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Coronavirus death toll rises over 200 — As it developed

January 30, 2020

The WHO declared an international emergency over the "unprecedented outbreak" in China, but said they were confident in China's capacity to control it. Meanwhile, airlines were halting flights to the country.

Kenia Cremitglieder der China Southern Airlines | Corona-Virus
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Ngugi

All updates in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC/GMT)

23:20 This concludes our live updates on the coronavirus outbreak in China for the moment. More information on the outbreak is available on our page and on DW TV. Thank you for joining us.

23:10 The death toll from the coronavirus rose to 213 in China, after the worst-hit province of Hubei reported dozens of new fatalities on Friday.

21:30 Italy has also confirmed its first two cases of coronavirus. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that two Chinese tourists contracted the virus. In response, Italy has moved to close air traffic to and from China.

21:20 A fifth case of coronavirus has been confirmed in Germany. The patient is also located in the southern state of Bavaria, and worked at the same company as the other four people contracted the virus, the state health ministry said in a statement. The patients were infected by a colleague visiting from China.

20:50 The US has authorized some employees at the Beijing embassy and consulate employees across China to leave the country. The move was made "out of an abundance of caution," the state department said. Family members and all non-emergency US government employees will be allowed to leave.

20:42 The WHO provided a lower number of infected than the one previously provided by the media, saying there were 7,834 confirmed cases. Almost 99% of these cases were reported in China.

WHO declares coronavirus a global health emergency

20:28 Italian authorities lifted the lockdown on the Costa Smeralda cruise ship after two of its passengers were tested for coronavirus and the tests came back negative. Over 6,500 people can now disembark, the Italian Health Ministry said.

20:17 After traveling to China a few days ago, the WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he "left in absolutely no doubt about China's commitment to transparency, and to protecting the world's people."

"Let me be clear: this declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China. On the contrary, WHO continues to have confidence in China's capacity to control the outbreak," he said at a press conference in Switzerland.

20:09 The WHO urged supporting countries with weaker health care systems.

"The only way we will defeat this outbreak is for all countries to work together in a spirit of solidarity and cooperation," said the head of the WHO Tedros. "We are all in this together, and we can only stop it together," he was quoted as saying on UN agency's official Twitter account.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom praised China's response to the outbreak from GenevaImage: Getty Images/AFP/F. Coffrini

20:04 While declaring the global emergency, Tedros also said the WHO did not advise trade and travel restrictions for China.

20:02 The WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised China's response to the coronavirus outbreak, saying Beijing was "setting a new standard" with their efforts.

"We have to appreciate what China is doing," Tedros told reporters in Geneva.

19:50 The WHO sounded the global alarm over the Wuhan-based outbreak which has killed 170 people since first being reported in late December. The coronavirus epidemic is now officially an international health emergency. Nations around the world are now invited to coordinate their response under the global agency.Click here to learn more about what constitues the  emergencies.

19:41 Virgin Airlines will suspend daily flights to Shanghai starting on Sunday for the next two weeks, but would still operate flights to Hong Kong, the airline said on Thursday.

19:18 Italian authorities announced that the Chinese passengers on the cruise ship Costa Smeralda do not have coronavirus, after the ship with 7,000 people onboard was put on lockdown in the port of Civitavecchia near Rome.

19:04 Police in Kazakhstan detained a doctor for spreading "false information" on the coronavirus outbreak. The gynecologist appeared in a online video claiming that around 70 people were registered as infected with the coronavirus in the southestern Almaty region, which includes the two-million-people city of Almaty. The country's health ministry denied the information, saying there were no cases of coronavirus infection registered in the ex-Soviet republic bordering China.

"He has admitted to knowingly sharing false information, and he claims to be sincerely sorry about it," local police chief Serik Kudebayev said on Thursday.

18:21 Israel has banned all flights from China from landing on Israeli airports.

"We shall not allow any flight in the near future from China to land in this country, not one," Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said during a televised press conference on Thursday evening.

18:05 North Korea said it had taken "strong preventative measures" on the outbreak to keep the coronavirus out. The isolated nation borders China and welcomes thousands of Chinese tourists every year. Kim Dong Gun from North Korea's Health Ministry said that the nation's anti-epidemic watchdog boosted controls at border crossings, harbors and airports and health workers were "exerting all their efforts to fin d out, segregate and cure any patients and any suspected patients."

17:57 US health officials confirmed that a husband of a Chicago-based woman caught the virus after his wife returned from Wuhan, marking the first person-to-person transmission on US soil. This marks the sixth reported case in the US.

McDonald's restaurant in Moscow's Pushkin Square
'30 years of friendship' says the slogan on the McDonald's restaurant in Moscow's Pushkin SquareImage: imago images/ITAR-TASS

17:53 The coronavirus outbreak prompted Russia's first McDonald's restaurant to cancel a ploy marking its 30th anniversary. Originally, the Moscow-based restaurant intended to drastically drop the price of a Big Macs to its 1990 level, selling it for around 2.2% percent of its usual cost. However, the restaurant gave up the plan after Moscow authorities advised against big crowds.

17:30 Stock markets in Asia and around the world slumped amid concerning news of the coronavirus outbreak, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng down 2.6% and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange losing 2.45%. The stock market in Shanghai, the largest in mainland China, was closed due to a public holiday. Japan's Nikkei shed 1.7% percent.

In Europe, London's FTSE 100, Frankfurt's DAX 30 the CAC 40 in Paris all finished Thursday's trading down more than 1% of value.

16:54 Swedish-based carmaker Volvo prolongs Lunar New Year break for its China plants, following similar decisions by Germany's BMW and Volkswagen.

16:45 The Boston Symphony Orchestra has canceled its Asia tour amid the escalating outbreak.

16:42 After Italian cruise ship Costa Smeralda was put in lockdown over a 54-year-old woman from Macau, and medical staff boarded the ship anchored near Rome to test her, a press officer for the Italian Health Ministry said preliminary results indicated she did not  have coronavirus.

"First results seem negative, but let's wait for the definitive results," he told German press agency DPA.

16:28 The number of people infected by the coronavirus has topped 7,800 by Thursday evening, according to the WHO. Two weeks ago, there were only 40 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection. No deaths were so far reported outside of China.

Workers naps at coronavirus
Worker takes a break at the Wuhan construction site where a new coronavirus hospital is being builtImage: Getty Images

16:19 The chief health official in the Chinese city of Huanggang, which was fired on Thursday, sparked public anger with a TV appearance earlier on the same day. The city has nearly 500 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and 12 deaths.

Tang Zhihong was questioned by a central government inspection team a reporter while on air.

"I don't know, I'm unclear," she said when asked how many people were sick. "I only know how many beds there are. Don't ask me how many people are being treated."

Her performance prompted thousands of angry comments on China's microblogging platform Weibo within the hours of being posted, 

15:53 US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the coronavirus outbreak would likely "help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America."

"I don't want to talk about a victory lap over a very unfortunate, very malignant disease but the fact is, it does give businesses yet another thing to consider," he told the US-based Fox Business TV channel.

15:19 The car plants operated by Germany's carmaker Volkswagen and their Chinese partners in mainland China will stay closed to avoid the risk of a coronavirus outbreak. The workers are currently on a prolonged Lunar New Year holiday. The factories are set to resume production on the 9th and 10th of February.

15:08 The four coronavirus patients in Germany remain isolated and under medical supervision at a Munich hospital, but show "no symptoms, no fever, are not coughing," according to Chief of Medicine Clemens Wendtner.

"They are so bored that they keep annoying us by asking to go home," the doctor told Germany's DPA news agency.

14:56 Coronavirus killed 38 people in the last 24 hours in China, the Chinese government reported on Thursday. This marks the deadliest day since the outbreak started late last month.

Costa Smeralda at port of Civitavecchia
The Italian ship Costa Smeralda is on lockdown in the port of Civitavecchia with a Chinese woman running a feverImage: Reuters

14:50 Italian cruise line Costa Crociere confirmed their ship with 7,000 people on board was in lockdown at an Italian port Civitavecchia over two Chinese passengers. Three doctors and a nurse boarded the vessel, anchored northwest of Rome, where a 54-year-old woman from Macau and her travel companion were placed "in solitary confinement."

The rest of some 750 Chinese passengers all appear to be in good health, according to media reports.

14:33 Air France said it would suspend its flights to and from mainland China until February 9th, after several other carriers did the same. 

14:22 Paris has postponed its Lunar New Year parade, originally scheduled for Sunday, citing concerns over the coronavirus.

"The Chinese community is not in the mood for partying, the situation is too complicated with what is happening in China," mayor Jerome Coumet told the AFP news agency.

Coronavirus: Hoaxes and fake news

14:05 Chinese officials fired the top health official in China's Huanggang city, which is located close to the outbreak epicenter in Wuhan. The city's health department did not provide details on the dismissal.

14:03 A group of Spanish citizens is expected to fly back from Wuhan in a joint repatriation effort with the UK, Spanish authorities said. Previously, Spain's Health Minister Salvador Illa said that the group of about 20 people will spend two weeks in quarantine after their return. 

13:59 Vietnam said it will stop issuing visas to Chinese tourists over the outbreak.

13:41 The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus has topped 7,800 globally. Nearly all of them (7,711) were on the Chinese mainland, according to the latest count provided by the AP news agency.

13:39 UK citizens will be flown out of Wuhan on Friday morning after the Chinese authorities approved the delayed evacuation, said British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab.

13:36 German car giant BMW is closing three of its China factories over the coronavirus outbreak. 

13:34 Air France cabin crews demand halt to China flights after Lufthansa, British Airways, American Airlines and other carriers suspend trips to Chinese mainland.

13:04 Egyptair and SAS have both announced they are suspending all flights to China. The Scandinavian airline will continue its flights to Hong Kong.

The Czech Republic has confirmed its plans to stop issuing visas to Chinese citzens, and said it was considering blocking all flights from China to the EU member state.

"I am considering — unless something significant happens, as Europe is not very proactive — that I will propose to the government on Monday to temporarily halt all flights form China," Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said.

12:40 Germans in Wuhan will be evacuated this weekend.

Erwin Rüddel, chairman of the Bundestag health committee, told DW that the German government would evacuate 90 Germans out of Wuhan.

"We are fully prepared, not only for the people who come from Wuhan, but also for others who feel they have come into contact with the virus. We have established procedures for this." He said evacuees would be quarantined and tested for the virus. 

So far there are four confirmed cases in Germany, all of whom worked for a company in Bavaria and were infected by a colleague visiting from China.

Rüddel called on people to remain calm: "Now is not the time to spread panic. I am confident that the situation is under control. After all, we had the SARS pandemic in 2003, and in the end we had 9 suspected cases in Germany, four of which we then confirmed."

Read more: China angry over coronavirus cartoon in Danish newspaper

12:25 Virologist Ian Jones from the University of Reading told DW that the outbreak would likely become a pandemic and spread globally. However, he said the virus did not seem to be as deadly as SARS.

"It is certainly much less serious than SARS. The case fatality rate for SARS was around about 10%, currently this is running at around 2%. That is still pretty high. At that number it would be almost like the Spanish Influenza in the early part of last century," he said. 

"However, if it is true that there are many more infected people than the confirmed cases then the actual fatality rate is somewhat lower than that. And more like a seasonal influenza, which perhaps could be coped with more easily by the existing health resources."

Jones said the World Health Organization was likely to consider this a global health emergency at their meeting tonight. "On this occasion they will consider it a global health emergency. There has been sufficient spread internationally I think. And what that would do is mobilize more resources, it would alert barriers at country boundaries and maybe alert health care systems that they need to put mitigation processes in place."

Read more: China: Coronavirus freezes cultural life

11:52 A passenger plane left Portugal on a mission to evacuate about 350 Europeans from China. The A380 will pick up doctors and crew in Paris, before flying to China via Hanoi. The mission to bring back Europeans of various nationalities was coordinated between European Union countries and Chinese authorities, according to Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva.

Meanwhile, British Airways has suspended all of its China services for at least a month.

11:47 China has postponed the start of the Chinese Super League. The domestic football league was due to start on February 22, but has been pushed back to an unspecified date due to the virus. Motorsport authorities said they are closely monitoring the outbreak, which could mean the Chinese Grand Prix scheduled for April could be canceled.

11:45 The Czech Republic has reportedly stopped issuing visas to Chinese citizens, according to news agency CTK and tabloid Blesk, both citing the foreign ministry.

11:34 About 7,000 people have been confined to a cruise ship in Italy over fears of the virus being on board. Two Chinese passengers on board the Costa Smeralda are being tested, according to the Costa Crociere cruise company. The couple arrived in Italy on January 25 and boarded the ship in the Savona seaport the same day. They soon fell ill with a fever and breathing difficulties.

In the meantime, the cruise ship had already visited Marseilles, Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca before docking at Civitavecchia, north of Rome. Passengers were barred from leaving the ship until tests were carried out. The company said it may take several hours before the situation became clear.

Passengers on board shared unconfirmed images on social media.

10:27 Martin Stürmer, virologist at the IMD Laboratory in Frankfurt, told DW that it’s hard to predict when the current outbreak will reach its peak. "If you look at an influenza wave, we usually have about four to six weeks from the start to the peak, but that‘s not the same in this case."

Asked if the current virus is more dangerous than SARS, Stürmer says "if you define dangerous from the point of mortality then, no, SARS had a higher mortality rate — about 13% to 14%, we now have a mortality rate of about 2.5%. He says the route of transmission makes it more dangerous, though, as "it can be transmitted even before the onset of symptoms."

10:25 More details on the Russian border closure. Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier ordered authorities do as much as possible to combat the virus. The Foreign Ministry then warned its citizens to avoid non-urgent travel to China. However, the newly-installed prime minister has now announced he will close the entire far east border with China. It is the world's sixth-longest border, measuring 4,209 kilometres (2,616 miles). 

Russia will also stop issuing electronic visas to Chinese nationals.

There are no confirmed cases in Russia yet.

10:09 Spanish airline Iberia has suspended its three weekly return flights between Madrid and Shanghai due to the virus. It follows several other airlines suspending services. AirAsia, Air France, Air India, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta Air Lines, Finnair, IndiGo, Iberia, KLM, Lion Air Group, Lufthansa and its subsidiaries, MAI, MNA, UIA, United Airlines, and Urals Airlines have all announced partial or full reductions of Chinese flights.

Kazakhstan has said it will halt all transport links with China, including road links.

Meanwhile, Russia announced it was closing its border with China. New Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin told a government meeting that the order had been signed "to take measures to close the border (with China) in the Far East," Russian news agencies reported.

Coronavirus crisis

09:52 Fears of a pandemic have rattled traders, with a sharp sell-off in global financial markets this week. 

The pan-European STOXX 600 fell 0.8%, putting it on track for its worst week in nearly four months. In London, the FTSE 100 has fallen more than 3% since last week, while midcaps lost more than 2% over the same period.

Airlines such as British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France fell back due to scaled back operations in China. China has advised its citizens to postpone trips abroad, while other countries have urged their citizens to avoid travel to China.

Several multinationals have suspended operations in China due to the outbreak. Swedish furniture giant Ikea will close all of its Chinese stores and has asked its 14,000 staff to stay at home. Toyota, Starbucks, Tesla, McDonald's and tech giant Foxconn also enacted large-scale closures in China.

In Asia, equity markets saw panic selling, with Taiwan's benchmark index slumping 5.8% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng falling 2.6%.

"Fears are increasing again and should continue to weigh on global markets with Asian equities suffering harder knockdowns," Stephen Innes, the chief market strategist at AxiCorp, wrote in a note.

In the US, the virus was a major subject for the Federal Reserve. Chairman Jerome Powell said: "China's economy is very important in the global economy now, and when China's economy slows down we do feel that — not as much though as countries that are near China, or that trade more actively with China, like some of the Western European countries."

09:25 People in Hong Kong have been particularly concerned by this outbreak, after being so heavily affected by the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak, when nearly 300 Hong Kongers died. Trade unions representing hospital and rail workers have threatened to go on strike unless the government closes the mainland Chinese border.

Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has already suspended the high-speed rail service from mainland China and the cross-border ferries, but unions are asking for further action. 

"Front-line colleagues are in a panic as they are exposed to high risk of getting the virus while at work," said Railway Power, which represents about 500 workers from metro operator MTR Corp. Lam said it was "inappropriate and impractical" to close the entire border.

So far, there are 10 confirmed cases in Hong Kong. There has been a run on pharmacies and supermarket shelves with long queues at both.

Read more: SARS remembered — how a deadly respiratory virus hit Asian economies

08:58 India has now reported its first case. A student who had been studying in Wuhan has tested positive for the virus in the southern state of Kerala. The student is in isolation and being monitored at a hospital. Passengers are being screened in at least 20 Indian airports.

Confirmed cases internationally now stand at: China (7,736 cases), Hong Kong (10), Macau (7), Australia (7), Cambodia (1), India (1) Japan (11), Malaysia (8), Nepal (1), Singapore (10), South Korea (4), Sri Lanka (1), Taiwan (8), Thailand (14), Vietnam (2), Canada (2), United States (5), Finland (1), France (5), Germany (4), and the UAE (4). This list is not exhaustive and is subject to change.

Italian media are reporting two possible cases, with two Chinese tourists falling ill. 

Read more: Coronavirus: Everything you need to know

08:46 The UK's plans to evacuate its citizens from locked-down Wuhan have hit a snag. It was forced to postpone its planned evacuation of about 200 citizens on a chartered plane after reportedly failing to secure permission from China for the flight to depart.

With thousands of foreigners trapped in the city, several countries have been attempting to evacuate their citizens, but for some it may have come too late. Japan and the United States were the first, flying out citizens on Wednesday. France, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Indonesia and South Korea were also planning airlifts.

However, Japan is now reporting that at least three people on board the first evacuation flight were infected with the virus and nine people were showing symptoms on the second flight. Despite this, it has not been mandatorily quarantining its returnees, allowing the 400 citizens on the second flight to "self-quarantine."

The 195 Americans who were evacuated from Wuhan were undergoing three days of monitoring at a Californian military base, while Australia plans to quarantine its citizens on Christmas Island, better known for a notorious offshore detention facility for irregular migrants.

South Korea was preparing quarantine facilities in two cities for 700 planned evacuees, attracting protests from locals. Singapore and New Zealand also have plans for quarantining its evacuees for at least two weeks.

08:14 The Philippines just confirmed its first case of the virus. There are now confirmed cases in China (7,736 cases), Hong Kong (10), Macau (7), Australia (7), Cambodia (1), Japan (11), Malaysia (8), Nepal (1), Singapore (10), South Korea (4), Sri Lanka (1), Taiwan (8), Thailand (14), Vietnam (2), Canada (2), United States (5), France (5), Germany (4), and the UAE (4). This list is not exhaustive and is subject to change.

07:52 A little more detail on the new numbers. China's National Health Commission said there are now 7,736 confirmed cases across the country, overwhelmingly concentrated in Hubei province. Some 1,239 of them are in a critical condition.

It said 81,000 people were under observation for possible infection.

Of the 170 people killed in China, 162 of them were in Hubei. The virus originated in Hubei provincial capital Wuhan.

The new figures show there were at least 38 deaths on Wednesday — all in Hubei except for one in the southwestern province of Sichuan. This is the highest one-day total so far.

07:35 Welcome to DW's live coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. There are now at least 7,700 confirmed cases of the virus in China and at least 170 people have died from the illness. Outside of China, there are at least 70 confirmed cases in more than two dozen countries. The World Health Organization will meet tonight to decide whether to declare the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. Follow this article for all updates on the outbreak leading up to the meeting. 

rs,dj,aw/sms (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)