The death toll from China’s coronavirus epidemic jumped past 1,600 on Sunday, as the World Health Organization (WHO) praised the country’s efforts to contain the new disease, saying they have “bought the world time” and that other nations must make the most of it.
France, meanwhile, reported Europe’s first death from the infection, a Chinese tourist from Hubei province, where the disease, known as COVID-19, emerged in December.
More than two dozen countries have confirmed cases and several have suspended trade and travel links with China in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of WHO, urged governments to step up their efforts to prepare for the virus, saying: “It’s impossible to predict which direction this epidemic will take.”
The agency is “concerned by the continued increase in the number of cases in China”, and by reports about the number of health workers who have been infected or died, Tedros said, criticising what he called a “lack of urgency in funding the response from the international community”.
Here are all the latest updates:
Sunday, February 16
Malaysia insists virus diagnosis from cruise passenger is correct
Malaysia insisted Sunday it had correctly diagnosed coronavirus in an elderly American woman from the Westerdam cruise ship despite all passengers having been given a clean bill of health when they disembarked in Cambodia.
The vessel was at sea for two weeks and barred from Japan, Guam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand, until Cambodia – a staunch ally of Beijing – allowed the ship to dock Thursday in Sihanoukville.
Cambodia urged Kuala Lumpur on Sunday to “double-check” the diagnosis, but Malaysian deputy prime minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the 83-year-old American woman had already been tested twice: “Our protocol is actually world-class… it’s a positive,” she told a press conference.
Taiwan reports first death from virus
The first death due to COVID-19 has been reported in Taiwan, its health minister said on Sunday.
The deceased was a taxi driver in his 60s and was hospitalised on February 3 due to shortness of breath, which led to a diagnosis of pneumonia. He died late on Saturday, Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung told a televised news conference.
According to Chen, one of the man’s family members also contracted the virus. While the man had not travelled abroad, he had previously transported people from China, Hong Kong and Macau.
Hong Kong protesters rally against virus quarantine centres
Hundreds of demonstrators rallied for a second day in Hong Kong on Sunday to protest against plans to turn some buildings into coronavirus quarantine centres, reviving anti-government protests in the Chinese-ruled city.
About 100 people braved rain in the New Territories district of Fo Tan, where authorities plan to use a newly built residential development that was subsidized by the government as a quarantine centre. Riot police stood by.
Beijing theme park to open on schedule
The Universal Studios Beijing theme park is expected to open to the public in May 2021 as scheduled despite the current coronavirus outbreak, a Beijing municipal official told a news briefing on Sunday.
Construction of the theme park, the fifth such Universal Studios park in the world, is expected to be completed by the end of 2020, the official said.
Hubei province bans vehicle traffic to curb spread of coronavirus
The government of Hubei province, the centre of China’s coronavirus outbreak, said on Sunday a ban will be imposed on vehicle traffic across the province to curb the spread of the virus.
In a published document, it said police cars, ambulances, vehicles carrying essential goods, or other vehicles related to public service would be exempted.
It added that the province will carry out regular health checks on all residents in the province. It also stated that companies cannot resume work without first receiving permission from the government.
Nepal evacuates 175 citizens from Wuhan after coronavirus outbreak
Nepal on Sunday evacuated 175 of its nationals from the Chinese city of Wuhan, an official said, after protests by parents of students studying in the city.
A plane operated by state-owned Nepal Airlines carrying 134 men and 41 women, mostly students, landed at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport before dawn, Health Ministry spokesman Mahendra Shrestha said. All evacuees will be held in quarantine for two weeks in the nearby town of Bhaktapur.
“They will be under the close observation of doctors in quarantine and will be allowed to join their families if found healthy after two weeks,” Shrestha told Reuters.