Updated 10:40 AM

WHO says it has “a fighting chance” to contain the coronavirus outbreak

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said measures China and other countries have taken so far to contain the spread of the coronavirus means the world still has “a fighting chance” to contain the outbreak.

“We must not look back and regret that we failed to take advantage of the window of opportunity that we have now,” Tedros said in a briefing on Friday.

He said the WHO was concerned over the number of coronavirus cases with no clear epidemiological link to China, meaning that patients had neither traveled there or come in contact with any confirmed cases. He also voiced concern about the potential spread of the virus in China’s Shandong province, near Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Tedros announced that the WHO would be appointing six special envoys on COVID-19 to provide high level advice in different parts of the world. He also said an international WHO team would visit Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, on Saturday.


9:26 AM

Hundreds of people to be tested in Italy after 6 coronavirus cases discovered

Six people in Italy tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday in the first known cases of local transmission of the disease in the country, the Reuters news agency reported.

Residents of three towns in Italy’s northern Lombardy region were told to stay at home as doctors tested hundreds of people who may have come in contact with the six patients, none of whom were believed to have traveled to China.

A 38-year-old man was the first person infected with the coronavirus after meeting a friend who had been to China. He is now in intensive care, Reuters reported.


Updated 8:30 AM

First confirmed coronavirus case reported in Lebanon

The first confirmed coronavirus case was reported in Lebanon Friday, according to the country’s ministry of health.

A woman who had traveled to Lebanon from Iran tested positive for COVID-19, the health ministry said, adding that there were two other suspected cases, according to the Reuters news agency.

The woman had arrived in Lebanon from the Iranian city of Qom, Reuters reported.


Updated 8:13 AM

Israel says cruise passenger flown home from Japan has virus

One of the 11 Israelis who were flown home after being quarantined on a cruise ship in Japan has tested positive for the new virus that emerged in China late last year, the first case to be reported inside Israel, the Health Ministry said Friday.


The Israeli cruise ship passengers, who had all initially tested negative for the new coronavirus, arrived on a charter plane overnight. They were met by medics in protection suits and immediately taken to the Sheba Hospital near Tel Aviv, where they will be kept in quarantine.


Another four Israelis were hospitalized in Japan after testing positive for the virus.

More than 500 cases of the new coronavirus have been detected in prisons across China, authorities said Friday, prompting the sacking of a slew of officials.

Hubei, the hard-hit central province where the virus emerged late last year, said Friday that 271 cases were reported by its prisons on Thursday, including 220 that had previously not been known to provincial authorities.

Associated Press


Updated 7:44 AM

Another young doctor dies treating coronavirus patients in outbreak’s epicenter

A 29-year-old doctor who had delayed his wedding to help treat coronavirus patients in Wuhan, China, has died, according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

Peng Yinhua contracted the disease working on the “front line” in critical and respiratory care at Jiangxia district’s First People’s Hospital, according to Wuhan health authorities, the Guardian reported. He died Thursday evening.

Peng was one of the youngest reported victims of the disease, the Guardian said. Last month, another young doctor, 34-year-old Li Wenliang, died after trying to warn colleagues about the coronavirus before an outbreak had been acknowledged by officials.


Updated 7:08 AM

Coronavirus cases balloon in South Korea

Schools were shuttered, churches told worshipers to stay away and some mass gatherings were banned as cases of a new virus swelled Friday in South Korea, the newest front in a widening global outbreak.

The country said a total of 204 people were infected with the virus, quadruple the number it had two days earlier, as a crisis centered in China has begun strongly reverberating elsewhere.

The multiplying caseload in South Korea showed the ease with which the illness can spread. Though initial infections were linked to China, new ones have not involved international travel.

Associated Press


Updated 6:14 AM

Iran says two more deaths among 13 new coronavirus cases

Iran’s health ministry Friday reported two more deaths among 13 new cases of coronavirus in the Islamic republic, bringing the total number of deaths to four and infections to 18.

“Thirteen new cases have been confirmed,” ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said on Twitter. “Unfortunately two of them have lost their lives.”

Agence France-Presse


5:12 AM

Ukraine protesters attack buses carrying evacuees from China

Dozens of protesters in Ukraine attacked buses carrying evacuees from the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China overnight, hurling stones at their vehicles as they approached the facility where they were set to be quarantined in Novi Sanzhary.

There are no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Ukraine, but the country’s security service said a hoax health ministry email had claimed some evacuees had contracted the virus, BBC News reported.

To express solidarity with the evacuees, Ukraine’s minister of health, Zoryana Skaletska, said she would join them during their quarantine and work remotely.


Updated 6:56 AM

Last uninfected passengers leaving ship docked near Tokyo as quarantine ends

Japan’s health minister said the last cruise ship passengers who tested negative for a new virus will leave the Diamond Princess on Friday after a much-criticized quarantine of the vessel ended.

The ship docked at a Yokohama port has the most COVID-19 cases outside of China, with 634 confirmed by late Thursday. Two former passengers have died.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told a news conference the mass disembarkation into Japan of passengers from the ship is set to end Friday, while dozens of foreign passengers are flying back to their home countries on flights chartered by their governments. 

— The Associated Press


Updated 4:54 AM

Hubei, China adds new cases from prison system to totals it reported

The central Chinese province of Hubei raised the number of new cases it was reporting Friday by 220, to include new infections in its prison system, according to the Reuters news service.

Hubei, whose capital is the virus epicenter of Wuhan, said the actual number was 631, up from 411.

It wasn’t clear whether inmate infections were included in prior totals from the province or Hubei was including them for the first time.  

Hubei health officials said its latest total was 62,662 cases as of Thursday, including the ones in the prison system. 


Updated 6:57 AM

South Korea declares “special management zone” around area with surging viral outbreak

South Korea on Friday declared a “special management zone” around a southeastern city where a surging viral outbreak, largely linked to a church in Daegu, threatens to overwhelm the region’s health system.


Health authorities reported 52 new cases of the illness, raising South Korea’s total to 156, most of them since Wednesday. The spike, especially in and around Daegu, has raised fears the outbreak is getting out of control in the country.


In the capital, Seoul, officials banned major downtown rallies to try to fight the outbreak.


Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun said in a televised statement the central government will concentrate its support to the southeastern region to ease a shortage in sickbeds, medical personnel and equipment.


“A month into the (COVID-19) outbreak, we have entered an emergency phase,” Chung said. “Our efforts until now had been focused on blocking the illness from entering the country. But we will now shift the focus on preventing the illness from spreading further in local communities.”

— The Associated Press

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