The death toll in China from the coronavirus outbreak continued to climb on Wednesday and 39 more people on a cruise ship off Japan were diagnosed with the infection as the World Health Organization (WHO) warned the virus – now named COVID-19 – posed a “grave threat” to the world.
The WHO is holding a conference in Geneva on combating the virus.
Its chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said viruses could have “more powerful consequences than any terrorist action”.
A further 94 deaths were reported on Wednesday in the hardest-hit province of Hubei, the central region where about 56 million people are living under increasingly severe restrictions with three more elsewhere in the country, the National Health Commission said.
Deaths in mainland China now stand at 1,113 with the number of confirmed cases nationwide totalling 44,653.
Although 99 percent of the infections are in China, where the outbreak remains “very much an emergency”, and it also “holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world”, Tedros said at the conference.
On the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship quarantined off Yokohama in Japan, an additional 39 people have tested positive for the virus, the health ministry said on Wednesday.
About 3,700 passengers and crew are on the ship.
At least 25 countries have confirmed cases and several nations have evacuated their citizens from Hubei.
Here are the latest updates:
Wednesday, February 12
iPhone maker hopes to resume some China production at month end
Taiwan’s Foxconn, which makes iPhones for Apple and also supplies other tech companies, hopes to resume half of its production in China by the end of the month, a source told Reuters on Wednesday.
It aims to resume 80 percent of production in China in March, the source added.
Lawmakers urge Southeast Asia to stop using ‘fake news’ laws in virus battle
Southeast Asian lawmakers have called on regional governments to stop using broadly-worded ‘fake news’ laws against people accused of spreading misinformation about the coronavirus, urging them to invest in health messaging campaigns to educate the public on the outbreak instead.
A number of people in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia face hefty jail terms for sharing misinformation online, while Vietnam has threatened steep fines for those found guilty of sharing ‘fake news’ about the virus.
“Across the region we are seeing a trend of ambiguously-worded laws being used to prosecute citizens,” Teddy Baguilat, a former Philippines parliamentarian who is on the board of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, said in a statement.
“Laws that rely on vague prohibitions, such as punishing so-called ‘fake news’, excessively restrict the right to freedom of expression and should be abolished.”
Malaysia has abolished its fake news law but is prosecuting a woman for ‘public mischief’ over coronavirus posts under the Penal Code.
Chinese family members allowed on latest virus evacuation flight to South Korea
South Korea on Wednesday welcomed home 147 people, including 67 Chinese nationals, in its third evacuation flight from Wuhan. It was the first time Chinese spouses and immediate family members had been allowed on a Korean flight
At least one of the passengers was showing symptoms of the virus, officials said.
On Tuesday night, the same aircraft carried 16 Chinese nationals who wished to return to their homes in Hubei province, including at least one woman who had been diagnosed with the virus but recovered, Yonhap news agency reported.
South Korea’s Asiana Airlines asks crews to take unpaid leave
South Korea’s Asiana Airlines has asked members of its cabin crew to take unpaid leave following the suspension of flights to China, a company spokesman said on Wednesday.
Asiana Airlines is currently accepting applications from cabin crew members to take an unpaid voluntary leave of absence between February 15 and 29, the spokesman said.
The airline is also considering accepting applications for unpaid leave in March.
Yonhap news agency reported earlier on Wednesday that 80 percent or more of flights between China and South Korea has been suspended or reduced due to concerns about the virus
Japan says 39 more on quarantined cruise ship have virus
An additional 39 people on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship anchored off Yokohama have been confirmed to have the coronavirus, Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said on Wednesday.
“Out of 53 new test results, 39 people were found positive,” he told reporters. Some 174 people on the ship. which has 3,711 passengers and crew, now have the infection.
Those who remain on the ship have been asked to stay inside their cabins and are allowed only briefly onto open decks where they have to wear masks and keep a distance from each other.
Separately, one quarantine officer also tested positive, Kato said.
Read all the updates from Tuesday, February 11 here.