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WHO urges countries to share virus data — as it developed

Kristie Pladson | Rebecca Staudenmaier
February 4, 2020

Chinese health officials confirmed the number of fatalities has reached 425, with over 20,400 people infected nationwide. Hong Kong has also reported a coronavirus death, bringing the total outside mainland China to two.

People in Hong Kong wait in a line outside a store to try and purchase more face masks amid an outbreak of a new type of coronavirus
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/SOPA Images/A. Marzo

- China's National Health Commission reported Tuesday that the nationwide total of coronavirus infections had reached 20,438, with 3,235 new cases confirmed. China's nationwide death toll currently stands at 425. 

- At least 180 cases of the virus have been identified outside of China, including 12 confirmed cases in Germany.

- A healthcare worker in Wuhan says the hospitals are so overwhelmed that they are not able to diagnose every case. 

- The World Health Organization (WHO) said there's a "window of opportunity" to halt the spread of the virus and urged countries to immediately share information about cases.

All updates in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC/GMT)

21:00 This concludes our live updates on the coronavirus outbreak for the moment. More information on the outbreak is available on our page and on DW TV. Thank you for joining us.

20:00 Amid shortages of face masks, the WHO has advised people that "using a mask alone is not guaranteed to stop infections." The UN health agency said it's also important to thoroughly wash your hands and avoid close contact with other people in public spaces — staying at least 1 meter (3 feet) away from others.

They've also advised that masks should primarily be used if you are coughing or sneezing, suspect that you've been infected with the new coronavirus or are caring for someone who may have the virus.

19:30 Outside of China, Thailand has logged the highest number of infections with 25 reported cases. Singapore's number of cases rose to 24 on Tuesday.

18:30 German Health Minister Jens Spahn said that the EU could consider a US-style entry ban on foreign travelers who were recently in China.

"Indeed, there is the question of possible travel restrictions or at least increased examination at the border," Spahn said after talks with this French counterpart in Paris.

Germany and France are pushing for an EU health ministers' meeting to better coordinate the response to the virus, he added.

17:15 The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday evening that China's measures to contain the outbreak have provided a "window of opportunity" to stop the virus from spreading further abroad.

Here are some key takeaways from the press briefing with WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus:

  • The risk of the virus spreading more around the globe remains high, but "this is still first and foremost an emergency for China."
  • Countries have been advised not to impose trade or travel restrictions on China as such measures cause "fear and stigma."
  • The WHO is sending 250,000 tests virus tests to laboratories around the world to help speed up the testing process.
  • So far, there have been 27 cases of person-to-person transmission of the virus outside of China.
  • Wealthier countries were criticized for not sharing data about virus cases. The WHO has only received complete information about 38% of the cases reported outside of China.

16:40 Chinese health officials released further information about those who have died of the virus so far. Over 80% of patients who died were over 60 years old, while more than 75% had pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

15:30 Fever, coughing and shortness of breath are some of the most common symptoms associated with the new coronavirus. One of the best ways to protect yourself is by washing your hands regularly with soap or an alcohol-based hand rub, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

For more information about the virus, check out our explainer: Coronavirus? How to tell it's not cold or flu

Typical symptoms of a coronavirus infection

15:10 The French government has now also called on its citizens to leave China and warned against any non-essential travel to the country while the virus continues to spread. The announcement follows a similar steps taken by the British government. Air France and several other airlines have already halted flights to and from China.

15:00 A plane flying from Canada to Jamaica was forced to turn back after a passenger falsely claimed to be infected with the coronavirus, authorities said on Tuesday. The male passenger reportedly took several selfies while announcing he had the virus on the WestJet Airlines flight. The crew then followed infections disease protocols by separating the man and turning the plane around to land in Toronto.

"I guess this guy thought it was a funny joke but it's just really weird. We were all very frustrated, to just displace 240 people ... it's just so selfish," passenger Julie-Anne Broderick told Canadian public broadcaster CBC.

14:50 The number of cases outside of China is continuing to grow, with Thailand confirming six new cases on Tuesday. Two of the patients were motorcycle taxi drivers who drove Chinese tourists, the Bangkok Post reported.

14:20 The British government is now urging all citizens to leave China "to minimize their risk of exposure to the virus."

"The safety and security of British people will always be our top priority," Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement, adding that the Foreign Office has updated its travel guidelines to urge those who remain "to leave the country if they can."

13:50 Hyundai Motor, South Korea's largest automaker, said it will suspend production in seven factories over a lack of parts due to the outbreak in China.

13:40 Good afternoon! This is DW's Rebecca Staudenmaier, taking over from Kristie to give you the latest on coronavirus developments around the world.

First up, an update on how the patients in Germany are faring. There are 12 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Germany, two of whom were recently flown back to Germany from the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, China.

Those two patients are doing well and have "no symptoms," according to health authorities in Frankfurt. They're being treated in isolation, but cannot be released until they're completely virus-free.

The other 10 cases are located in the southern state of Bavaria and all stem from auto parts company Webasto — where an infected employee from China recently visited on a business trip. Bavarian health authorities say that the patients are "doing well" and that two of them have a mild fever.

A coronavirus evacuee speaks

13:07 This is DW's Kristie Pladson signing off! Stay tuned for further updates from my colleague.

12:51 I'll be handing things over to my colleague in a moment, but one last update before I go: 

Thailand is considering reducing exports of medical masks to prevent a shortage at home.

The country produces around 600 million medical masks a year, two-thirds of which they export. A government spokeswoman said that demand has surged since coronavirus hit. 

The government is expected to announce guidelines on Wednesday that could limit exports as well as the number of masks an individual can buy. 

12:41 German Health Minister Jens Spahn has met with his UK counterpart Matt Hancock in London.

The spread of the virus demonstrates the importance of international cooperation, Spahn said on Twitter following the meeting. 

11:45 A Wuhan hospital worker speaking with DW has said that the hospitals are so overwhelmed that they cannot diagnose every case. This could mean that the number of cases is higher than official reports. 

"I think there are many more infections and deaths from coronavirus than have been officially reported," said the employee, who asked not to be named. "When preliminary tests determine that a patient has a lung sickness, the nucleic acid test, which detects viruses, cannot always be carried out because the waiting list is too long. The patient is therefore not diagnosed." 

10:55 Due to the coronavirus outbreak, China is withdrawing its women's national handball team from participating in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics qualifying tournament next month, the International Handball Federation has said. 

10:45 A Russian military plane is en route to Wuhan to evacuate Russian citizens from the city. 

10:03 Singapore has announced its first local transmissions of coronavirus.

The government confirmed six new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, four that were contracted locally among them.  

There are now 24 known cases of coronavirus in Singapore.

9:59 South Korean businesses that hoard face masks and other medical supplies will face up to two years in prison, South Korea's government has said. 

There are 16 known cases of  coronavirus in South Korea. Demand for medical masks and hand sanitizer has surged in recent days. Prices have risen significantly. 

The government said that sellers found to be in possession of more than one and half their average sales volume will face sharp fines and jail time. 

9:43 Pakistan refuses to evacuate Pakistani students currently in Wuhan, despite their pleas to be brought home. DW looks into the government's decision.

DW News Asia with Biresh Banerjee - December 1, 2023

9:23 Medical personnel in Japan have nearly finished screening around 3,700 passengers of a cruise liner currently being held in quarantine at the Japanese port of Yokohamam.

A passenger from Hong Kong who was on the vessel last month has since tested positive for coronavirus. 

Passengers were asked to stay in their rooms until they were screened. Most of the ship's services were operating normally later in the day. 

9:11 New restrictions on live animal transport in China's Hubei province, where the outbreak began, have pushed some poultry farmers to slaughter many of their birds as feed supplies draw low. 

Authorities have banned the transport of live poultry, believed to be a disease risk, in the province. Farmers are unable to get chickens and eggs to market. 

8:48 Cambodia's prime minister has said he will visit Cambodian students stuck in Wuhan to provide them moral support.

Prime Minister Hun Sen had been criticized for his decision to not evacuate the students from the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. The PM will fly to Wuhan on Wednesday "to show them warmth and to make sure they are not scared of the new type of infectious coronavirus."

There is currently one confirmed case of coronavirus in Cambodia. Flights continue to fly between Cambodia and China. 

8:29 In the wake of the first coronavirus death in Hong Kong, medical workers have gone on strike for a second day in a row today. What do they want? For Hong Kong to close all borders with mainland China

While leader Carrie Lam has closed most checkpoints between the mainland and the city, three remain open today.

Non-essential medical personnel in Hong Kong walked off the job yesterday. Strike organizers have threatened that frontine employees like doctors and nurses could walk out today if their demands are not met. 

8:14 The World Health Organization is taking efforts to stop the spread of misinformation about coronavirus online.

7:55 It should be noted that while coronavirus has now killed more people in mainland China than the 2002-2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, the coronavirus mortality rate is still much lower than the SARS mortality rate of 9.6%

At the time, China recorded 5,327 SARS infections, of which 349 resulted in death. 

7:45 Here are the numbers once again, as far as we know right now:

  • Total confirmed cases of coronavirus globally — Over 20,600
  • Confirmed cases in China —  20,438
  • Confirmed cases outside of China — Around 180
  • Total global deaths from coronavirus — 427
  • Deaths in China — 425
  • Deaths outside of China — 2 (one in the Philippines and one in Hong Kong)

7:31 Japanese airline ANA will reduce the number of flights between Tokyo and Beijing by two thirds for at least seven weeks starting February 10 to slow the spread of the virus. 

7:26 German Health Minister Jens Spahn will be in London today for talks about the coronavirus epidemic. 

7:10 A Belgian person who was repatriated from Wuhan has tested positive for the coronavirus infection.

Nine Belgian citizens were evacuated from Wuhan back to Belgium. The infected person is doing well and does not show any symptoms of the illness, Belgium's health agency said. The other eight tested negative for the virus. 

7:08 Another Vietnamese national has fallen ill, Vietnam's health ministry says, bringing the total number of infected in the country to 9.

Schools in 55 of Vietnam's 64 provinces have been closed for seven days. Around 20 million of the country's 24 million students did not go to school today. 

6:57 Malaysia has confirmed its first citizen infected with the virus. 

6:34 The government of the world's largest gambling hub — Macau — has asked all casinos to suspend operations for two weeks in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

Gambling revenue accounts for around half of Macau's economy. 

6:31 At least 180 instances of the virus have been confirmed outside of China, two fatal cases among them.

Hong Kong reported yesterday that a 39-year-old man with underlying medical conditions had died after a recent trip to Hubei, the Chinese province where the virus first broke out. It was the second death outside of China.

Last week, a man in the Philippines died after making such a trip himself. 

6:20 The coronavirus outbreak exposed "shortcomings and deficiencies" in China's emergency response, a top ruling Chinese body has said. 

China's Politburo Standing Committee said the virus has been "a major test of China's system and capacity for governance" and called for improvements to public health care. 

The government has been criticized for failing to recognize the virus earlier. Doctors who initially tried to warn about the infection were threatened by the police. 

6:05 Taiwan has spoken out against China, accusing Beijing of keeping the autonomously-governed island in the dark about the development of coronavirus. 

China considers Taiwan to be a renegade province and has objected to it becoming a member of the World Health Organization (WHO). 

While China says communications have been "smooth," Taiwan's foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou says they have received limited information.

"Disease has no national boundaries," she said. "Putting political considerations over people's health and safety, this, basically, is extremely vile."

6:03 If you woke up with a sore throat or a runny nose, be sure to check your symptoms before concluding you've caught coronavirus. It might be the common cold or flu. 

6:02 As of this morning, China currently has over 20,438 confirmed cases of coronavirus within its borders. The death toll in China currently stands at 425. Additionally, health officials said 2,345 of the new infections were in Hubei, bringing the total in the hard-hit province to 13,522. Hubei's death toll also rose to 414, with a further 64 fatalities reported in the province that has been in lockdown for weeks.

6:00 Good morning, this is DW's Kristie Pladson welcoming you to a new day and a new round of coronavirus live updates. 

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

Kristie Pladson
Kristie Pladson Business reporter, editor and moderator with a focus on technology and German economy.@bizzyjourno