Afaq News:

A Thai medical worker was confirmed with the novel coronavirus today, bringing the national total to 34 cases, according to health officials.

The new confirmed case is a 35-year-old woman, said Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, Director General to Disease Control Departments.

She is a medical staff, and she has a record of having close contact with another confirmed patient who is receiving treatment at Bamrasnaraduna Infectious Disease Institute,” he said.

No further information was released about the medical worker to avoid any stigma on the profession, he added.

Of Thailand’s 34 confirmed cases, 20 patients are still hospitalized. 14 patients have recovered and been discharged.

International experts will arrive in China this weekend

A World Health Organization-led joint mission to China is expected to touch down this weekend, with about a dozen international and WHO experts meeting a similar number of Chinese expert counterparts.

The experts will be reviewing data and making field visits to several Chinese provinces, to determine next steps for both China and the world in terms of response and containment.

The experts will stay as long as they are needed, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus


We convened experts & R&D funders at @WHO to set priorities for stopping the outbreak, incl:
-how to apply diagnostics
-the best approaches for infection prevention
-potential therapies that could be used now
-existing vaccine candidates
-how to address the infodemic

US offers expert help: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered to send experts to China, but the offer has not yet been accepted.

“It’s dependent on the Chinese to make their decisions and facilitate that,” Azar said. “The World Health Organization, we believe, has secured agreement to deploy a WHO team with our US public health experts as part of that team. We are ready to go and we are waiting for final clearance from the Chinese government to make that happen.”

Europe’s stagnant economy is vulnerable to a shock from China

Recession fears are stalking Europe again after Germany’s economy flatlined at the end of 2019 — and now, the coronavirus outbreak could slam exports to China.

The German economy did not grow in the final three months of last year, setting up the country for a difficult 2020 just when it was meant to begin experiencing a revival.

Across the eurozone, growth slumped to a seven-year low of 0.1% in final quarter of last year — making Europe especially vulnerable to the looming hit from the coronavirus outbreak.

“The (eurozone) economy should be about to turn a corner, but the coronavirus now means that (the first quarter) could well be a write-off,” Claus Vistesen, chief eurozone economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in a research note.

Recession looms: Germany was already in a feeble condition, logging growth of just 0.6% for the whole of 2019 amid weak global auto sales, the US-China trade war and uncertainty over Brexit.

Now economists are once again talking about the prospect of a recession, or two consecutive quarters of negative growth — Germany relies heavily on exports to China, whose economy has been paralyzed by the outbreak.

That doesn’t bode well for the rest of Europe. Should the situation continue to deteriorate, the European Central Bank may need to step in, pushing interest rates further into negative territory or increasing monthly bond purchases.

Residents in Hong Kong residential building can go home after quarantine

Officials wearing protective gear stand guard outside an entrance to the Hong Mei House residential building in Hong Kong.
Officials wearing protective gear stand guard outside an entrance to the Hong Mei House residential building in Hong Kong.

All asymptomatic residents of a Hong Kong public housing building can return home on Sunday after their quarantine ends, the government said today.

The building was partially evacuated this week after four residents on different floors tested positive for the virus.

About 100 residents then tested negative for the virus, and were transferred to quarantine centers.

The four patients: A 62-year-old female resident was confirmed with the virus about a week and a half after a 75-year-old man in the same building became infected.

The woman’s son and daughter-in-law, who live with her, were confirmed with the virus soon after.

Transmission through pipes: The cases set off alarm bells among health officials that the virus could have been transmitted through pipes in the building. In densely populated Hong Kong this could lead to hundreds of people becoming infected in the supposed safety of their own homes.

The authorities said today they have finished cleaning and disinfecting the building, including the apartments of the confirmed cases. They have also adjusted a vent pipe in the female patient’s apartment after it was found to have been altered without authorization.

Read more about the pipe possibility here.

1 hr 18 min ago

Americans to be evacuated from Diamond Princess cruise ship tomorrow

A passenger is seen on a balcony of the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
A passenger is seen on a balcony of the Diamond Princess cruise ship. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images

The US Embassy in Tokyo has detailed plans for a voluntary evacuation for US citizens on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship and their immediate family.

Chartered flight on Sunday: In an email to American passengers on Saturday, the embassy said the evacuation would take place Sunday evening local time.

The US government “recommends, out of an abundance of caution, that US citizens disembark and return to the United States for further monitoring,” reads the email, which was obtained by CNN from a passenger on board.

Passengers to be screened and quarantined: Those who choose to return to the US on a charter aircraft will be required to undergo another 14 days of quarantine.

“We understand this is frustrating and an adjustment, but these measures are consistent with the careful policies we have instituted to limit the potential spread of the disease,” the email continues.

A charter flight will arrive in Japan on Sunday evening and busses will transport the Americans directly from Yokohama port to an unspecified airport.

“Passengers will be screened for symptoms and we are working with our Japanese partners to ensure that any symptomatic passengers receive the required care in Japan if they cannot board the flight,” the email reads.

Infected Americans to stay in Japan: Those Americans who have already tested positive for coronavirus, as well as those showing symptoms of the virus, will not be able to board the aircraft, and will continue to receive treatment in Japan.

Plane to land in California and Texas: “The aircraft will land in the United States at Travis Air Force Base in California. Some passengers will then continue onward to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. We will provide information about your final destination prior to boarding the plane,” the embassy told passengers.

Those who choose not to take the charter flights “will be unable to return to the United States for a period of time.”

1 hr 28 min ago

A single patient in Egypt marks the first confirmed coronavirus case in Africa

Egyptian Quarantine Authority employees scan incoming travellers at Cairo International Airport on February 1, 2020.
Egyptian Quarantine Authority employees scan incoming travellers at Cairo International Airport on February 1, 2020. AFP via Getty Images

Egypt announced its first case of Wuhan coronavirus on Friday, according to a joint statement by Egypt’s Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The person who tested positive is a “foreigner,” the statement said.

Egypt’s Ministry of Health spokesperson, Dr. Khaled Mujahid, said Egypt discovered the case by testing passengers coming from countries where infections have emerged.

Mujahid added that WHO was immediately informed, and all preventive measures will be taken in cooperation with them.

The confirmed case marks the first in Africa since the virus was detected in December last year, in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

To date, a total of 605 cases have been confirmed outside of mainland China.