Mar 23, 2020 11:59 PM

Coronavirus Live Updates (Monday): Tokyo Olympics to Be Postponed to 2021; South Africa Orders Three-Week Lockdown



Caixin’s coverage of the new coronavirus

Monday, March 23, 11.59 p.m.

The 2020 Olympic Games will be postponed by one year because of coronavirus, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound said.

The delay came after the chairman of the British Olympic Association said Great Britain would be unlikely to send a team to Tokyo this summer. Australia and Canada also said they would not compete.

The World Health Organization (WHO) plans to enroll the first patients this week in clinical trials of potential treatments for Covid-19, WHO chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said Monday during a call with reporters.

Last week, the WHO said it organized trials to test coronavirus treatments across several countries and compare data to find which treatments may be most effective.

Chinese policymakers said local transmission of the novel coronavirus has been generally contained in China, while risks of scattered cases and regional outbreak still exist, the official Xinhua News Agency reported (link in Chinese).

At a meeting on the Covid-19 outbreak chaired by Premier Li Keqiang, policymakers urged local authorities to contain possible transmission in a targeted and low-cost way when they find new cases. They also told regional governments with low virus risks to help businesses resume operations in a timely manner and loosen restrictions.

In the U.S., Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said Monday that schools in the state will be closed for the rest of the academic year. The country’s total of confirmed cases surpassed 41,000 Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Nigeria is closing its land borders for four weeks to prevent the spread of coronavirus, President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesperson said Monday. The country recorded 36 cases and one death. Most of the new cases were found in Nigerians who had just returned from Europe, Canada and the U.S.

South Africa will enforce a three-week lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Monday in a televised address. The lockdown will start at midnight March 26 and end at midnight April 16. The country recorded 402 cases and no deaths.

The Dutch Justice Minister said Monday that the government will ban all public gatherings in the Netherlands until June 1. He said there would be exceptions for some funerals and church weddings, and young children would still be able to play together outside.

Compiled by Denise Jia

While medical teams from across China have begun to leave the epicenter of Hubei province as the Covid-19 outbreak eases, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) staff and their local counterparts must stay amid concern that asymptomatic carriers may still be spreading the virus.

Caixin learned that the national as well as local CDC teams were told on Friday to suspend plans for leaving Hubei and continue working there. Since the outbreak began, the national CDC and nearly 20 regional teams from other areas have gone to Hubei.

A source from the national CDC told Caixin that the order came because policymakers are still worried about the situation in the province and its capital Wuhan, especially those who may carry the virus but not yet display symptoms.

There are still several new cases of asymptomatic people testing positive for the virus emerging every day, so it is still too early to judge whether the virus has been fully contained in Wuhan, the source said.

China does not consider asymptomatic infections to be “confirmed” cases. Medical institutions report them as a specific category to authorities, but the country does not make public how many such cases there are.

According to national treatment guidelines for the disease, asymptomatic carriers can still be contagious. But those infected without symptoms carry a lower viral load than those with evident symptoms, suggesting they are less contagious, medical expert Li Xingwang said at a briefing (link in Chinese) last month.

There is no public data on how many asymptomatic carriers there may be. Once asymptomatic carriers are identified, they are generally brought to isolation centers for further testing and for treatment if symptoms emerge during a 14-day quarantine period.

Medical experts are worried that such cases could make the fight against the coronavirus more difficult. An article published in the journal Nature cited an infectious diseases expert as saying that many scientists suspected some people “can be highly contagious when they have mild or no symptoms,” estimating that mild and asymptomatic cases could represent some 60% of total infections.

China’s top envoy to U.S. denounces coronavirus conspiracy theory

China’s ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, criticized a conspiracy theory that the coronavirus may have spread from a U.S. military lab. He said spreading such a conspiracy theory is “crazy” in an “Axios on HBO” interview.

Cui’s comments come as China-U.S. relations face new challenges as both sides seek to place blame for the novel coronavirus. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian sparked outrage when he tweeted earlier this month that the U.S. army might have brought the disease to Wuhan.

U.S. President Donald Trump later labeled the coronavirus the “Chinese virus,” drawing accusations of racism.

Cui said it is scientists’ job to study the origin of the virus, and it’s harmful for journalists and diplomats to speculate on the topic.

He called for China and the U.S. to work together as partners to combat the global health challenge. “We are really in a same boat,” he said.

In other coronavirus related news

• Shanghai decided to lower its emergency response from level one to level two starting Tuesday, according to a statement (link in Chinese) from the city government, as the city has not seen any local infections since March 3. It has also tightened scrutiny of inbound travelers, ordering all arrivals from overseas to be tested for the coronavirus.

• Hong Kong will no longer accept inbound travelers by air who are not Hong Kong residents, as the number of imported cases has increased in recent days. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said (link in Chinese) at a briefing on Monday that non-local residents will not be allowed to enter the city via Hong Kong International Airport for 14 days starting Wednesday.

Monday, March 23, 11 a.m.

China reported 102 new confirmed Covid-19 cases on Sunday as the number in Hong Kong surpassed that on the Chinese mainland, according to (link in Chinese) the National Health Commission.

New confirmed cases on the Chinese mainland totaled 39, down from 46 on Saturday. All new cases came from people arriving in the mainland from overseas, with no new local infections. A combined 20 new cases were reported in Beijing and Shanghai, two of the country’s biggest cities and most important international transport hubs.

Hong Kong reported 44 new cases on Sunday as the city contends with containing imported infections. Most of its new cases are people returning from locations such as Europe and the U.S., according to a government statement. Macao had three new cases on Sunday and Taiwan had 16.

As of Sunday, China reported a total of 81,600 cases and 3,276 deaths from the coronavirus. Over 72,800 patients have recovered from the disease.

Global cases double in one week

Global Covid-19 cases nearly doubled over the past week as the coronavirus pandemic has shut down many European countries and U.S. states. The number of confirmed cases worldwide has reached 336,000 as of Monday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University.

• Italy remained the country with the largest number of infections outside China, reporting (link in Italian) 59,138 cases, although it surpasses China in the number of deaths currently standing at 5,476 deaths as of Sunday afternoon local time.

• The coronavirus has infected 33,276 people and killed 417 in the U.S. as the country implements stricter travel restrictions nationwide. Reuters reported that nearly one in three Americans was under orders to stay home as of Sunday.

U.S. Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky on Sunday said he had tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the first member of the Senate to contract the virus.

• Germany has confirmed 24,873 cases and 94 deaths, as its Chancellor Angela Merkel put herself under self-isolation after learning that the doctor who gave her a pneumonia vaccine had tested positive, said her spokesman on Sunday.

In other coronavirus related news

• Canada became the first country refusing to send a team to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus spread, according to a statement by its Olympic committee, as it called for the games to be postponed for a year. The International Olympic Committee said Sunday stakeholders will decide whether to postpone the Tokyo Olympics within four weeks, though canceling the games is not on the agenda.

• Reuters reported the U.S. eliminated a key public health position in Beijing several months before the coronavirus outbreak. The country had previously embedded a medical epidemiologist in China’s disease control agency to help detect disease outbreaks in China.

Compiled by Guo Yingzhe

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Coronavirus Live Updates (Sunday): More Countries Tighten Travel Restrictions; Beijing International Flights to Stop at Other Airports First

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