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Coronavirus: G7 countries agree to coordinate efforts — live

February 3, 2020

The G7 countries' health ministries agreed to work with the WHO, EU and China to combat the outbreak. The new virus has killed more people than the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak. Germany has reported new cases of infection.

Hongkong | Vater und Sohn mit Atemschutzmaske
Image: picture-alliance/AA/M. Candela Poblacion
  • The health ministries from the Group of Seven economic powers agreed to coordinate efforts to combat the new coronavirus.
  • The death toll from the new virus stands at 361, surpassing the SARS epidemic that left 349 dead between 2002 and 2003.
  • A new hospital makeshift hospital with 1,000 new beds has begun accepting patients in Wuhan. 
  • Germany's health minister has said the country is well equipped for an outbreak. 
  • China says the US has caused "panic" with its ban on travelers arriving from China. 
  • The leader of the World Health Organization has criticized countries for instituting "unnecessary" travel bans.

All updates in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC/GMT)

22:14 Health officials in the southeastern German state of Bavaria confirmed another case of coronavirus, bringing the country's infection total to 12 cases. Ten of the cases are located in Bavaria. Officials said the latest case also involved an employee of Webasto, a car parts supplier near Munich.

18:53 Health ministries from the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrial nations agreed to coordinate efforts to the coronavirus outbreak, Germany's Health Ministry said on Monday.

The ministers agreed via conference call to coordinate their approach on travel regulations and precautions as well as research into the virus. They will also coordinate with the World Health Organization, the European union and China. 

"An appropriate response to the virus can only be coordinated internationally and at European level because a virus knows neither borders nor nationalities," German Health Minister Jens Spahn said in a statement. He is set to meet with his British and French counterpart on Tuesday. 

18:49 The health ministry in Bavaria, Germany's southeastern state, has confirmed a ninth coronavirus case in the state. The case involves the child of a man employed by Webasto. The man and his other child have already tested positive for the disease.

Seven Webasto workers have contracted a virus after an employee from the company's Chinese branch visited for a training. 

The new case is the ninth in Bavaria and 11th in Germany.

17:14 The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a telebriefing that it has confirmed 11 coronavirus cases. The CDC also confirmed a second case of person-to-person spread. The CDC said the US State Department is bringing more people back from Wuhan. 

15:04 China's Shanghai Composite stock index plunged 7.7% on Monday, slicing $420 billion of value from the index. The Yuan opened at its weakest level of 2020, eclipsing 7 per dollar. It was the first day of trading since china closed equity, currency and bond markets on January 23 for the Lunar New Year, a holiday the government extended because of the coronavirus.

14:57 A hospital worker in Wuhan told DW that patients with coronavirus symptoms often have to wait hours before seeing a doctor. Waiting rooms are full of coughing people, putting even healthy workers at risk. Doctors have been prescribing medicine as well as self-isolation.

"Face masks and disinfectants are sold out, and supply of both are slim at hospitals," the worker said. "Donations are coming into Wuhan in the meantime, but the requirement for doctors, who have to change their face masks every four hours and their protective clothing every six hours, cannot be met."

The hospital worker claims the number of cases and death is "significantly more than what has been publicized."

14:10 The United Arab Emirates said it will suspend all flights to mainland China except for Beijing "until further notice," according to the country's state-run WAM news agency. The suspension, which will come into force on February 5, was part of precautionary measures by the country's General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

"We continue to put our confidence in the Chinese Government’s efforts to control and contain the situation," the GCAA said in a statement.

The UAE, home to long-haul airlines Emirates and Etihad, is a major international transit hub.

14:01 Lufthansa Group announced that it is extending a flight suspension for Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian Airlines flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai until February 28, citing the coronavirus outbreak. The suspension was originally supposed to last only until February 9. The airline group added that it would suspend flights to Nanjing, Shenyang and Qingdao, the other three cities it serves in mainland China, until March 28.  

13:25 Pakistan said it was ending its suspension of flights to and from China three days after it imposed the ban, running counter to measures taken by many other governments and airlines. 

"We are resuming flight operations with China," additional secretary of aviation Abdul Sattar Khokhar told Reuters news agency. New arrivals will be subjected to strict health monitoring.

13:17 Authorities in the Chinese city of Wenzhou have imposed restrictions on its 3.5 million inhabitants similar to those in the outbreak's epicenter of Wuhan,about  680 km (425 miles) away. Only one member of a household is allowed to leave home at a time, and markets, shopping centers and entertainment venues have been closed.

With 291 confirmed cases, Wenzhou has the highest rate of the disease outside Hubei province, where Wuhan city is located.

12:44 Chinese scientists say they have evidence that the new coronavirus originated in bats. 

In a study published in the science journal Nature on Monday, scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology said that in seven human cases of the virus, genome sequences were found to be 96% identical to a coronavirus found in bats. 

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, which infected hundreds of people in 2002 and 2003, is also thought to have originated in bats. 

While authorities believe the new coronavirus broke out at a seafood market in Wuhan, the animal source has not yet been identified. 

12:16  Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says in a statement that the country has plans in development to evacuate Brazilian citizens from the Chinese province of Hubei, where Wuhan is located.

Last week, Bolsonaro had said repatriating Brazilians from China was not a good idea because it would put the local population at risk. 

12:09 Russian food retailer Magnit says it is suspending fruit and vegetable imports from China. 

12:03 Sources familiar with Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) discussions say OPEC is considering further cuts to oil production in response weakening demand for oil linked to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Analysts and traders predict that the virus could cut demand by 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the first quarter this year, causing oil prices in an already oversaturated market to fall even further. 

According to sources, OPEC is considering cutting output by 50,000 bpd and moving a member meeting scheduled for March up to mid-February. 

11:45 World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says his organization is working with search engine Google to fight disinformation surrounding the coronavirus. 

"We have worked with Google to make sure people searching for information about coronavirus see WHO information at the top of their search results," he said in a meeting with the organization's executive board.

Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Tencent, and TikTok are also making efforts to stop the spread of disinformation, he said. 

11:32 Residents of a remote Indonesian island are protesting the Indonesian governments decision to quarantine Wuhan evacuees there. On Sunday, 237 Indonesian citizens and 1 foreign national were flown From Wuhan to Natuna Island — between Borneo and Peninsular Malaysia — where they are to be quarantined for 14 days.

Demonstrators in medical masks protested outside of the local parliament building. Local schools were shut down once the evacuees arrived and students have been urged to stay inside. 

11:19 The German car parts supplier at the center of the virus' spread in Germany says it will remain closed for another week.

The company will have then been closed for two weeks, the full incubation period of the virus, explained Webasto CEO Holger Engelmann. 

Webasto had been planning to reopen today after closing its headquarters in Stockdorf on January 29. Employees will continue to work from home until February 11. 

Seven Webasto employees in Germany have tested positive for the virus. The German employees were infected after a colleague from the company's Chinese branch visited for a training before she showed symptoms of being ill.  

10:48 World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says it was "unneccessary" to implement measures that "interfere with international travel and trade" to stop the spread of coronavirus, criticizing the decision taken by many countries to halt travel to China amid the outbreak.  

"Global connectiveness is a weakness in this outbreak but it is also our greatest strength," he said to the WHO executive board. 

He called for prevention measures that are "evidence-based and consistent."

10:37 Cruise Lines International Association, an association that represents the world's largest cruise lines, says that cruise ships will begin denying boarding to passengers and crew who have recently traveled to China. 

10:29 In an interview with DW, German student Yannik Weis speaks about his experience being under quarantine at an airbase in Germersheim, in southwest Germany.

Weis was one of 124 people evacuated by plane from Wuhan, where he had been studying abroad, to Germany over the weekend. Tests later showed that two of the people on the flight were infected with the virus.

"This building is separated from the other buildings," he said, describing the quarantine facilities. "We have a fence around the house, so there's no way that a normal soldier or somebody else can join us in our house...Of course we are allowed to go outside but we are not allowed to pass the fence. The facility here is very good. Every one of us has a single room. We want to prevent an outbreak here, of course, in the facility. So this type of isolation is the best opportunity to manage this thing."

"We are fine and we are well treated," he added. "And, of course, here is a lot of medical support. So if something would happen, we've got immediate help and an evacuation to a real hospital in Frankfurt."

A coronavirus evacuee speaks

10:04 Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam says that Hong Kong will close all but two land crossings with mainland China as of midnight tonight. Several crossings had already been closed last week. 

Lam said the decision was not influenced by a medical workers strike that broke out on Monday over demands that the borders with China be closed to present the spread of coronavirus into Hong Kong. 

9:59 In China, medical teams from the People's Liberation Army arrived in Wuhan to take over for overwhelmed health workers and to take up posts at a new hospital that has opened in the countryside outside the city in response to the rising number of infections in the area.

The new, 1,000-bed hospital was constructed in just 10 days.

"The lack of hospital rooms forced sick people to return home, which is extremely dangerous. So having additional (beds) available is a great improvement," said Chinese epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan. 

Aerial view of Huoshenshan Hospital outside of Wuhan.
Huoshenshan — or Fire God Mountain — Hospital outside of Wuhan. The hospital was erected in just 10 days to treat the influx of patients infected with coronavirus. Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Min

9:48 A flight bringing 270 Australians home from Wuhan — the center of the coronavirus outbreak — arrives at a military base in Western Australia. The passengers, including dozens of children, will be transferred by military plane to Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, where they will be kept in quarantine for 14 days. 

Currently, there are 12 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia. 

9:33 Iran's oil minister says the outbreak is affecting oil demand and is calling for efforts to stabilize oil prices. 

"The oil market is under pressure and prices have dropped to under $60 a barrel and efforts must be made to balance it," said Oil Minster Bijan Zanganeh, Iran's official news agency IRNA reported. 

9:15 Hundreds of medical workers in Hong Kong go on strike on Monday, saying they will not return to work until the borders with China are closed. 

A newly formed medical workers' union decided over the weekend to strike. While the strike is thus far limited to non-essential workers, the union has said that "frontline" workers like doctors and nurses will walk off the job on Tuesday if their demands are not met. 

 "If there is no full border closure, there won't be enough manpower, protective equipment, or isolation rooms to combat the outbreak," said chairwoman of the 9,000 member Hospital Authority Employees Alliance Winnie Yu.

Masked nurses and janitors walk outside a hospital in Hong Kong.
Masked nurses and janitors outside a hospital in Hong Kong. On Monday, hundreds of healthcare workers went on strike in Hong Kong, demanding that the border with China be closed to stop the spread of coronavirus. Image: picture-alliance/dpa/L. Chung-ren

9:12 The Italian Health Ministry says that Group of 7 (G7) health ministers will discuss the outbreak in a teleconference on Monday afternoon

8:54 Russia will deport foreigners who test positive for coronavirus, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mushustin says. 

"Now it's been added to the list of especially dangerous illnesses. That will allow us to deport foreign citizens if they are diagnosed with such an illness," he said in a televised government meeting.  

There are currently two confirmed cases of coronavirus in Russia, both Chinese citizens. 

8:41 China "urgently needs...medical masks, protective suits, and safety goggles," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying says in a press briefing.

8:40 Direct flights between the Czech Republic and China will be banned starting February 9, a representative for the Czech government says.

8:14 The US "hasn't provided any substantial assistance" and is spreading "panic" by barring travelers from China from entering the country, China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying says in a press conference on Monday. 

The US on Sunday began restricting travel on foreign nationals who were in China in the 14 days prior to arriving in the US. 

7:59 German Health Minister Jens Spahn says the German healthcare system is well equipped to handle the arrival of coronavirus.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn speaking at a press conference about coronavirus
German Health Minister Jens Spahn speaks with journalists about the decision to evacuate German citizens from China. Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P- Zinken

Should the virus spread, "everyone in the healthcare system would strive to concentrate all resources on containing it," he said in an interview with ARD. There are 10 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Germany. He added that it is "much too early" to consider it an emergency.

7:52 Good morning and welcome to our live blog on world events connected with the coronavirus outbreak.

dv,kp/ng (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)

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