Steep rise in number of coronavirus cases on cruise ship off Japan.
Japanese officials said on Friday that 61 people had tested positive for the coronavirus on a quarantined cruise ship in Yokohama, a steep increase from the 20 confirmed cases on Thursday.
Officials have screened 273 passengers they said were potentially exposed to the virus. The 41 new cases were to be taken off the ship for medical treatment.
More than 2,000 passengers on the Diamond Princess ship have been stuck inside their cabins for days as part of a two-week quarantine. Meals have been irregular, and only on Thursday were small groups finally permitted to go outside and breathe some fresh air.
“I keep hearing painful coughs from a foreigner in a nearby room,” one passenger wrote on Twitter on Thursday, noting with concern that crew members were delivering meals from room to room. “I might get infected today or tomorrow.”
Other passengers who have been whiling away some of the time on social media told of more hopeful signs. One noted that supplies were being moved into the port and that ambulances were in position. Another said that entertainment crews had been visiting guest rooms to cheer people up, and that toilet paper had been distributed.
Of the 41 new cases, 21 were Japanese, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said. None of those 41 passengers were in serious condition as of Friday morning.
Separately, a cruise ship with 3,600 people on board remains stranded in Hong Kong. Yu Li, a mother of two infants on the World Dream cruise, said the most difficult part was a lack of clarity from the local authorities about where passengers would be quarantined.
“Most passengers are willing to be isolated whether or not they have symptoms,” she said in an interview. “I hope the government can give us a reply as soon as possible and tell us whether it would take place at home, or on the cruise, or in designated quarantine centers.”
Families with young children are mostly bunkered in their rooms and watching movies that the cruise ship company has distributed to help alleviate boredom, Ms. Li said. Older passengers, she said, were less willing to be confined to their rooms, choosing to play mahjong in communal spaces.
President Trump talks to Xi Jinping about a ‘people’s war’ on the outbreak
China’s leader, Xi Jinping, spoke by telephone with President Trump on Friday morning to discuss the coronavirus epidemic, telling him that the government had spared no effort in what he called “a people’s war,” according to CCTV, the state television network.
In the official account of the conversation, Mr. Xi made no reference to Chinese grievances over the Trump administration’s response to the epidemic, including being the first foreign government to close its consulate in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, and order the evacuation of diplomats.
Mr. Xi offered no words of thanks, a stark contrast to messages of gratitude the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been posting for other nations, including Italy, Poland, the Maldives and Pakistan.
Mr. Xi told his American counterpart that Beijing’s efforts to control the outbreak were “gradually achieving results.”
“We are fully confident and capable of defeating the epidemic,” he said, according to CCTV.
A week ago, the Trump administration announced it would bar entry to any foreign citizens who had traveled to China during the last 14 days, saying the coronavirus constituted a public health emergency even though the United States had relatively few cases. It now has 12 confirmed infections.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hua Chunying, sharply criticized that decision earlier this week, accusing the United States of spreading panic and not doing anything to support China’s fight against the outbreak.
Deaths in China surpass 600, and infections rise above 31,000.
The death toll and the number of infections continued to soar in China, according to official data released early Friday.
Nationwide, more than 70 new deaths and 3,100 new cases emerged in the previous 24 hours, the national health authorities said.
The new figures brought the total number of deaths in China to at least 636. And the total number of confirmed cases rose to 31,161.
Sixty-nine of the newly reported deaths occurred in Hubei Province, the heart of the outbreak, the authorities said, but there were also four deaths outside of the province: one each in Jilin, Henan, Guangdong and Hainan Provinces.
So far, the vast majority of confirmed deaths have taken place in Hubei, though deaths have also been reported in other Chinese provinces, Hong Kong and the Philippines. More than 200 infections have been reported outside of China.
Many doctors believe that deaths and infections in China are undercounted because hospitals and laboratories are under severe strain to test for the virus. Local officials in Hubei Province, the center of the outbreak, have called on health care workers to speed up the process.
Many sick residents in Hubei also say that they have been turned away by overstretched hospitals, which lack test kits and beds.
China bends to pressure as it investigates the death of a whistle-blower doctor.
China’s ruling Communist Party, bending to public pressure, said on Friday that it would send a team from its powerful anticorruption committee to investigate the issues surrounding a whistle-blower doctor who died hours earlier.
The doctor, Li Wenliang, who was among the first to warn about the coronavirus outbreak, only to be silenced by the police, died on Friday after himself becoming infected with the virus, the hospital treating him reported.
The Wuhan City Central Hospital said at 3:48 a.m. on Friday that Dr. Li had just died. “We deeply regret and mourn this,” it said on the Chinese social media site Weibo. Just hours earlier, the hospital had said it was still fighting to save the 34-year-old doctor.
The death of Dr. Li set off an outpouring of grief and anger on social media, with commenters on Weibo, a Twitter-like website, demanding an apology from the authorities to Dr. Li and his family. “I want freedom of speech” also emerged as one of the top trending topics on the site, until government censors stopped the messages.
The State Supervisory Committee has “decided to send an investigation team to Wuhan, Hubei Province, to conduct a comprehensive investigation on related issues reported by the masses about Dr. Li Wenliang,” it said on Friday in a one-line statement on its website.
It is rare for the Communist Party to react so swiftly to public outrage. Several top officials and state-run media outlets had also joined in the chorus to mourn Dr. Li’s death. In statements online, the National Health Commission and the Wuhan government said they expressed their condolences.
The police and others questioned Dr. Li in early January after he warned a circle of medical school classmates on Dec. 30 about a viral outbreak that he said appeared similar to SARS. The police compelled him to sign a statement denouncing his warning as an unfounded and illegal rumor.
The New York Times wrote about Dr. Li on Feb. 1. “If the officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier,” he told The Times, “I think it would have been a lot better. There should be more openness and transparency.”
A mask factory in France gears up as supplies run short
In Angers, France, a company owned by the medical supply company Kolmi Hopen makes 170 million medical face masks a year. It isn’t enough.
As orders pour in at a staggering rate, Kolmi Hopen is hiring more workers to keep up with demand.
“We’re making masks as fast as we can,” said Guillaume Laverdure, the chief operating officer of Kolmi Hopen’s parent company, Canada-based Medicom.
“But demand is still rising,” he added.
The coronavirus outbreak has set off a run on protective masks across China and in major Asian cities. The Chinese government has ordered citizens to don masks every time they go outside. That has led to shortages. In Hong Kong, for example, long lines form early in the morning in front of pharmacies as people try to buy them before supplies run out.
China produces about half the world’s sanitary face masks. But production had already slowed as Chinese factories wound down for the Lunar New Year holiday in early January. Some sites around Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, have yet to fully revive production, according to the government.
For now, people are rushing to buy them when and where they can.
Ha Fong, 80, stalks the streets of her Hong Kong neighborhood every morning to search for surgical masks, hand sanitizers and detergent.
“I line up wherever people are lining up,” she said, adding that she didn’t feel panicked, believing the shortage to be temporary.
China begins clinical trials of an experimental drug for the new virus.
There are currently no approved treatments for illnesses caused by coronaviruses. But as the outbreak shows little sign of abating, China is forging ahead with attempts to find one.
On Thursday, China began enrolling patients in a clinical trial of remdesivir, an antiviral medicine made by Gilead, the American pharmaceutical giant.
The drug has to be given intravenously, is experimental and not yet approved for any use, and has not been studied in patients with any coronavirus disease. But studies of infected mice and monkeys have suggested that remdesivir can fight coronaviruses.
And it appears to be safe. It was tested without ill effects in Ebola patients, although it did not work well against that virus, which is in a different family from coronaviruses.
Doctors in Washington State gave remdesivir to the first coronavirus patient in the United States last week after his condition worsened and pneumonia developed when he’d been in the hospital for a week. His symptoms improved the next day.
Still, company officials urged caution. “It is important to keep in mind that this is an experimental medicine that has only been used in a small number of patients with 2019-nCoV to date,” Ryan McKeel, a Gilead spokesman, said in an email.
Art Basel, the international art fair, cancels its Hong Kong edition.
This year’s edition of Art Basel Hong Kong, one of the most important destinations in the international art market calendar, has been canceled, with organizers citing the “sudden and widespread outbreak” of the coronavirus in China.
The fair was to run March 17 through March 21 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center and feature premier galleries from Asia and beyond.
“The decision to cancel Art Basel Hong Kong was an extremely difficult one for us,” said Bernd Stadlwieser, chief executive of MCH Group, the Swiss company behind the fair. He said organizers had explored “every other possible option, including postponing the fair” before concluding it should be canceled.
MCH cited numerous factors, including the health and safety of workers and visitors, the logistical challenges of mounting the event and the escalating difficulties of travel to Hong Kong. Three American airlines have suspended flights to mainland China.
Last week, as Hong Kong shut down museums and schools, and restricted flights from the mainland, participating dealers called for the closure of the fair.
On Wednesday, the London-based dealer Richard Nagy, one of more than 240 exhibitors at the event, sent an email to the organizers.
“Not one of our foreign clients will be attending, and they are surprised the fair is still on,” Mr. Nagy wrote. “There is absolutely no doubt in our minds that this art fair is now commercially on artificial life support.” The email concluded that the fair was “fatally wounded” and needed to be “put out of its misery.”
Reporting was contributed by Daniel Victor, Eimi Yamamitsu, Steven Lee Myers, Sui Lee Wee, Elaine Yu, Liz Alderman, Denise Grady, Scott Reyburn, and Vivian Wang.