesscruise line in Japan Tuesday afternoon, returning to Seoul Wednesday morning.

The ministry said at a briefing that five people — four Koreans and one’s Japanese spouse — want to return to Korea.

There are 14 South Koreans aboard, including five crew members, and no reported cases of coronavirus among them yet, broadcaster YTN reported earlier. The move comes the day after Australia said it would use a Wednesday chartered flight to evacuate some 200 citizens and permanent residents who have been stranded on the ship.

China tightens internet access, blocks VPNs (8.32am)

China is tightening access to the global internet by blocking popular virtual private networks, or VPNs. Beijing often clamps down on the services, which allow Chinese internet users to reach walled-off sites like Google and Twitter, during politically sensitive periods. “Our team continues to work around the clock to address the new escalation in blocks in China,” ExpressVPN, one of the largest services, wrote on its public website Tuesday.

Diamond Princessdisembarkation to begin Wednesday (7.45am)

Japan has taken test samples from all passengers aboard the Diamond Princess, health minister Katsunobu Kato said at a briefing in Tokyo. Disembarkation will start on Wednesday and is expected to be completed by Friday, he said, adding that the ship’s crew would also be tested.

Chinese study says most cases mild (7.38am)

A report by Chinese health officials indicated the vast majority of coronavirus cases are mild. The study, which appeared in the Chinese CDC Weekly, analysed more than 72,000 patients, including confirmed and suspected cases, through Feb 11. Of the confirmed cases, 81% were considered mild, while 14% were severe and 4.7% were critical. Some 87% of the confirmed cases were between the ages of 30 and 79.

The study reported a case fatality rate of 2.3%, with most of the cases in Hubei province. That compares with a 9.5% fatality rate for SARS, and as much as 0.4% for the 2009 H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic. The majority of deaths occurred in patients over 60 years old.

China says more patients discharged (7.01am)

A statement from China’s National Health Commission reported the additional 1,886 cases and said 12,552 patients have been discharged.

Infected Westerdampassengers trigger fear worldwide (5am)

Health authorities from the Netherlands to Thailand are implementing measures to deal with travellers from the shunned Westerdamcruise liner as they fan out toward home, in an effort to prevent a further spread of the virusafter an American passenger was found to be infected.

Cruise operator Holland America Line, which gave assurances that the virus hadn’t struck anyone aboard the Westerdam, now says it’s working with authorities to deal with the possible fallout from returning guests who may have been exposed. Those aboard came from 41 countries and territories, and the largest contingent was from the US.

Macau’s casinos reopening Feb 20 (4.28am)

The reopening will be conditional based on criteria the city’s Secretary for Economy and Finance Lei Wai Nong didn’t specify in making the announcement. Casinos that need more time to prepare for the reopening will be given a 30-day buffer period. Macau’s famous gaming centre has been closed for weeks in a bid to contain the virus’s spread.

Apple to miss guidance because of virus (4.15am)

Apple Inc. doesn’t expect to meet its revenue guidance for the quarter ending in March due to work slowdowns from the outbreak of coronavirus in China. The company said it anticipates global supply of the iPhone to be “temporarily constrained.”

Damage cause by virus resembles SARS, MERS (2am)

Doctors studying a 50-year-old man who died in China last month from the new coronavirus found that the disease caused lung damage reminiscent of two prior coronavirus-related outbreaks, SARS and MERS.

Cruise travel risks remain ‘manageable’ despite virus, WHO Says: (12am)

Cruise ship travel remains a “manageable risk” for now, and it doesn’t make sense to recommend a ban on it, the World Health Organization said, even as the return home of 3,000 travellers from two coronavirus-stricken cruise ships fuels fears of further contagion.

“People say we should steer clear of cruise ships, or steer clear of airports or steer clear of certain ethnic groups,” Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said at a press briefing Monday at the organization’s Geneva headquarters. “We have to be really careful” of such suggestions. “We need an approach to managing risk that allows us to continue to operate as a society.”