Coronavirus Monday Update: China Mulls Postponing Annual Meeting of Legislature, WHO-Led Team of Experts Arrives in China
China is grappling with an outbreak of infections from a new coronavirus that began in December. Caixin Global will continue covering this story as it develops. Please check back regularly for updates.
Monday, Feb. 17, 7 p.m.
The biggest news of the day came in the afternoon when the official Xinhua News Agency reported that Chinese lawmakers have proposed postponing this year’s session of the 13th National People’s Congress, which is set to be held in early March.
Then came the news that may signal closer cooperation between China and the World Health Organization (WHO). A team of international health experts led by the organization arrived in China, the country's top health body said Monday (link in Chinese).
The team of 12 foreign health experts, including several from the WHO, had arrived by Sunday. On Monday, they joined a group, which also includes Chinese experts, visiting three Chinese regions — South China’s Guangdong province, Southwest China’s Sichuan province and Beijing — to look into the coronavirus situation.
A tragic case
Sunday’s tragic news that four members of a family in Wuhan died of the coronavirus while quarantining themselves in the same apartment has again raised serious questions about the policy of staying home at the start of the epidemic.
Fifty-five-year-old Chang Kai, a notable director at a film studio in Wuhan, died Friday from pneumonia caused by the virus. His father, mother, and older sister also died from the same illness between Jan. 28 and Friday.
The story of their deaths shows how authorities in the disease-stricken city may have contributed to the virus’s spread by initially pursuing a policy of home quarantine in an effort to relieve the pressure on overburdened, undersupplied hospitals.
First coronavirus autopsies completed in China
A hospital in China has completed the country’s first autopsies on two patients who died from the coronavirus, in a development that could help doctors understand more about the disease as the medical community searches for a cure.
The autopsies were carried out Sunday at Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, state broadcaster CCTV reported (link in Chinese). Both families gave their permission for the procedure.
Separately, dozens of people in a same organization in Beijing have been put under quarantine after being designated close contacts of a colleague who had been diagnosed with the coronavirus. An official from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced (link in Chinese) the news Sunday.
The infected colleague went back to work at the office late last month after returning from his hometown outside Beijing without subjecting himself to a 14-day self-quarantine, according to the official.
Also, regarding the situation in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, there is one bit of good news. Of all confirmed coronavirus patients in the city, the share of those in critical condition has fallen to 18%, China’s State Council announced (link in Chinese) on Monday, down from 38% at its peak.
In other coronavirus news:
• Xiaogan, a city close to Wuhan, further tightened travel restrictions on its residents. Starting on Monday, local residents will not be allowed (link in Chinese) to leave their homes outside of designated hours, according to a new rule. Those who disobey the rules will be subject to up to 10 days of detention.
• Three armed robbers stole about 600 rolls of toilet paper (link in Chinese) from outside a Hong Kong supermarket on Monday morning. They robbed a delivery man outside the supermarket in the Mong Kok neighborhood, the police said.
The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has caused shortages of daily necessities including toilet paper as panicked residents have resorted to hoarding supplies.
• All scheduled exams for the TOEFL English language proficiency test on the Chinese mainland in March have been canceled (link in Chinese), the exam’s administrator, Educational Testing Service, said Monday. Previously, administrators of other English language proficiency tests, which Chinese students must pass to go to school abroad, have also made similar decisions.
Monday, Feb. 17, 4 p.m.
China is set to postpone the annual meeting of its national legislature as the country grapples with the still-spreading epidemic of a new coronavirus.
Lawmakers have proposed delaying the third session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC), currently scheduled to be held March 5, the official Xinhua News Agency reported (link in Chinese), citing a meeting held in Beijing on Monday. Lawmakers will discuss the proposal in another meeting to be held later this month.
Every year, starting in early March, about 3,000 delegates gather for the NPC, which usually lasts about 10 days. Many of the delegates include officials currently fighting the coronavirus on the frontlines, according to Xinhua. In order to ensure that they can concentrate on that battle, the NPC standing committee thinks that it is necessary to “suitably” postpone the meeting, Xinhua said.
Monday, Feb. 17, 11 a.m.
• By the end of Sunday, China had confirmed 70,635 cases of people with Covid-19, according to the latest data (link in Chinese) from the country’s health authorities. The total death toll rose by 106 on Sunday to 1,772.
Among the current 57,934 cases with Covid-19 on the Chinese mainland, about 18% (10,644 cases) are now in critical condition.
• Another 2,051 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed on Sunday with most of them (1,933 cases) in Hubei province, at the epicenter of the outbreak. New cases outside of Hubei declined for a 13th straight day, in a positive sign that may show infection rates are slowing in other parts of China.
• A total of 10,844 people have officially recovered on the Chinese mainland.
• As of the end of Sunday, Taiwan had 20 infections, with its first death reported on Sunday; Hong Kong had 57, while Macao had 10.
• By Monday morning, 694 confirmed cases, with three deaths, were reported outside China in a total of 25 countries.
In Singapore, three more infections were reported on Sunday, bringing the total number to 75, according to its health ministry.
Compiled by Mo Yelin
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