International Asia Morning brief: COVID-19 update for Feb 18, 2020

Morning brief: COVID-19 update for Feb 18, 2020

Morning brief




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As of 7am, Feb 18, 2020:

WORLD COUNT: There are 73,259 confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the world. A total of 29 countries and territories have been affected so far. The number of deaths has risen to 1,868. Across the world, a total of 11,326 are in critical condition, while 12,615 previously infected persons have recovered.

CHINA: There are 68,509 confirmed cases of infection in China. The country’s death count now stands at 1,666 people. The Chinese government is considering postponing its annual meeting of the National People’s Congress (NPC), where nearly 3,000 national legislators meet, because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The meeting is normally of utmost importance on the ruling Communist Party’s agenda. It was not cancelled in 2003 amidst the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic, which also originated in China. Almost half of China’s population—780 million people—is living under some form of travel restrictions, from self-quarantines to limiting who can come and go from neighborhoods. In Hubei province, the epicentre of the virus, the cities of Wuhan, Huanggang, Shiyan and Xiaogan have sealed off all residential complexes and communities. Amongst other measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, China’s central bank is deep cleaning, quarantining and even destroying potentially infected paper currency. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus survives for at least several hours on surfaces, and cash is one of the most commonly handled items in everyday life, passed from person to person. All Chinese banks must now disinfect their cash with ultraviolet light and high temperatures (cash from high-risk areas will be “specially treated”, then keep it for seven to 14 days. Only then can it be re-circulated. The team of twelve international and WHO experts arrived in Beijing on Monday (Feb 17). They will be reviewing data, holding workshops, and making field visits to three provinces to study the outbreak.

Hong Kong confirmed three new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the city-wide total to 60 confirmed cases, including one death. The new cases are a 69-year-old man with previous illness and no recent travel history, a 45-year-old man linked to a previous case and a 46-year-old woman who is married to a confirmed case. Macao, which has a total of 10 cases, has not reported any new cases of the virus for two weeks now.

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SINGAPORE: On Monday (Feb 17), the Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed two additional cases of COVID-19 in the country. Singapore’s total number of confirmed cases has reached 77. One case was among the group of Singaporeans who were evacuated from Wuhan on Feb 9, and the other is linked to a previous case. Five more cases were discharged, bringing the total discharged cases to 24, said MOH. With the assistance of the Singapore Police Force, epidemiological investigations and contact tracing have revealed connections between previously announced and new cases.

ASEAN: The operator of the Westerdam cruise ship, which was turned away by several countries before being allowed to dock in Cambodia late last week, said it would “investigate and follow-up” with persons who came in contact with a guest who tested positive for the coronavirus. An 83-year-old American woman who had been on board the ship tested positive in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, after flying in from Cambodia. Thailand will ban all passengers except Thai nationals from the Westerdam cruise ship until 14 days following from Feb 14. The country confirmed its 35th case of the virus. The patient is a 68-year-old Chinese woman tourist and is the fourth person from the same family who has the virus. Malaysia, which has 22 confirmed cases of the virus, will also bar any persons who were onboard the Westerdam cruise ship from entering the country. No other countries in the region reported new cases of COVID-19.

ASIA: Taiwan announced two new cases of the virus, bringing the countrywide total to 22 confirmed cases, including one death. The first new case is a woman in her 80’s, and the second is a man in his 30’s; both are related to previous cases. The Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has been docked off the coast of Yokohama, Tokyo, announced 99 new cases on board on Monday (Feb 17). The total number of confirmed cases on the ship is 454, the highest number outside of mainland China. In Japan, there are now 66 cases of the coronavirus which are not from Diamond Princess. The country reported seven new cases. The Japanese Imperial Household announced the cancellation of next weekend’s public 60th birthday celebration for Emperor Naruhito, in order to minimise the risk of spreading the coronavirus further. The Tokyo Marathon will only be open to elite runners, event organisers said. The race, which is set to take place on March 1, will only allow elite runners and elite para-athletes to compete. Members of the public who were eligible to run this year will be given a slot in next year’s race without having to enter the lottery. India is sending a plane full of medical supplies to Wuhan, China later this week, and it will ferry back Indian nationals who are still in Wuhan and the Hubei province back to India. However, the plan reportedly has “limited capacity”. India has a total of three confirmed cases of the virus. South Korea reported one new case of the virus, bringing the country’s total to 30 cases. No other countries in the region reported new cases of COVID-19.

EUROPE: Executive director of The Who’s Health Emergencies Programme Dr Michael Ryan said that the coronavirus outbreak is not yet classified as a “pandemic”, because “the real issue here is whether we’re seeing efficient community transmission outside of China”. At the moment, said Dr Ryan, we are “not observing that”. While recent data appears to show a decline in new cases, WHO says this must be analysed “cautiously”. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the virus seems to be “not as deadly as other coronavirus including SARS and MERS”. The United Kingdom is considering repatriating 74 British nationals onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. The passengers had become “despondent” when other countries, such as the United States, were evacuating their citizens. The UK currently has nine cases of the virus. The Russian woman who escaped a hospital ward where she was under quarantine for the coronavirus has been ordered back to the hospital. She will have to remain quarantined in the hospital until Feb 19 at the earliest. The country has two cases of the virus. No other countries in the region reported new cases of COVID-19.

AMERICA: UNICEF says it needs over US$42 million (S$58.3 million) to scale up its response to the coronavirus. Executive director Henrietta Fore called it a “race against time” and added that the immediate focus is to reduce human-to-human transmission and help children in areas where services have been disrupted. UNICEF has already flown in 13 tons (11.8 metric tonnes) of medical supplies to affected countries. Of the United States citizens who were evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship and flown back to the United States on charter flights, 14 tested positive for the coronavirus. At least 140 foreign travellers were prohibited from entering the US, in line with its measures to contain the spread of the virus. The US currently has 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19. No other countries in the region reported new cases of COVID-19.

AUSTRALIA: Australia will send a charter plane to Japan to evacuate its citizens onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship on Wednesday (Feb 19). The evacuees will have to undergo a further 14-day quarantine in a mining village in the northern city of Darwin. All 241 Australians who were evacuated from Wuhan are heading home after completing their 14-day quarantine period. None of them developed the coronavirus. Australia’s confirmed cases are at 15 in total, and New Zealand still has no cases of the virus in the country.

AFRICA: No countries in the region reported new cases of COVID-19.

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