Coronavirus Live Updates: The U.S. Says It Will Evacuate Americans From Cruise Ship

The United States will evacuate Americans from the cruise ship that has been quarantined for more than a week in Japan because of coronavirus infections on board, the United States Embassy in Tokyo told Americans aboard the ship on Saturday.

American passengers and crew members were told in an email from the embassy that a chartered flight would arrive on Sunday for those who wanted to return to the United States.

The ship, the Diamond Princess, was placed under quarantine at the city of Yokohama early last week with about 3,700 passengers and crew members aboard, after a man who had disembarked in Hong Kong tested positive for the coronavirus. Since then, at least 218 cases have been confirmed aboard the ship.

There are about 400 Americans aboard, and at least 40 who were infected with the virus have been taken off the ship for treatment.

Americans will be subject to a 14-day federal quarantine and will be housed at two existing quarantine sites, in California and Texas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement on Saturday.

Japan has more confirmed coronavirus cases than any country outside China — the vast majority of them from the ship — and it reported its first death from the virus on Thursday.

Under fire for its initial response to the coronavirus epidemic, China’s authoritarian government appears to be pushing a new account of events that presents President Xi Jinping as taking early action to fight the outbreak that has convulsed the country.

But in doing so, the authorities have acknowledged for the first time that Mr. Xi was aware of the epidemic nearly two weeks before he first spoke publicly about it — and while officials at its epicenter in the city of Wuhan were still playing down its dangers.

That confirmation risks drawing the president, China’s most powerful leader in decades, directly into questions about whether top officials did too little, too late.

In the newly released internal speech that Mr. Xi delivered on Feb. 3, when the epidemic had already spiraled into a national crisis, the Chinese president said he had “issued demands about the efforts to prevent and control” the coronavirus on Jan. 7, during a meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee, the highest council of the Communist Party, whose sessions are typically very secretive.

In the speech, he also said he had authorized the unprecedented lockdown of Wuhan and other cities beginning on Jan. 23.

“I have at every moment monitored the spread of the epidemic and progress in efforts to curtail it, constantly issuing oral orders and also instructions,” Mr. Xi said of his more recent involvement.

Mr. Xi’s advisers may have hoped that publishing the speech would dispel speculation about his recent retreat from public view and reassure his people that he can be trusted to lead them out of the epidemic.

The speech could expose Mr. Xi to criticism that he didn’t treat the initial threat urgently enough, and make it difficult for him to shift blame onto local officials for what many see as the government’s early mishandling of the epidemic.

The remarks also raise questions about what top leaders knew at the time and what instructions they issued based on that knowledge.

In early January, leaders in Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the outbreak, were giving open assurances that there was no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.

  • Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

French officials announced a new coronavirus case on Saturday, just hours after reporting that an 80-year-old Chinese tourist had died of coronavirus at a hospital in Paris.

The patient in the newly confirmed case is a British national who stayed in the chalet of Les Contamines-Montjoie, where a cluster of five other cases was detected more than a week ago. The patient had been under surveillance in a hospital in Lyon since last Saturday.

The new case brings the number of confirmed cases in France to 12. Four of those infected have recovered and seven are still hospitalized.

The person who died was the first coronavirus-related death in Europe, and only the fourth outside mainland China. He was not part of the cluster of cases detected at the chalet.

France’s health minister, Agnès Buzyn, said on Saturday that the patient, who died on Friday, was from the Chinese province of Hubei, the center of the outbreak. He had arrived in France on Jan. 16 and been hospitalized at the Bichat-Claude Bernard Hospital since Jan. 25.

“His condition had quickly worsened and he had been in critical condition for several days,” Ms. Buzyn said in a televised statement.

She did not name the patient. The man’s daughter also has the coronavirus and was also hospitalized in Paris, Ms. Buzyn said, adding that she was likely to be discharged soon.

In mainland China, about 1,500 people have died, most of them in Hubei Province. The Philippines, Hong Kong and Japan have each reported one death.

The number of infections and deaths continued to climb after the government this week changed the criteria for how it tracks cases. Officials early Saturday reported 2,641 new coronavirus cases and 143 additional deaths in the previous 24 hours.

The new numbers came hours after Beijing announced new restrictions on people returning to the capital from elsewhere in the country.

Most of the new cases and deaths were reported in Hubei Province, the epicenter of the epidemic.

In all, more than 66,000 people have been infected and at least 1,523 have died worldwide. The vast majority of cases, and all but a few of the deaths, have been in mainland China, with the heaviest concentration in Hubei.

The tally in Hubei jumped drastically on Thursday after the authorities changed the diagnostic criteria for counting new cases. The government now takes into account cases diagnosed in clinical settings, including the use of CT scans, and not just those confirmed with specialized testing kits.

In an interview with the news agency Reuters on Friday, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, declared that the outbreak was “over all, under control.”

“We have taken the most correct, the most rigorous and decisive measures,” he said, rejecting widespread criticism that the authorities had suppressed warnings and restricted vital information in the early days of the outbreak.

The minister also told Reuters that some of the travel restrictions imposed on Chinese citizens by other countries were an overreaction and likely to be eased.

“I’m sure that those countries are reflecting on this as the situation evolves,” he said, adding, “because at the end of the day, these countries need to interact with China.”

Speaking at the Munich Security Council on Saturday, the director of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called for vigilance surrounding the coronavirus, but warned against sowing fear and hysteria through false information.

“We must be guided by solidarity,” he said, adding that the organization is working with Facebook, Google, Twitter, TikTok and other media companies to stop the spread of misinformation about the virus.

Africa is stepping up its efforts to detect the coronavirus as fears mount that the continent’s first case, confirmed on Friday, could lead to a regional outbreak, and as many Chinese citizens return to Africa for work after the Chinese New Year holidays.

Countries across Africa are rushing to train health workers. Officials are also screening passengers at airports and equipping laboratories in all 54 countries to detect the virus. John Nkengasong, director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters on Friday that while 16 countries currently have the ability to test for the coronavirus, another 20 will gain it by February 20.

“We are scaling up very rapidly across the continent,” he said. “As we speak here now, there is a training going on in Nairobi, Kenya, on enhanced surveillance at airports and ports of entry screening.” Over 40 countries will get that training, he said.

Dr. Nkengasong said it’s possible that more cases of coronavirus have already emerged in Africa but have not been detected because the continent has weak surveillance systems.

The Africa C.D.C. has called on governments in Africa to bring back any African students currently trapped in China under the lockdown of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Dr. Nkengasong said the situation in Wuhan could easily become “a humanitarian crisis,” just as it could in Africa.

“We are seeing what is happening in China, that even with the amount of resources, that in China it has been a struggle,” he said. “If the virus was to hit a fragile state in Africa, the concern is that the consequences would be very, very devastating.”

Protests against neighborhood clinics designated by the Hong Kong government to treat suspected coronavirus cases cropped up in multiple districts across the city on Saturday.

Many of the demonstrators, numbering in the hundreds, were dressed in black, the signature color of the city’s antigovernment protests.

The government has said that the clinics would treat people with mild symptoms of the virus to relieve pressures on hospitals, but critics said residents had not been consulted.

In the northern town of Tin Shui Wai, protesters tried to set a train station turnstile ablaze, and riot officers fired pepper spray at other demonstrators, according to local reports.

Separately, the city’s Hospital Authority said that a clinic in the district of Tai Po had been vandalized. A police spokesman said broken glass pieces were found near the clinic’s door on Saturday morning and a bottle containing an unknown liquid was found nearby, but he did not say if the property was damaged.

Another clinic has suffered two arson attacks over the past week.

Last month, the government shelved a plan to turn an unoccupied housing project into a quarantine center after protesters set a fire in the lobby.

At least two workers who were sent to Wuhan at the end of January to help build one of the new hospitals to treat victims of the coronavirus have been infected with it, company and health officials said.

Huoshenshan Hospital, whose name means fire god mountain, was one of two hospitals built in the city in a matter of days to help cope with the crush of patients.

Ma Ke, 28, tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, a manager for his company, Hunan Dawei Construction, said. The second, a 48-year-old worker identified only by his surname, Lin, tested positive for the virus on Feb. 10 after spending two days in quarantine in a hospital in Xiangtan, according to that city’s health commission.

Hunan Dawei sent 10 workers, including Mr. Ma, to help with the construction. The company’s general manager, Li Guangda, said in a telephone interview that working conditions at the construction site were poor and that there were shortages of protective equipment, including high-quality masks.

“There were several types of workers working on things at the same time,” Mr. Li said. “The workers there were also crowded together as they worked. The population density was very high.”

Mr. Li said that Mr. Ma, who with the others worked on installing water and electricity, was asymptomatic. Mr. Lin’s condition was not immediately known.

The central banking authorities of China are disinfecting, stashing and reportedly even destroying cash in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Fan Yifei, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, said at a news conference on Saturday that the cash collected by commercial banks must be disinfected before being released back to customers.

Cash collected from hospitals and food markets must be handled separately and disinfected before depositing the notes to the People’s Bank of China, Mr. Fan said. In severely hit regions, the collected cash must undergo ultraviolet or high-temperature disinfection and be stored for 14 days before going back to the market, he added. In less affected areas, the bank notes must be disinfected and stored for a week before use.

A People’s Bank of China branch in the southern city of Guangzhou is even destroying bank notes that came from hospitals, food markets and public transportation, according to a report by Nanfang, a state-owned outlet in Guangdong Province.

Many people in major Chinese cities use their smartphones primarily to pay for just about anything, increasingly rendering cash obsolete. But hundreds of millions of people in the country are not connected to the internet, and some older residents still prefer cash.

Quarantines, travel restrictions, and widespread shutdowns of stores and malls in China have taken a heavy toll on the global luxury goods sector, long dependent on the spending of Chinese shoppers at home and abroad.

The investment bank Jefferies estimates that Chinese buyers accounted for 40 percent of the 281 billion euros, or $305 billion, spent on luxury goods globally last year, and drove 80 percent of the past year’s sales growth in the sector, making them the fastest-growing luxury shopper demographic in the world.

With the latest season of fashion weeks well underway — and several runway show cancellations in New York, London, Milan and Paris — some of the biggest names in the industry are publicly counting the cost of coronavirus-related disruption on bottom lines.

A man who became ill while on a vacation in Hawaii and his wife, who was traveling with him, have both tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said.

The couple, who are in their 60s, visited Hawaii in late January and early February, and the man fell ill during the second week of the vacation, while they were staying at a time-share in Honolulu, on the island of Oahu. Before that, the couple had been in Maui, but neither showed symptoms while there.

Officials said the man began showing symptoms on Feb. 3, and wore a mask when he went outside the time-share, the Grand Waikikian. He was most likely infected either before he came to Hawaii or while he was on his way to Hawaii in late January, said Dr. Sarah Park, the state epidemiologist. He tested positive for the coronavirus in Japan on Friday.

On the same day, the woman went to a hospital with a fever and on Saturday, her case was confirmed, according to Japan’s Health Ministry. The ministry said she is from Nagoya, the country’s fourth largest city. NHK, the public broadcaster, and Nagoya city officials said she and the man who tested positive were married.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who is an emergency physician, said in an interview on Friday that the authorities were contacting the management at the guest facilities where the man stayed, as well as those who were working there.

“The only way to do this right is to contact everyone,” he said. “We are not worried about minimal contact, but those who had extensive contact will be given whatever support is necessary.”

Reporting and research were contributed by Elian Peltier, Motoko Rich, David Yaffe-Bellany, Keith Bradsher, Elaine Yu, Claire Fu, Elizabeth Paton, Alex Marshall Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Melissa Eddy.