First suspected coronavirus case in Tibet
Tibet, the last place on China’s mainland that had not recorded a case of coronavirus, has now reported its first suspected case. A 34-year-old man who travel to Tibet by train from Wuhan has been placed in quarantine.
Sixth coronavirus case confirmed in Australia
A sixth case of coronavirus has been confirmed in Australia. A man in his 60s tested positive Wednesday morning in Melbourne. He had recently travelled to Wuhan. Health officials are monitoring his close contacts. The man’s case is the second in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city. The others are in hospitals in Sydney.
It’s early in the UK, but there is news for Britons stuck in Hubei and their families:
The UK is finalising plans to bring back Britons from Hubei province after advising Britons there to ring dedicated 24-hour helplines before 3am UK time on Wednesday to register their desire to be evacuated.
Officials estimate up to 200 citizens currently there will want to return to the UK.
Flights taking Britons back home could begin as early as Thursday, according to a British teacher in Wuhan city who said UK citizens were being given details of forthcoming flights.
On Tuesday evening the Foreign Office updated its advice to warn against all but essential travel to mainland China following the coronavirus outbreak. “If you’re in this area and able to leave, you should do so,” it said.
The UK”s move to evacuate its citizens follows flights chartered by the Japanese government and the US.
The flight to Tokyo landed Wednesday morning, while the US-government flight is set to land in Alaska in about 20 minutes from now (a little before 6:30am GMT).
Australia and New Zealand have announced plans for an evacuation mission, quarantining their citizens on the remote Australian island territory of Christmas Island.
Other countries, such as France and Indonesia, have also announced their intentions to evacuate their citizens from Hubei.
Germany now has four confirmed cases of coronavirus, the second European country to report cases, after France.
First coronavirus case reported in United Arab Emirates
The first case of coronavirus in the United Arab Emirates – and thus the Middle East region – has been confirmed by state media, according to Reuters.
The state-run news agency WAM announced the case earlier today, citing the UAE health ministry.
According to the report, the person had been in Wuhan, but did not provide any further information.
Education minister Dan Tehan said some schools and states had “gone further” than the official government advice when deciding how to treat children who have returned from China or from overseas.
He said that the official advice, as determined by experts, was still enough and what was recommended.
“We think schools should follow the medical advice. Some schools have decided togo further than that. That is their individual right to be able to do that. Some states have taken a more cautious approach. But our view is we should follow the medical advice provided by our experts here in Australia and internationally.
“We’ve said that we will constantly monitor that advice and provide updates on it on a regular basis. That’s what we’re here doing this afternoon.”
Health minister Greg Hunt says the government does not intend to use enforcement powers to make people stay at home in quarantine.
He is also asked about the choice of Christmas Island as a quarantine site.
“The choice of the Christmas Island was made on the basis of the ability to establish quickly [and] to provide the capacity to deal with all those who were likely to arrive.
“Secondly, one of the things that is very important is that we have full and absolute protection for Christmas Islanders. I’ll leave the circumstances to home affairs and to foreign affairs”.
As to whether the evacuated Australians from Wuhan could leave the detention centre, he said: “I’ll leave it to home affairs.”
Surgical mask ‘perfectly adequate’ for public
He adds that a surgical mask – not a thicker P2 mask – is fine for the general public.
Surgical masks are “perfectly adequate” even for medical assessment of patients, and P2 masks are only needed for those treating confirmed cases.
“The prevailing advice is surgical masks are perfectly adequate for the clinical assessment of a suspected case and their examination.
“Where P2 masks are important is when you’re collecting the diagnostic specimen and anyone collecting the diagnostic specimen is provided with a P2 mask. The GPs are seeing a lot of people who don’t have this disease and they just need some protection and a surgical mask on the patient and a surgical mask on the GP, and all of our expert advice suggests that’s adequate.
“It’s not adequate if you’re [treating a] proven case in hospital who is coughing and we know they have a virus.”
Murphy says that Australia’s Health Protection Principal Committee (HPPC) is aware of a case, in Germany, where somebody without symptoms transmitted the disease.
However, he said this was rare.
“HPPC still deserves most infections are transmitted by people who have symptomatic disease. That is a very important statement.
“There’s no other real strong evidence of transmission in symptom who is pre-symptomatic but any evidence we need to take action upon.
“We believe that the nature of coronaviruses is they generally are only infectious when symptomatic. That’s what we saw with SARS and MERS. All the evidence from China suggests nearly all of the cases are only infectious when they’re symptomatic.”
Australia recommends quarantine for those who have visited Hubei
Australia’s chief medical officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, has announced that all Australians who have had contact with people with coronavirus, or visited Hubei province, should stay at home and be quarantined for 14 days.
He says this policy is “highly precautionary”.
Health minister Greg Hunt said this was an update to the official advice.
“Contacts of any confirmed coronavirus cases now must be isolated in their home following exposure,” Murphy said. “Returned travellers who have been in the Hubei province of Chinamust also be isolated in their home for 14 days after leaving Hubei province other than of course seeking medical care.
“Given the substantially lower number of cases in China reported outside of Hubei province, we do not currently recommend self-isolation for travellers from other parts of China or from other countries.”
The Malaysian prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has said he is in talks with China to evacuate Malaysians from Wuhan, Reuters reports.
There are 78 Malaysians currently in Wuhan, he said.
The mayor of Christmas Island – the Australian territory in the Indian Ocean where evacuated Australians will be quarantined – has said the decision will create “a leper colony”.
Prime minister Scott Morrison announced earlier today that Australia and New Zealand were trying to organise an evacuation of citizens in Wuhan. If successful, the people will be taken to Christmas Island and potentially quarantined for 14 days.
Mayor Gordon Thomson told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation this would “create a convict settlement for innocent people. Now we’ll be a leper colony. These ideas were abandoned in the mid-20th century.”
A family of Tamil asylum seekers from the Queensland town of Biloela are also currently on the island.
Priya and Nadesalingam, and their Australian-born children, Kopika and Tharunicaa have been held there since August as they challenge their deportation.
Christmas Island has been the site of an Australian immigration detention centre that was closed in September 2018.
In February 2019, the government announced it would be re-opened, and then closed, to the cost of $185m.
Papua New Guinea has banned all travellers from entering the country from “Asian ports”, according to Agence France-Presse.
In a note to airlines and boat operators, the ministry of immigration said “all citizens originating from the Asian ports will be refused entry to the country effective today”.
The ministry also announced that Papua New Guinea’s only official land border – with Indonesian-controlled Papua province – would be shut from Thursday.
No cases of coronavirus have been reported in Papua New Guinea, but the country’s health service is already buckling under the weight of underfunding and rampant public health problems.
Papua New Guinea is one of only a handful of countries where polio is still endemic, leaving doctors and the United Nations scrambling to revive long-lapsed vaccination programmes.
Papua New Guinea residents returning from Asian countries will be held in quarantine for 14 days.
“This is a preventative measure taken to ensure the spread of the coronavirus that is rapidly spreading in the world is minimised,” immigration and border security minister Westly Nukundi Nukundj said.
US flight diverted to air force base
The evacuation flight from Wuhan to the United States has been rerouted to land at a US air force base, rather than an airport.
The plane, carrying 240 Americans, left Wuhan this morning. It was scheduled to land at Ontario international airport in southern California, 56km (35 miles) from Los Angeles.
But Curt Hagman, the chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, announced on Twitter it would now be diverted to March Air Force Base, roughly 35 miles east of Ontario.
The flight, operated by American cargo airline Kalitta Air, left Wuhan’s Tianhe airport today at 4.54 in the morning local time.
It will stop at Anchorage in Alaska for refuelling, and then fly on to California. Passengers will be screened for the virus in Anchorage, and could be quarantined in California for up to two weeks by the US Centers for Disease Control.
Ontario had been designed by the US government to receive Americans repatriated in case of an emergency.
“We were prepared, but the state department decided to switch the flight to March Air Force Base,” Hagman said.
Data from publicly available flight tracking site Flightaware shows that the flight will land in Anchorage in one hour.
In Beijing, Reuters reports that a pharmacist has been fined 3 million yuan (US $434,530) for artificially inflating the price of masks sixfold during the coronavirus outbreak.
An administrative penalty notice has been issued to the Beijing Jimin Kangtai Pharmacy for sharply raising the price of N95 masks, the Beijing municipal market regulator said in a statement on its website.
The store raised the price of a box of 3M brand masks to 850 yuan while the online price was just 143 yuan, state television said.
Since Thursday, the regulator has investigated 31 price violation cases, it said.
In Shanghai, the municipal market regulator has ordered the closure of a drug store that sold sub-standard masks, the city government said. The regulator has asked the store to refund buyers and dispose of unsold ones, it said on its official account on the Weibo app.