The death toll from China’s coronavirus outbreak has surpassed 250, the government said on Saturday, as foreign nations tightened restrictions on travellers from China in response to the rapid spread of the illness.
At least 259 people have died and 11,791 people have been infected in China by the new coronavirus, according to new figures from China’s health officials.
Most of the latest fatalities are from Hubei province. The city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, is located in Hubei.
Another 17,888 people are suspected of being infected, while 243 have been discharged, according to a separate report by China’s state-owned international channel, CGTN.
On Friday, it was reported that there were more than 102,000 people under medical observation.
Fresh cases have been detected abroad, with more than 20 countries now affected, including Spain and the United Kingdom.
The top Communist Party official in Wuhan, the central city of 11 million people where the virus first emerged in December, on Friday expressed “remorse” because local authorities acted too slowly.
Here are the latest updates:
Saturday, February 1
Uzbekistan to suspend flights to and from China
The government of Uzbekistan has instructed the state airline to suspend flights to and from China over the coronavirus epidemic, the cabinet said.
Charter flights will bring back Uzbek citizens if they wish to return, except from Wuhan, it said
Turkmenistan airline suspends Beijing flights
Turkmenistan Airlines, the Central Asian nation’s state carrier, has suspended flights to and from Beijing, the company said.
The move was aimed at preventing the spread of the 2019-nCoV virus which has prompted many other nations to suspend travel links with China, the company said in a statement.
Iran bans flights to and from China
Iran is banning flights to and from China due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus, Health Minister Saeed Namaki was quoted by Iranian media as saying.
Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri stressed that the measure would only be temporary.
So far, there have been no confirmed casesof the deadly virus in Iran.
Vietnam suspends all China flights
Vietnam has suspended all China flights as part of “strengthening measures” against the coronavirus outbreak, its civil aviation authority said in a statement.
The directive applies to all airlines “which have routes between Vietnam and China”, it added.
Vietnam Airlines, the country’s national carrier, and budget airline Jetstar Pacific said they would stop flying to mainland China along with Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Bangladesh evacuates citizens from Wuhan
Bangladesh has evacuated 316 of its citizens, including 15 children, from the Chinese city of Wuhan, in a chartered plane of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, the carrier’s chief executive Mokabbir Hossain told dpa news agency.
Seven of the returnees were transported to a hospital shortly after their arrival in Dhaka, an airport health official said, adding that the rest of the evacuees will be placed in quarantine for two weeks at a location near the airport.
China’s Premier Li Keqiang has asked the European Union to facilitate China’s urgent procurement of medical supplies from member countries, the Chinese government said.
Apple to temporarily close all China stores
Apple Inc said it has decided to shut down all of its official stores in mainland China until February 9 due to “recent public health and prevention considerations”.
Apple did not immediately respond to a further request for comment.
‘Children at risk’ amid coronavirus outbreak
Children are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak, international aid group Save the Children said as it expressed concern over its spread in countries with weak healthcare systems and insufficient resources.
“While the Chinese government is taking effective measures to respond to this outbreak inside China, Save the Children is concerned about a potential outbreak in other parts of Asia where the healthcare systems won’t be able to adequately screen for the virus or treat patients who have contracted it,” Hassan Saadi Noor, the charity’s Asia regional director, said in a statement.
Thailand to evacuate nationals from China
The evacuation of Thai nationals from the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in China could take place “in a matter of days”, Thailand’s government said.
Three officials from the Thai embassy in Beijing are expected to reach Wuhan on Sunday to help with the evacuation, government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat said.
“We have an increase from 161 to now 182 Thais in the area who have registered with us and we are verifying their documents,” she told Reuters news agency. “The evacuation will be in a matter of days, likely after February 2.”
Indonesia to quarantine evacuees in military base
Indonesian officials said about 250 of its nationals being evacuated from China’s Hubei province, the centre of the coronavirus epidemic, will be quarantined in its Natuna Islands military base.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said all the evacuees, along with five officials arranging their return on the Batik Air plane, were healthy and that further onboard medical checks would be conducted on their arrival in Indonesia.
China flies citizens home to virus-hit Wuhan
China has flown two planeloads of its citizens back home to the locked-down province of Hubei, where they were greeted by authorities in full-body protective suits.
A Xiamen Airlines charter flight from Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, touched down in the provincial capital Wuhan.
A second Xiamen flight landed soon afterwards carrying Hubei residents from Kota Kinabalu, a popular coastal tourist destination in Malaysia.
Australia bars entry to non-citizens coming from China
The Australian government said it would bar non-citizens arriving from China from entering the country under new measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said only “Australian citizens, Australian residents, dependents, legal guardians or spouses” would be permitted into the country from China from Saturday.
“The arrangements are being put in place through our border authorities to ensure that that can be actioned,” he added. “Those that do return will be required to go into self-isolation for 14 days.”
More than 300 Indians flown back from China’s Hubei
An Air India flight carrying 324 Indian nationals, most of them students, from China’s coronavirus-hit Hubei province landed in the Indian capital, a spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs said.
Those evacuated were quarantined in a facility in the outskirts of New Delhi prepared by the Indian army.
They are expected to remain in quarantine for an estimated two weeks, but will remain under surveillance by local health authorities once they return home.
Turkey evacuates citizens from Wuhan
A cargo plane with 42 passengers left for Turkey after evacuating Turkish citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
The evacuees were screened by Turkish health experts using a team of six experts assigned to run blood tests and scan the health conditions to eliminate the potential risk in Turkey.
UK withdraws some staff from China embassy
Britain is withdrawing some staff from its embassy and consulates in China due to the coronavirus, the UK government said in a statement.
“Essential staff needed to continue critical work will remain,” it said.
“In the event that the situation deteriorates further, the ability of the British Embassy and Consulates to provide assistance to British nationals from within China may be limited.”
China criticises latest US response to coronavirus outbreak
Beijing criticised Washington’s order barring entry to most foreigners who visited China in the past two weeks, and “unfriendly comments” that its government is failing to cooperate in the crisis.
The Chinese government said the decision contradicted the WHO’s appeal to avoid travel bans.
US imposes travel restrictions as coronavirus cases rise
The United States took drastic steps that will temporarily bar foreign nationals who have travelled in China within the last 14 days.
Americans returning from China will be allowed into the country, but will face screening at select ports of entry and required to undertake 14 days of self-screening to ensure they do not pose a health risk.
Read more here.
Those returning from Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine.
Beginning on Sunday, the US will also begin funnelling all flights to the US from China to seven major airports where passengers can be screened for the illness.
More airlines suspend China flights
Qantas Airways said it will suspend its two direct flight routes from Australia to mainland China from February 9 in response to travel restrictions imposed by some countries due to the coronavirus crisis.
The Australian national carrier’s direct flights from Sydney to Beijing and Sydney to Shanghai will be halted until March 29, it said in a statement published on Saturday.
Philippine airline Cebu Pacific also said on Saturday that it has cancelled flights to and from mainland China, Macau and Hong Kong from February 2 to March 29.
Earlier, three US airlines – American, Delta and United – said they would soon suspend all flights to China.
China’s Tianjin says all schools, non-essential companies to remain close
China’s city of Tianjin announced on Saturday that all schools and non-essential companies will remain closed until further notice to help curb the spread of coronavirus, according to the state media.
Tianjin, which has a population of about 15 million and borders capital Beijing, had 32 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of 10pm local time (GMT 14:00) on January 31.
Spain confirms case of coronavirus
Spain’s National Centre for Microbiology has confirmed the country’s first case of coronavirus after a man was diagnosed with the virus on the remote island of La Gomera in the Canaries, the Health Ministry said.
The patient is part of a group of five people taken under observation on the island and isolated after it was found they had come into contact with a German man diagnosed with the virus.
UN biodiversity talks moved out of China on virus fears
The next round of talks on a global biodiversity treaty, due to be held in the Chinese city of Kunming on February 24, will be moved to Rome as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the United Nations announced.
The UN’s Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity said it had reached the decision after consultations with the Chinese government.
Kunming is still set to host the main round of global biodiversity talks in October this year.
Pasteur Institute eyes coronavirus vaccine in 2021
France’s Pasteur Institute Foundation said it had set up a task force aimed at developing a vaccine against the coronavirus in 20 months.
Christophe D’Enfert, a scientific director with the Pasteur Institute, told reporters in Paris the vaccine could be made available in 20 months if “all goes well”.
“At the end of August, we could enter clinical trials and, provided all goes well, obtain a vaccine candidate within 20 months.”
Japan dismisses 2020 Olympics cancellation fears
Tokyo 2020 Olympics organisers have dismissed rumours that the Games were endangered by the spread of the coronavirus.
“We have never discussed cancelling the Games. Tokyo 2020 will continue to collaborate with the (International Olympic Committee) IOC and relevant organisations and will review any countermeasures that may be necessary,” the organisers said in a statement to the German news agency DPA.
The IOC also said preparations for the July 24-August 9 Games were continuing as planned.
Diary of a Wuhan native: A week in quarantine
A teacher living in the epicentre of the deadly outbreak shares her experiences of isolation with Al Jazeera as the quarantine in Wuhan continues.
Read the full story here.
Japan to enforce special measures: NHK
Japan plans to bring forward the date that the coronavirus will become a “designated infectious disease” to Saturday from February 7, public broadcaster NHK said.
Japanese Minister of Health Katsunobu Kato said the government was considering moving up the date, without elaborating.
The government classified the virus as a designated infectious disease on Tuesday, a move that allows compulsory hospitalisation, stricter screening of people entering the country, and the use of public funds for treatment, among other measures.
In line with regulations, the designation was only set to take effect on February 7 after ordinances are issued.
Read updates from Friday, January 31 here.