Coronavirus cases on a cruise ship in Japan nearly double, surpassing 130.
An additional 66 cases of the new coronavirus have been confirmed on a cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama, Japan, raising the total number to 136, the ship’s captain told passengers on Monday.
Japan’s health ministry has not publicly confirmed the sharp rise in cases. The ministry has announced new cases almost daily since the quarantine began a week ago, and the increase reported by the captain on Monday was the largest yet.
The outbreak on the ship, the Diamond Princess, which has been docked at the Yokohama port since Monday, is the largest outside China. About 3,700 people, including about 2,600 passengers and more than 1,000 crew members, are quarantined on the ship, with passengers largely confined to their cabins.
Passengers have grown increasingly fearful that the quarantine is putting them in jeopardy. The Japanese authorities have tested a few hundred people for the coronavirus who were believed to be at particular risk, but as the number of cases has risen, some passengers have pressed for everyone on board to be screened.
For days, Japanese officials have said they do not have the capacity to test all 3,700 people on board. But on Sunday, the health minister, Katsunobu Kato, said his ministry needed to consider whether it could do so, while noting the challenges of carrying out such a large screening.
China records most deaths from the virus in a single day.
Ninety-seven people died from the coronavirus on Sunday, a new daily record since the new coronavirus was first detected in December, as the death toll rose to 908, China’s National Health Commission said on Monday.
That new total surpasses the toll from the SARS epidemic of 2002-3, according to official data.
The number of confirmed infections in the country rose to 40,171 and 3,062 new cases were recorded in the preceding 24 hours, most of them in Hubei Province, the heart of the outbreak. A United States citizen died from the coronavirus in Wuhan, the provincial capital, American officials said on Saturday.
The SARS epidemic, which also began in China, killed 774 people worldwide. There have been only two confirmed deaths from the new coronavirus outside mainland China: one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.
Many doctors believe that deaths and infections from the current epidemic are undercounted in China because testing facilities are under severe strain.
Some factories and offices across China resumed work on Monday, the end of an extended Lunar New Year holiday intended to slow the spread of the virus.
The return to business occurred slowly as many workers were reluctant to return to large cities from their hometowns, and as managers tried to respond to a slew of new health regulations issued by local governments across the country.
The new rules vary somewhat from city to city but have some common denominators. In big manufacturing centers like Shenzhen, Suzhou and Nanjing, companies are required to learn the travel history of every employee.
Companies were told to bar entry to anyone who had visited in the past two weeks areas with large outbreaks of the virus, particularly Hubei province but with some cities also prohibiting the return to work of anyone who had been to Wenzhou, a city in Zhejiang province that has also had numerous cases.
City governments were also requiring companies frequently check their employees’ temperatures and set up hand-washing protocols.
American companies in central China are restarting production as soon as they obtain permission, but are also required to establish elaborate new procedures.
“They want to protect staff, but also nobody wants to get caught offsides when it comes to the labor law or the daily announcements from the government,” said Ker Gibbs, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai.
In many large cities, the outbreak has continued to disrupt daily life. Across the country, teeming cities are effectively locked down, schools have been closed for weeks, trains and flights canceled.
The Hong Kong International Airport, one of the world’s busiest, was eerily empty on Sunday. Cathay Pacific, the city’s flag carrier, said last week that it would force employees to take three-week unpaid furloughs.
Parents in the territory and elsewhere across China, including Shanghai and Guangdong, scrambled to find child care after schools announced they would continue to remain closed for the month of February even as many workers were told to return to their jobs on Monday.
In Beijing, the city’s typically teeming subway, had far fewer riders on Monday and train cars were largely empty
Chinese officials are split on whether the virus can spread through the air.
The new coronavirus is capable of spreading through the air, a Chinese official said recently, a disturbing revelation that suggests the strain can be transmitted more easily than previously thought.
Zeng Qun, the deputy head of Shanghai’s Civil Affairs Bureau, said at a news conference on Saturday that aerosol transmission is among the ways the novel coronavirus can be spread. Airborne transmission is particularly dangerous because it can occur even if people are not in close proximity.
But a second Chinese official discounted those claims and said aerosol transmission had not been confirmed and needed further study.
Shen Yinzhong, the medical director of the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center, told The Paper, a Shanghai newspaper, the coronavirus can spread through the air “in theory,” confirmation requires further research.
The conflicting reports underscore the confusion surrounding the virus. There have been several cases which appear to have occurred without direct contact with an infected person.
The Chinese government and the World Health Organization have said that most infections occurred among people in close physical contact.
The related virus that caused SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, said in 2004 that virus could be spread through the air under some circumstances. An outbreak in Hong Kong occurred, experts said, when the wind carried the virus through the air from an apartment complex in which several people were infected.
Prices jump in China as the virus disrupts supplies.
The coronavirus has helped push inflation to an eight-year high, the Chinese government said on Monday, adding to Beijing’s problems.
Consumer price inflation rose to 5.4 percent year on year in January, compared to a 4.5 percent rise in December. That signified the highest level since November 2011, according to China’s statistics bureau. The outbreak has disrupted China’s supply chains, making it difficult in many places to get products to market.
While nonfood related prices, including energy, rose slightly, it was food prices that pushed inflation up. The price of pork, which has surged for months, has now more than doubled over the past year after an outbreak of African swine fever led to a shortage of pigs.
The latest inflation figures mark a new challenge for China’s central bank. The People’s Bank of China has opened the spigots to provide money to local governments that are trying to contain a vicious outbreak. Last week it announced it had pumped $175 billion into the financial system.
The government has told banks to extend favorable terms to companies that have been closed by efforts to contain the outbreak, which include means to keep people at home. In many cases, employers have been responsible for employee wages after closing factories or other operations.
But printing money to inject into the economy also helps push prices up, creating a double-edged sword for China’s authorities.
Inflation typically rises slightly during the holiday, when families buy presents and food to feed large family gatherings. Economists say they rose faster than usual and stayed higher for a longer period of time.
Nine family members infected after hot-pot meal.
Nine members of a Hong Kong family were found to be infected with the new coronavirus after sharing a hot-pot meal in late January, officials said on Sunday. Two members of the family — a 24-year-old man and his 91-year-old grandmother — were confirmed first, followed by the man’s parents, aunts and cousins.
Officials said that the family was part of a gathering of 19 who had shared a hot-pot meal, in which diners add meat and vegetables to a communal vat of boiling broth. Chuang Shuk-kwan, a health official, said on Sunday that most of those who had attended had shown either no symptoms, or minor ones not immediately distinguishable from the flu. The 24-year-old had consulted a private doctor several times before being admitted to a hospital with a fever that would not subside.
Two relatives at the meal on Jan. 26 had traveled from the neighboring mainland province of Guangdong, Hong Kong health officials said. The nine cases, who were being isolated at two hospitals, were among 10 new cases reported in Hong Kong on Sunday, bringing the territory’s total to 36.
The W.H.O. may soon be able to help in China.
Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador to the United States, said Sunday that experts from the World Health Organization would be allowed into China “very soon” to assist with the coronavirus outbreak, and the agency’s chief announced hours later that an advance team was on its way.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director general, posted a message on Twitter from Geneva saying that he had “just been at the airport seeing off members of an advance team” of experts led by Dr. Bruce Aylward.
Dr. Aylward, a W.H.O. assistant director general, was the organization’s special representative for the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
Offers of assistance from the W.H.O. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had been ignored for weeks, The Times reported Friday, but the moves on Sunday appeared to signal that Beijing would at least partly reverse course.
“We are coordinating with the World Health Organization,” Mr. Cui said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “I’m sure that they will be going to China very soon.”
He declined to say if a team of experts from the C.D.C. would also be allowed into China, suggesting instead that American experts could be admitted as part of the W.H.O. or as individuals.
“American experts are on the list recommended by the W.H.O.,” Mr. Cui said. “Even beyond that, some American experts have come to China already on their own individual basis.”
Reporting and research was contributed by Russell Goldman, Keith Bradsher, Ben Dooley, Motoko Rich, Sui-Lee Wee, Amber Wang, Alexandra Stevenson, Tiffany May, Zoe Mou, Albee Zhang, Yiwei Wang and Claire Fu.