Caixin
Mar 06, 2020 06:39 AM
SOCIETY & CULTURE

Coronavirus Live Updates (Thursday): As Domestic Outbreak Ebbs, China Faces Waves of Cases Imported From Iran, Italy

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Friday, March 6, 3:00 a.m.

As domestic new coronavirus infections decline steadily, China now faces a rising tide of cases imported from abroad as Chinese escape from virus-hit countries like Iran and Italy.

Health officials in Gansu confirmed 11 new cases of Covid-19 Thursday, all among returnees from Iran, ending three days of zero new patients in the northwestern province. The newly confirmed patients are among 311 people who returned on chartered flights from Iran between Monday and Thursday. All other passengers were placed under quarantine, according to Gansu officials.

China arranged two chartered flights from Tehran to Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu, to bring back Chinese citizens as infections surge in the Mideast country, official news agency Xinhua reported. The flights were not an evacuation, as passengers return on voluntary basis and had to pay for the flights, people familiar with the matter said.

The chartered flight will help prevent spread of the virus by travelers during transfers through other countries, one person said. Direct commercial flights between Iran and China have been suspended since Jan. 31 amid the outbreak, Iran’s state media reported.

There are about 2,000 Chinese citizens in Iran, including Chinese company employees, businessmen and students. More chartered flights will be sent to bring them back, sources said.

Iran reported a total of 3,513 infections as of Thursday noon, growing at the fastest pace in the world. The death toll reached 107, the highest outside China.

Imported cases also pose a rising threat to eastern China’s Zhejiang province, home of many overseas Chinese. The province reported two new cases Thursday, both from Italy. A total of 10 imported cases have been confirmed in the province.

The newly confirmed patients are a mother and daughter who lived in Italy. They arrived at Zhejiang Feb. 29 via Paris and Guangzhou before they started showing symptoms on March 4.

Earlier, eight restaurant employees in Bergamo, Italy, were also found infected after they returned home to Qingtian, Zhejiang.

Qingtian is the home of 330,000 overseas Chinese, including nearly 100,000 Chinese immigrants in Italy. The county government has required inbound travelers to stay in quarantine sites for 14 days after arrival.

In other coronavirus-related news:

• South Africa reported its first Covid-19 case. The patient is a 38-year-old man who traveled to Italy with his wife and returned to South Africa March 1.

• The U.K. reported the first death from the coronavirus as the total number of confirmed cases hit 115. The dead person is an elderly patient who had underlying medical conditions and was in treatment at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.

• China honored 34 late doctors who died in the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic, including whistle-blowing doctor Li Wenliang. Li became famous worldwide as he was among several doctors in Wuhan who first flagged the danger of the new virus but was suppressed by local police for allegedly “spreading rumors.” Li died Feb. 7 after contracting the virus.

Compiled by Han Wei

Thursday, March 5, 6 p.m.

A Covid-19 patient in Wuhan died days after being declared recovered from the disease, raising concerns (link in Chinese) over recurrence of the disease and the accuracy of criteria determining whether a patient has recovered.

36-year-old Li Liang died on Monday, just five days after he was told he had recovered and was discharged from the emergency hospital he was treated in. Doctors said his death was due to Covid-19, respiratory tract obstruction, and respiratory failure.

When he was declared recovered, he met the official diagnostic standard of recovery and he had tested negative for the virus twice. But CT scans of his lungs still showed symptoms of viral pneumonia. An expert from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention who spoke to Caixin on condition of anonymity said he left the hospital too early. “How can he be allowed to leave the hospital just two days after CT scans still showed typical coronavirus pneumonia symptoms?” he said.

But it is unclear whether he died after recurrence of the disease. A radiologist in a Wuhan hospital told Caixin that loose application of the diagnostic standard may be to blame for his death.

Recovered patients in several regions across China have tested positive for the virus after recovering, but it remains unknown whether such patients could infect others. Health authorities have vowed closer follow-up for recovered patients and further research into the phenomenon.

Two-thirds of Chinese regions have lowered alert levels

Twenty-one out of the 31 provincial-level regions on the Chinese mainland had lowered (link in Chinese) their emergency response levels for some or all of their territory as of Wednesday. Several have not seen a new case for days or weeks and authorities are eager to resume economic activities.

Ten provincial-level regions have lowered their emergency response from level one to level two, while nine other regions have brought theirs down from level one to level three, according to official statements. The provinces of Jiangxi and Fujian have tuned emergency response levels down for individual cities and counties with relatively low epidemic risks.

China has a four-level emergency response system for public health incidents, with level one the highest. Every provincial-level region on the mainland has initiated a level-one emergency response at some point during the coronavirus outbreak.

In other coronavirus-related news:

• China is using antibody tests in a bid to strengthen diagnosis of the new coronavirus in the wake of concerns that existing screening mechanisms were failing to catch large numbers of infections.

The tests form part of the latest national diagnostic and treatment criteria (link in Chinese) published Wednesday by the National Health Commission.

• Slowdown of manufacturing in China due to the coronavirus outbreak could cost global value chains $50 billion in exports, a United Nations body estimates.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said on Wednesday that as China has become a major manufacturing hub, slowdown in its production has “repercussions for any given country depending on how reliant its industries are on Chinese suppliers.”

• China’s civil aviation authority has decided to offer bonuses to companies that have maintained cross-border flights or resumed them during the epidemic, according to a Wednesday statement (link in Chinese). Aviation has been among the hardest-hit industries in the virus outbreak.

• The U.K.’s aviation authority declared Wednesday that Flybe Ltd., which operated regional flights from airports across the country, has entered administration, and all the company’s flights have been canceled. The epidemic has impacted flight bookings across the globe.

Compiled by Guo Yingzhe

Thursday, March 5, 11 a.m.

China confirmed 143 new Covid-19 cases and 31 additional deaths on Wednesday, according to (link in Chinese) the National Health Commission. The number of new cases rose after dropping for three days.

The country’s total infection count has now reached 80,565, and the death toll stands at 3,015.

The health authority reported two additional imported cases from overseas in East China’s Zhejiang province for Wednesday, the first time it published data for daily new imported cases. It made the disclosure as concerns grow over inbound travelers bringing the coronavirus back to China from the more than 70 other countries that have also reported cases. There were a total of 20 imported cases in China as of Wednesday.

All the new deaths on Wednesday came from Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, which confirmed 134 new infection cases on Wednesday.

A total of 52,109 patients have recovered from the disease in China, including 43 in Hong Kong, nine in Macao and 12 in Taiwan.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said Wednesday that positive signs have emerged in the epidemic’s prevention and control, and a resumption of work and normal life following the extended Lunar New Year holiday has been accelerating, the state Xinhua News Agency reported.

He said that the epidemic remains arduous and onerous in the epicenter Hubei and its capital city Wuhan, and the risk of an outbreak is rising in other regions as more people begin moving and crowds gather.

In other coronavirus-related news

• There were more than 95,000 confirmed cases worldwide as of Thursday morning Beijing time, including over 3,200 deaths.

• Outside China, 78 countries have reported at least 14,840 confirmed cases, including 269 deaths. While South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan are the worst-hit nations, situations in Germany, France, Spain and the U.S. are also worrisome.

The U.S. state of California declared an emergency as it reported its first death from the coronavirus. That raised the total U.S. death toll to 11. The number of total cases in the U.S. has reached 158, CNN reported.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is no longer reporting figures for people “under investigation” and ones with negative test results. “Now that states are testing and reporting their own results, CDC’s numbers are not representative all of testing being done nationwide,” it said.

• U.S. carriers United Airlines and JetBlue Airways are cutting flights to grapple with a swift drop in travel demand due to the coronavirus outbreak, Bloomberg reported.

Compiled by Guo Yingzhe

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