Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Evacuates Citizens From Hot Zone, and Death Toll Mounts - The New York Times

Chinese officials confirmed nearly 6,000 cases of the mysterious illness as foreign governments airlifted their citizens out of Wuhan, the outbreak’s epicenter.

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Virus shows signs of spreading overseas with people who never visited China falling ill in Germany, Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Image An airplane, in background, carrying Americans being evacuated from Wuhan, China, made a refueling stop at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Anchorage on Tuesday night. Credit... Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News, via Associated Press

Americans evacuated from China undergo screening in Alaska before quarantine.

A chartered plane carrying more than 200 Americans from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China, landed in Anchorage shortly after 9:20 p.m. local time on Tuesday, according to flight tracking services.

The 240 passengers, including diplomats and businesspeople, were to undergo medical screening at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, the local authorities said. The plane was also to be refueled before flying to March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, Calif., its final destination.

Jim Szczesniak, the airport manager, said that the aircraft would be “handled in a remote location” and that medical staff from the United States Centers for Disease Control would check patients in an isolated area. Passengers would remain in a terminal that is not currently being used by commercial carriers or accessible to the public.

“The passengers will be screened and go through the immigration process,” Mr. Szczesniak said. “They will reboard their flight and head to their final destination.”

However, any passengers found to have a cough, fever or shortness of breath in Anchorage will be further assessed by medical experts, according to a statement released by Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services. If the medical team determines that special care is necessary, it will refer those passengers to a nearby hospital.

Alaska has had no cases of the new coronavirus or people suspected of having it. But after officials announced on Monday that the plane would be taking Americans to Alaska from Wuhan, the health department said that it had activated its emergency operations center to help coordinate detection and response efforts.

Many aircraft that transport cargo stop in Anchorage to refuel. So far this month, six cargo planes from Wuhan have landed there.

Other countries that have evacuated or plan to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan include France, South Korea, Japan, Morocco, Germany, Kazakhstan, Britain, Canada, Russia, the Netherlands, Myanmar and Australia.

The outbreak is spreading. Nearly 6,000 cases have been confirmed.

More than 130 people have died from the mysterious new coronavirus, according to official Chinese statistics, but the real number is likely much higher. A dearth of test kits has hindered health officials ability to accurately diagnose and track the illness.

Here’s what we know about how the disease has spread:

◆ China said on Wednesday that 132 people had died from the virus, which is believed to have originated in the central city of Wuhan and is spreading across the country. The previous count, on Tuesday, was 106.

◆ The number of confirmed cases increased by nearly 25 percent to 5,974 on Wednesday, up from 4,515 on Tuesday, according to China’s National Health Commission.

◆ Thailand has reported 14 cases of infection; Hong Kong has eight; the United States, Taiwan, Australia and Macau have five each; Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia each have reported four; Japan has seven; France has four; Canada has three; Vietnam has two; and Nepal, Cambodia, Germany and the United Arab Emirates each have one.

◆ Cases recorded in Taiwan, Germany, Vietnam and Japan involved patients who had not been to China. There have been no reported deaths outside China.

British Airways cancels all flights to and from China amid fears of the outbreak.

British Airways has indefinitely suspended all flights to and from China, the airline said on Wednesday, citing advice from Britain’s Foreign Office that cautioned against all nonessential travel to China.

“We apologize to customers for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority,” the company said in an emailed statement.

Other airlines have begun to scale back flights to China as the death toll and number of cases rises, but the British flag carrier, one of the world’s largest international airlines, is the first to cancel all its scheduled flights.

The airline, based in London, makes multiple flights a week to Beijing and Shanghai.

The low-cost Indonesian carrier Lion Air and Seoul Air of South Korea also suspended all their flights to China, The Associated Press reported.

United Airlines and Air Canada said on Tuesday that they would reduce flights to China, canceling dozens of scheduled trips over the coming days and weeks because of a sudden drop in demand. Health officials in the United States have also warned against all nonessential travel to China.

In Hong Kong, the authorities have reduced by half the number of flights coming into the semiautonomous region from mainland China and have also shut down rail services to the mainland. Hong Kong’s flagship carrier, Cathay Pacific, has also suspended all flights to and from Wuhan through March.

Rise in number of cases outside China is “very concerning,” expert says.

The new coronavirus that was first discovered in China last month is showing early signs of spreading abroad, with people who never visited China during the outbreak falling ill in Germany, Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The overseas cases highlight the ability of the mysterious disease, which is believed to have originated in wild animals, to be transmitted from one person to another, increasing its chances of spreading.

“These reports are concerning, if they stand up to scrutiny, which they certainly sound credible,” said Dr. Arthur Reingold, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Some cases appear to have been spread between family members, who are at greater risk while caring for sick relatives. Other cases, however, appear to have spread between people with different connections.

In Japan, a tour bus driver in his 60s who had driven two different groups from Wuhan, China, was confirmed to have the coronavirus, officials said on Tuesday. The driver had no history of traveling to Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

“I think what that says is, if we can get transmission in such a setting, then we can certainly get it in the waiting room of a clinic or a hospital,” Professor Reingold said. “That’s very concerning.”

German officials said on Tuesday that a 33-year-old man from Starnberg in Bavaria was apparently infected with the coronavirus after a Jan. 21 training event with a Chinese colleague. The Chinese colleague flew home two days later. The German man was being treated under isolation while officials identified other people with whom he might have been in contact.

Late Tuesday, health officials in Germany said three more people from the same company in Bavaria were also infected. The three were admitted to a clinic in Munich, where they were to be isolated and treated. An additional 40 people with close contact to those infected would be tested on Wednesday, officials said.

Taiwan said on Tuesday that a man whose wife had contracted the virus while working in Wuhan had also contracted the disease. He became Taiwan’s eighth case and the first known to be transmitted locally.

In an article published by The New England Journal of Medicine on Tuesday, Vietnamese physicians reported that a 65-year-old man from Wuhan appeared to have transmitted the coronavirus to his son, 27, who was living in Long An Province, southwest of Ho Chi Minh City. The father developed a fever on Jan. 17, four days after flying to Hanoi, Vietnam, from Wuhan.

The son met his father on Jan. 17, and by Jan. 20 he had a dry cough and fever. The father’s condition has improved, and the son is stable, the doctors wrote. None of their 28 identified close contacts, including the father’s wife, have developed symptoms of respiratory infection, they said.

Villagers clash with the police over a proposed quarantine site.

The police clashed on Tuesday with residents of a village in the coastal province of Fujian after it was revealed that the government planned to convert a factory into a quarantine site for patients with the dangerous coronavirus.

Several people were reportedly arrested in the village of Dasha, where residents’ fears and anger over the proposed site spilled into the street. In videos recorded by residents, villagers are seen blocking a road and throwing wooden stools at police officers, who marched through the town in riot gear.

Residents said they were given no warning about the plans and only learned that their village would host the sick when hospital beds and other materials began arriving.

“The factory is only several minutes’ walk away from our village,” said one resident, Therese Zheng. “Given the lack of information from the government, there is reason that villagers are panicking.”

The outrage in Dasha mirrors that in other Chinese cities where the government has proposed quarantine sites without first consulting those living nearby. In Hong Kong on Sunday, protesters threw Molotov cocktails into the lobby of an unoccupied public housing project that had been proposed as a quarantine area.

A Xiapu County health official denied that villagers in Dasha were not made aware of the quarantine site and said the information had been broadcast for days.

Another county official said the proposed quarantine site was far from residences and would be cordoned off to limit exposure. The official added that patients would be transported to the site by ambulance as a further measure to protect the community.

As of Wednesday, there were 82 confirmed cases of the virus in Fujian Province, two of which were in Xiapu County.

A Beijing drugstore gets a big fine for price gouging on masks.

With demand for surgical masks on the rise in China, a drugstore in Beijing has been fined more than $400,000 by the government for charging customers roughly six times what the masks are being sold for online.

Infectious disease specialists say the disposable masks, which cover the nose and mouth, can help prevent the spread of infections if they are worn properly and used consistently.

The masks have become ubiquitous in cities across China. In Hong Kong, where the outbreak has brought back painful memories of the SARS epidemic in 2002-03, officials said that customs authorities were examining surgical masks being sold in the city for counterfeit labeling and not meeting safety standards.

In announcing the fine against the Beijing drugstore, a government notice warned that the authorities would “continue to step up enforcement and make every effort to curb the excessive and rapid rise in protective enforcement prices.”

State-run media said that the store was charging customers 850 yuan, or $122, for the masks, while they were being sold online for 143 yuan.

Surgical masks have become so much in demand that a website advertising more fashionable versions of them warns that deliveries are at risk of being delayed.

China’s highest court warns the police to avoid intimidating whistle-blowers.

China’s Supreme People’s Court, the country’s highest judicial body, on Tuesday posted an essay on its social media accounts defending a group of Wuhan residents who shared information about the outbreak and were subsequently accused of “spreading rumors” by the city’s police force.

The essay does not carry the weight of an official ruling but served as a rare rebuke of the police by the country’s courts. The essay seemed to suggest that the ruling Communist Party was concerned that local officials would attempt to cover up their own failings at the risk of worsening the outbreak.

According to Chinese news reports, among those approached by the police was a doctor who in December posted a message on WeChat, a social media platform, warning of a SARS outbreak that had sickened at least seven people, and which originated at a seafood market in Wuhan.

SARS, or severe acute respiratory illness, was a coronavirus that rapidly spread across China in 2003 and killed 774 people in 17 countries. The Wuhan virus was later determined to be a different disease, the new coronavirus.

The court said the initial information shared by the doctor was wrong, but “not completely fabricated” and called on the local authorities to be more tolerant of whistle-blowers who share information without malicious intent.

Even if people believed the “rumors,” the court said, the public would only have taken precautions that “better prevent and control the novel pneumonia.”

Scientists are racing to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

Scientists are working to develop a vaccine capable of stopping the spread of a mysterious new coronavirus that has infected thousands of people, mostly in China.

Government scientists in China, the United States and Australia, as well as those working at Johnson & Johnson, Moderna Therapeutics and Inovio Pharmaceuticals are all working quickly to develop a vaccine.

The hunt began Jan. 10, when Chinese scientists posted the genetic makeup of the virus on a public database. The next morning, researchers at the National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center in Maryland went to work. Within hours, they had pinpointed the parts of the genetic code that could be used to make a vaccine.

Historically, vaccines have been one of the greatest public health tools to prevent disease. But even as technology, genomics and global coordination have all improved, allowing researchers to move at top speed, vaccine development remains an expensive and risky process.

How the coronavirus could be affecting the global economy.

As the death toll from the mysterious coronavirus in China keeps rising, economic analysts have counseled caution. They say it’s too soon to sound the alarm about the impact on the world economy.

And yet, some American companies with a big presence in China are being forced to adapt. Starbucks, for example, announced on Tuesday that it was temporarily closing half of its stores there.

“The magnitude of the impact will depend on the duration of store closures as we work with local authorities to manage the situation and protect our partners and customers,” Pat Grismer, its chief financial officer, said during an earnings call.

Starbucks isn’t alone. Also shuttering shops were McDonald’s and Yum China, the country’s largest restaurant company, which operates the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell brands in China and also controls its own brands.

China’s travel restrictions and expanding screenings at airports around the world have also hurt business. United Airlines announced that it was suspending some flights. American Airlines stock fell more than 5 percent on Tuesday.

Hotels and resorts with properties in the affected areas, which include Macau, a special administrative region and gambling mecca, also saw the value of their shares sink. They include Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts International.

Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton, which have several properties in China, also saw their stock prices slide.

Other brands that are popular in China, like Estee Lauder, Nike and Tapestry, which sells Coach, Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman, are likely to see a dent in earnings, bank analysts said.

China is the world’s second largest economy.

Reporting was contributed by Chris Buckley, Russell Goldman, Elaine Yu, Raymond Zhong, Austin Ramzy, Alexandra Stevenson, Sui-Li Wee, Miriam Jordan, Paul Mozur, Knvul Sheikh, Katie Thomas, James Gorman, Motoko Rich, Ben Dooley, Makiko Inoue, Eimi Yamamitsu and Patricia Cohen. Zoe Mou, Albee Zhang, Amber Wang, Yiwei Wang and Claire Fu contributed research.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/29/world/asia/coronavirus-china.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur