Movies about outbreaks seeing uptick in interest
The coronavirus appears to have inspired renewed interest in movies about global pandemics, judging by the iTunes rental charts. “Contagion” (2010), Steven Soderbergh’s thriller about the spread of a lethal China-born virus, jumped to No. 10 on the list of most-rented movies earlier this week.
“Outbreak” (1995), a box-office hit about government scientists (Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo) fighting against a fictional Ebola-style virus, also spiked on the charts.
The real-life outbreak isn’t just driving interest in films. “Plague, Inc.,” a mobile game about viral outbreaks, has also seen a surge in popularity in recent days. The company behind the game issued a statement reminding players that their product was “not a scientific model, and that the current coronavirus outbreak is a very real situation which is impacting a huge number of people.” — Daniel Arkin
6,000 passengers held on cruise ship in Italy
Some 6,000 people are being kept on board an Italian cruise ship on Thursday, according to Reuters, as tests are carried out on two passengers suspected of having caught coronavirus, a spokesman for the Costa Crociere cruise company said.
The Chinese couple arrived in Italy on Jan. 25 and boarded the ship, the Costa Smeralda, in the port of Savona that same day. They subsequently came down with a fever and are reportedly suffering breathing difficulties.
On a what is supposed to be a week-long Mediterranean cruise, the liner has visited Marseilles in France, and the Spanish ports of Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca this week before docking at Civitavecchia, north of Rome. — Isobel van Hagen
Russia closes Far East border with China
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Russian state media reported on Thursday that the country is closing its Far East border with China in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“A corresponding instruction was signed today. Work on it is already in progress. We will inform all those concerned properly about the measures to close the border in the Far Eastern region and other steps the government has taken,” said Mikhail Mishustin, Russia’s prime minister, according to Russian news outlet TASS. — Jason Abbruzzese
Queensland health authorities said they have asked a Chinese football team and their support staff who arrived in Brisbane on Wednesday to remain in their hotel rooms until Feb. 5.
“We are working closely with the hotel and the 32 individuals concerned – who are all well and not showing symptoms,” Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said in a statement.
The hotel is in the process of alerting other guests and staff and making suitable arrangements, health officials said. — Yuliya Talmazan
Virus causing sport event cancellations and delays
China’s state CGTN network reported Wednesday that the coronavirus outbreak has forced the cancellation of the first official Beijing 2022 test event next month.
An International Ski Federation (FIS) Alpine Skiing World Cup was due to take place on the new Winter Olympic course in Yanqing between Feb. 15 and 16, but has now been called off.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Football Association announced it would postpone domestic games in 2020 and the World Athletics Indoor Championships scheduled in the Chinese city of Nanjing in March have been postponed until 2021. — Yuliya Talmazan
Americans evacuated from Wuhan, more planes on the way
A plane with 195 Americans evacuated from the locked-down city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic, landed in California Wednesday.
Public health officials said there were no signs of illness among the evacuated passengers who were screened multiple times in both China and during a refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska.
Hundreds of U.S. citizens remain in Wuhan, however, with many still wanting to leave the city.
As of Tuesday night, over 700 private American citizens have requested U.S. government assistance in evacuating Wuhan, according to a U.S. official familiar with the current situation.
The Department of State said Thursday it will be providing additional evacuation flights on or about Feb.3.
Officials at China’s National Health Commission said that as of Wednesday, there were more than 7,700 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the country as the death toll reached 170. — Yuliya Talmazan
More countries move to evacuate their citizens
A growing number of countries are planning to evacuate diplomatic staff and private citizens from Wuhan.
Japan brought back 206 of its citizens on the first chartered flight Wednesday. A second charter flight carrying 210 Japanese nationals arrived in Tokyo on Thursday.
South Korea and France are expected to send their planes to Wuhan imminently, while a slew of other nations are considering doing the same.
The new coronavirus has now reached four continents, with infections having been reported in at least 16 other countries. No deaths have occurred outside China so far. — Yuliya Talmazan
Trump announces ‘coronavirus task force’ to lead U.S. response
President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced the formation of the “president’s coronavirus task force,” which the White House says will lead the U.S. government’s response to the outbreak.
The virus has been confirmed in five people in the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control said Wednesday they have 165 people under investigation. — Yuliya Talmazan
Australia to quarantine hundreds of citizens
Australia is planning to quarantine hundreds of its citizens.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that around 600 Australian citizens will be flown out of Wuhan and neighboring cities in China’s Hubei province and will be isolated for up to 14 days on Christmas Island, about 1,600 miles northwest of Australia.
Christmas Island houses a controversial immigration facility that Australia used to detain asylum-seekers from 2003 until 2018. — Yuliya Talmazan
Japan reports three new cases
Japan reported three new cases of the coronavirus Thursday, all from passengers on Wednesday’s first charter flight from Wuhan.
The first case is a patient and the other two cases are carriers without any symptoms, Japan’s health ministry said. The three cases were among 206 Japanese people who were evacuated to Tokyo from Wuhan on Wednesday. — Yuliya Talmazan
WHO to meet again to assess global public threat
The World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee is due to reconvene on Thursday to decide whether the virus constitutes a global emergency. The committee voted against the move last week.
The WHO officials have raised concerns about signs of a few cases of human-to-human transmission in three countries outside China.
On Wednesday, they also praised China for the “extraordinary steps” the government has taken to prevent the export of cases. “For that, China deserves our gratitude and respect,” said WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom. — Yuliya Talmazan
International airlines suspend service to China
Many international airlines have suspended or reduced flights to China, including American Airlines, Delta, United, Air Seoul, British Airways, Lufthansa, KLM and Air Canada.
British Airways said Wednesday that it has stopped flights to and from China following government advice against all but essential travel.
American Airlines said that the company had suspended flights from Los Angeles to Shanghai and Beijing. German carrier Lufthansa, SWISS and Austrian Airlines will also suspend their flights both to and from mainland China until Feb. 9. — Yuliya Talmazan
Outbreak could hit China’s economy
Asian stocks and currencies fell as the death toll rose and more cases were reported with fears growing that the hit to China’s economy will ripple around the world.
Zhang Ming, an economist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a top government think tank, projected the outbreak would cut the country’s first-quarter growth by one percent to 5 percent or lower.
Concern is also growing that thousands of Chinese factory workers on Lunar New Year holidays may struggle to get back to work next week, due to travel restrictions imposed to stop the virus’ spread. — Yuliya Talmazan
India and the Philippines confirm first cases
India on Thursday reported its first case of the novel coronavirus in the southern state of Kerala, the country’s ministry of health said in a statement.
The patient, who is a student at Wuhan University in China, is stable and in isolation at a hospital, the statement added.
Meanwhile, Philippine health officials have also confirmed the country’s first case, Reuters reported.
A 38-year-old Chinese woman, who arrived in the country from Wuhan, China, on Jan. 21, said Health Secretary Francisco Duque. The patient, confined in a government hospital, is currently asymptomatic. — Yuliya Talmazan
First case in Tibet
Chinese health officials confirmed Wednesday the first case in the capital of Tibet.
The patient is from the city of Suizhou in central China’s Hubei Province, Xinhua news agency reported citing local health officials.
He came to Lhasa, the capital, by train from Wuhan on Jan. 24 and was hospitalized a day later.
The patient’s vital signs are stable and close contacts have been put under medical observation, Xinhua said. — Yuliya Talmazan
Ikea temporarily closes stores on the mainland
The Swedish home furnishings chain Ikea said it is temporarily closing its stores in mainland China until further notice amid the epidemic.
Ikea China said in a statement that some stores had already been closed or had their hours shortened out of caution for the health and safety of its customers and employees.
The closure is effective Thursday local time, and online services are unaffected. — Yuliya Talmazan
Follow live updates on new cases here.