China

Despite worrisome new outbreaks in Iran, Italy and South Korea, the coronavirus disease called COVID-19 is not currently a pandemic, the World Health Organization said today.

In fact, there are some encouraging trends, especially in Hubei province, where most of the cases have been reported.

The epidemic there appears to have plateaued in late January and is continuing on a good trajectory. Dr. Bruce Aylward led a WHO trip to China with a scientific delegation that just concluded. On Sunday, he told reporters in Beijing that trend is real.

China reported 889 new cases of novel coronavirus infection on Friday, including more than 200 from a prison, and an additional 118 deaths – all but three in the province of Hubei, bringing the total deaths in the country to more than 2,200.

The latest count came as South Korea, with the highest number of cases outside China, reported another jump in infections to 204.

And residents clashed with police in a central Ukrainian town where evacuees from Wuhan, the Chinese province where the epidemic began, arrived for a two-week quarantine.

Three years ago, NPR accompanied disease ecologist Kevin Olival on a field trip to Malaysian Borneo.

Updated at 4 p.m. ET

Roughly 600 passengers left the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan, on Wednesday, as a controversial shipwide coronavirus quarantine finally began to wind down.

All of those passengers had been tested for the COVID-19 disease by the Japanese health ministry, according to cruise operator Princess Cruises. As they left, they were met in the terminal by the cruise line's president, Jan Swartz.

Politicians Call For Florida’s Health Department To Be Transparent About New Coronavirus

Feb 19, 2020
The Florida Channel / Courtesy

At two forums this week on the state’s preparedness for the new coronavirus, political leaders expressed discontent about the Florida Department of Health’s stance on withholding public information about pending virus cases in the state or exact measures being taken to prepare for a potential outbreak.

In Orlando on Monday, Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park hosted a roundtable discussion with local health and airport experts on COVID-19 (the new coronavirus) and how it could affect Florida.

Updated at 2:24 p.m. ET

Some 346 Americans who were evacuated from Wuhan, China, amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak emerged from their quarantine at two military bases in California on Tuesday, U.S. officials say.

The group includes 180 Americans who have been living under a mandatory quarantine order at Travis Air Force Base, roughly 40 miles southwest of Sacramento, and 166 U.S. citizens who have been living at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego.

Updated at 2:25 p.m. ET

Fourteen U.S. passengers evacuated from a cruise ship in Japan and flown to military bases in California and Texas have tested positive for the new coronavirus, U.S. officials confirm.

Earlier, on Sunday, U.S. officials announced that 44 people from the Diamond Princess ship had tested positive for coronavirus. Those who were sick were to remain in Japan to be treated.

Prominent Chinese legal activist and civil rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong has been detained in southern China, after spending nearly two months on the run as he taunted Chinese authorities and encouraged his followers through a steady stream of political commentary posted on social media and his personal blog.

Another 70 cases of the coronavirus infection have been confirmed aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, currently quarantined in Japan, according to Japanese health officials.

This brings the total number of cases aboard the vessel as of Sunday to 355, the largest confirmed cluster outside mainland China. People with confirmed infections have been taken to hospitals in Japan.

Passengers and crew aboard a cruise ship, who were denied entry at several Asian ports in recent days because of fears of coronavirus, cheered as they were finally allowed to disembark in Cambodia on Friday.

The MS Westerdam with nearly 1,500 passengers aboard had been rebuffed by Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines and the U.S. territory of Guam before ultimately being allowed to dock at the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville.

China's Hubei province expanded its criteria for identifying new coronavirus infections on Thursday, causing a dramatic spike in reported cases at the epicenter of the disease, as Beijing moved to purge provincial party officials amid criticism of their handling of the epidemic.

Updated at 9:51 a.m. ET

The Diamond Princess cruise ship has become a symbol of a global health nightmare. To date, 175 cases of the coronavirus — the infectious disease the World Health Organization is now calling COVID-19 — have been confirmed aboard the ship.

China's government on Tuesday fired two senior health officials in Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic, placing Beijing in direct control of efforts there to contain its spread.

The move came on the same day the country reported 108 new deaths from the virus, the highest single-day number to date, representing about 10% of all fatalities since the outbreak began.

Updated at 8:07 p.m. ET

The head of the World Health Organization is warning that a few cases of the novel coronavirus that have been spread by people who never traveled to China could be "the tip of the iceberg," as officials reported on Tuesday local time that the country's death toll had passed 1,000 from the new virus.

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities lashed out at Western media reports that Beijing was not fully cooperating with international health experts.

Like Ebola virus in Africa and the Nipah virus in Asia, the new coronavirus — 2019-nCoV — appears to have originated in bats.

Chinese researchers took samples of the coronavirus from patients in Wuhan, the city in central China where the outbreak was first detected.

They compared the genetic sequence of the new coronavirus — 2019-nCoV — to a library of known viruses and found a 96% match with a coronavirus found in horseshoe bats in southwest China. The findings were published in a study in Nature this week.

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