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Fewer virus cases in China, but deaths abroad increase
Workers from a disinfection service spray disinfectant as part of preventive measures against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, at a public bus terminal in Seoul on February 20, 2020. South Korea's coronavirus numbers nearly doubled February 20 -- almost half of them in a cluster centred on a sect in the city of Daegu -- and the country saw its first death of an infected patient.
AFP/Yonhap

Fewer virus cases in China, but deaths abroad increase

Laurent Thomet (Agence France-Presse) - February 21, 2020 - 8:43am

BEIJING, China — China on Thursday touted a big drop in new virus infections as proof its epidemic control efforts are working, but the toll grew abroad with deaths in Japan and South Korea.

Fatalities in China hit 2,118 as 114 more people died, but health officials reported the lowest number of new cases in nearly a month, including in hardest-hit Hubei province.

More than 74,000 people have been infected by the new coronavirus in China, and hundreds more in over 25 countries.

The number of deaths outside mainland China climbed to 11.

Japan's toll rose to three as a man and a woman in their 80s who had been aboard a quarantined cruise ship died, while fears there mounted over other passengers who disembarked the Diamond Princess after testing negative.

South Korea reported its first death, and the number of infections in the country nearly doubled Thursday to 104.

Iran reported two deaths on Wednesday and three new cases Thursday. Deaths have previously been confirmed in France, the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Chinese officials say their drastic containment efforts, including quarantining tens of millions of people in Hubei and restricting movements in cities nationwide, have started to pay off.

Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by phone about the virus with leaders in South Korea and Pakistan, state news agency Xinhua said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in "chose to call to express sympathies and support" regarding the outbreak, Xinhua said. Xi told him the epidemic's impact on bilateral ties will only be temporary.

Xi told Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan that their two countries "are true friends and good brothers," and that combating the virus is his government's top priority.

At a special meeting on the virus with Southeast Asian countries in Laos, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said results "show that our control efforts are working." 

Although more than 600 new infections were reported Thursday in Hubei's capital Wuhan, it was the lowest daily tally since late January and well down from the 1,749 new cases the day before.

The national figure has  fallen for three straight days.

Chinese authorities placed the city of 11 million under quarantine on January 23 and quickly locked down the rest of the province in the days that followed.

Wuhan authorities this week carried out  door-to-door checks on residents, with the local Communist Party chief warning that officials would be "held accountable" if any infections were missed.

Cities far from the epicentre have limited the number of people who can leave their homes for groceries, while rural villages have sealed off access to outsiders.

'Chaotic' cruise quarantine

In Japan, critics slammed the government's quarantine measures imposed on the Diamond Princess.

The huge vessel moored in Yokohama is the biggest coronavirus cluster outside the Chinese epicentre, with 634 cases confirmed among passengers and crew.

Another 13 people on board the ship were diagnosed with the virus Thursday, Japan's health ministry said.

Still, passengers were disembarking after negative tests and having completed a 14-day quarantine period -- packing into yellow buses and leaving for stations and airports.

An infectious diseases specialist at Kobe University slammed the quarantine procedures on board as "completely chaotic" in rare criticism from a Japanese academic.

"The cruise ship was completely inadequate in terms of infection control," said Kentaro Iwata in videos he has since deleted.

South Korea, meanwhile, announced 51 new cases, with more than 40 in a cluster centred on the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, an entity often seen as a cult.

The infections apparently came from a 61-year-old woman who first developed a fever on February 10 and attended at least four services before being diagnosed.

Authorities were investigating whether she visited a hospital where a long-term patient contracted the virus and later died. 

Growing concern abroad

Beyond Asia, citizen backlash was growing over fears of contagion.

Iraq on Thursday clamped down on travel to and from neighboring Iran, with Iraq's health ministry announcing people in Iran were barred from entering the country "until further notice."

The move came after Iran confirmed three new coronavirus cases following the deaths of two elderly men.

And in Ukraine, a crowd clashed with police outside a hospital over government plans to quarantine evacuees from coronavirus-hit China at the site.

Six buses with the evacuees arrived at the medical center in Novi Sanzhary, in the central Poltava region, escorted by police.

Angry  demonstrators lit fires and pelted the buses with rocks, breaking at least three windows.

Because of the virus outbreak, airlines operating in the Asia-Pacific region stand to lose a combined $27.8 billion of revenue, the International Air Transport Association said.

This is the first time since 2003 that demand for air travel has declined, IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac said. — with Miwa Suzuki in Tokyo

2019-NCOV CHINA COVID-19 DEATH TOLL NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 27, 2021 - 10:35am

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

July 27, 2021 - 10:35am

Melbourne's coronavirus lockdown will be lifted late Tuesday, as authorities signalled a Delta variant outbreak in Australia's second-biggest city had been contained.

Neighboring South Australia state will also ease stay-at-home rules, but the country's largest city Sydney was facing a likely extension to a lockdown now in its fifth week.

After almost two weeks under stay-at-home orders, millions in Melbourne and surrounding Victoria state will exit their fifth lockdown just before midnight Tuesday.

The state had now "seen off two Delta outbreaks" in recent months, premier Dan Andrews said.

"It's not over, though, and we've got to be vigilant against this virus, the Delta strain, in the days and weeks and months ahead until we get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can," he added.

"That is some time away."

Schools, restaurants and shops will reopen but restrictions including mask-wearing will remain. — AFP

July 26, 2021 - 8:18am

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday said the country had "largely" passed the peak of its third coronavirus wave and eased restrictions, including a ban on alcohol sales.

The African country worst hit by the virus went back into a partial lockdown last month to stem a surge in COVID-19 cases widely attributed to the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Ramaphosa on Sunday said the average number of daily new infections had stood around 12,000 over the past week, a 20% drop from the previous week. 

"The latest figures suggest that we have largely passed the peak of the third wave of infections, although there are areas in the country where we still need to be concerned," the president said in an address to the nation.

While new daily cases have declined steadily in the most populous Gauteng province — the third wave's epicenter — infections are still rising in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape provinces, he cautioned.

But Ramaphosa still announced the easing of restrictions on gatherings, in-country travel and alcohol sales with almost immediate effect. — AFP

July 24, 2021 - 12:15pm

The number of COVID-19 cases surpasses 40 million on Saturday in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Since the first coronavirus infections were recorded last year, the number of cases in the region has reached 40,073,507, according to an AFP count based on official data as of 0200 GMT.

The number of deaths has reached 1,353,335.

The rapid spread of the highly contagious Delta variant has fueled a surge in COVID-19 cases around the world this week, with total cases hitting 192,942,266 with 4,143,687 deaths.

July 23, 2021 - 1:59pm

China says a WHO proposal to audit Chinese labs as part of further investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic showed "disrespect" and "arrogance towards science".

Last week, the World Health Organization said a second stage of the international probe should include audits of Chinese labs, amid increasing pressure from the United States for an investigation into a biotech lab in Wuhan. 

The proposal outlined by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus included "audits of relevant laboratories and research institutions operating in the area of the initial human cases identified in December 2019" -- referring to the Chinese city of Wuhan. — AFP

July 23, 2021 - 11:59am

State leaders say that Sydney's fast-growing coronavirus outbreak has become a "national emergency," as Australia's largest city reported another record number of new infections.

Admitting a month-long lockdown had so far failed to stop a Delta-variant outbreak, the state of New South Wales pleaded for Canberra to urgently send more vaccines and resources.

Declaring the outbreak a national emergency could pave the way for more federal government involvement in stemming the crisis. — AFP

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