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2 passengers die after leaving 'chaotic' quarantined cruise ship

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak climbed to 2,236 in China. Here is the latest.
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• Ukrainians protest over evacuees returning from China

• South Korea reports first coronavirus death as infections linked to church rise

• 2 people who were on quarantined cruise ship in Japan have died

• Quarantine on Diamond Princess cruise ship 'chaotic,' Japanese expert claims

• Number of new confirmed cases drops in Hubei province

• South Korea confirms first death of person infected with coronavirus

• Two people die in Iran after contracting coronavirus

• Thousands of Americans voluntarily self-quarantine after returning from China

Deaths in mainland China reach more than 2,230

China’s health commission said Friday morning local time that there have been 2,236 deaths in the mainland linked to the coronavirus illness known as COVID-19, and the number of confirmed cases grew to over 75,400.

The health commission had previously reported 2,118 deaths and more than 74,500 confirmed cases.

Of the 118 new deaths, 115 were in Hubei province, which is at the center of the coronavirus outbreak and where the city of Wuhan is located.

There have been at least 10 deaths outside of mainland China, including two Japanese citizens who were passengers on a quarantined cruise ship and who died after testing positive for the virus. — Phil Helsel

Quarantine ends for majority of Wuhan evacuees

The mandatory federal quarantine for nearly all of the U.S. citizens and their families who were evacuated from Wuhan, China, earlier this month on State Department-chartered planes has ended.

On Thursday, the 57 evacuees at Camp Ashland near Omaha, Nebraska took their final health checks. All were determined to be healthy.

“These people pose no health threat to their communities," Dr. Eric Kasowski, CDC team leader for the quarantine in Omaha, said in a statement. "These Americans have done their duty — 14 days — and they're getting to go back to their families."

A CDC employee performs a final health check on children who were evacuated from Wuhan, and completed their mandatory 14-day quarantine at Camp Ashland in Nebraska.
A CDC employee performs a final health check on children who were evacuated from Wuhan, and completed their mandatory 14-day quarantine at Camp Ashland in Nebraska.CDC

Quarantine has also been lifted for the 90 people who were evacuated to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. One person in that group was confirmed to have the illness caused by coronavirus, called COVID-19. That patient remains in a San Antonio hospital.

Another group of 63 people who were under quarantine at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego has also been released. One of those evacuees was also diagnosed with COVID-19, and is hospitalized. The CDC said a close contact of that patient will remain under quarantine.

“Two passengers’ journeys have been delayed, but we are confident in the care they are receiving from local health officials and health care providers,” Dr. Erin Staples, CDC team leader for the quarantine in San Diego, said. — Erika Edwards, 4:10 p.m. ET

U.S. health officials working in China with WHO

U.S. health authorities are now in China working with a team of international experts to assist in the coronavirus outbreak.

This comes after offers to send American scientists appeared at first to be rebuffed by the Chinese.

But Thursday, the World Health Organization said members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the National Institutes of Health, were part of the group on the ground in China.

The team, led by the WHO, is working to “find answers to some of the things we don't know, including the transmissibility of the virus, and the impact of the measures that China has taken,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news briefing.

The group includes experts in epidemiology, biology and public health from the U.S. and other countries, such as Russia, Singapore, Germany and Japan. — Erika Edwards

South Korea reports first death as infections linked to church rise

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the South Korean man, believed to be about 63 years old, died at a hospital on Wednesday and posthumously tested positive for the virus. The center also confirmed 22 additional cases of the virus, raising the total in South Korea to 104.

The center said 49 of 73 new patients confirmed in the city's region in the past two days went to services at a church attended by a previously confirmed virus patient.

Ukrainians burn tires, block hospitals in protest of evacuees from China

Protesters from the village of Novi Sanzhary in Ukraine blocked the road leading to a quarantine building where evacuees arriving by plane from Wuhan, China, are due to stay for at least two weeks. The plane carrying Ukrainian nationals landed at the Kharkiv Airport on Thursday.

Hundreds of police were dispatched to keep order, and some were seen dragging some protesters away from the crowd at the demonstration, which authorities said had started overnight Wednesday.

Local media reported thatresidents of the town in the Poltava region protested the people arriving from China by blocking the road and burning tires. They also engaged in clashes with police.

The protest prompted President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to issue a statement Thursday reassuring Ukrainians that there was no danger, that the authorities had done everything possible to make sure the virus would not spread to Ukraine.

“But there is another danger that I would like to mention. The danger of forgetting that we are all human and we are all Ukrainian,” he said.

“Attempts to block routes, block hospitals, not allow Ukrainian citizens into Ukraine - this does not show the best side of our character. Especially when you consider that most passengers are people under 30 years of age. For many of us, they are almost like children.”

The Ukrainian authorities say all passengers on board had been screened twice for the virus before being allowed to fly, but that was not enough to quell the protests.

Ukraine has no confirmed cases of the virus. — Oksana Parafeniuk and Reuters

China warns of more action against Wall Street Journal

China warned Thursday that it might take more action against The Wall Street Journal, a day after revoking the press credentials of three of the U.S. newspaper's correspondents over a column headline that Chinese authorities said was racist.

“Regrettably, what the WSJ has done so far is nothing but fudging the issue and dodging its responsibility. It has neither issued an official apology nor done anything on accountability,” Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Thursday.

“We are not interested in the structural divide at the WSJ,” he said. “There is only one media agency called the WSJ, and it must be responsible for what it has said and done.”

China on Wednesday revoked the press credentials of the newspaper's Beijing deputy bureau chief, Josh Chin, and reporters Chao Deng and Philip Wen, also based in Beijing, ordering them to leave the country in five days.

The decision came after authorities repeatedly called on the newspaper to apologize and investigate those responsible for the headline of the Feb. 3 column that called China the "real sick man of Asia."

Also Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned China’s expulsion of the three foreign correspondents and said it should not restrict freedom of speech. — Eric Baculinao

2 former passengers on quarantined cruise ship in Japan have died

Two people diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, who were at one point on board a quarantined cruise ship have died, Japan’s health minister said in Parliament on Thursday.

Also, 13 more coronavirus cases were reported Thursday, bringing the total number of cases on the ship to 634.

The deaths appear to be the first involving cases from the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined off Yokohama with around 3,700 passengers and crew after a one-time passenger later tested positive for the virus.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato offered his condolences to the family of the couple, who were both Japanese nationals — a man and a woman in their 80s.

The man was taken off the cruise ship Feb. 11 and the woman was taken off Feb. 12 after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The health ministry has also confirmed that two government officials who performed administrative duties on the cruise ship have tested positive for the virus.

People were quarantined on the cruise ship for around two weeks, and those who have tested negative have begun to leave the ship.

Princess Cruises, the operator of the Diamond Princess, said Thursday that around 600 passengers had been cleared by the Japanese health ministry to disembark Wednesday, and several hundred others were expected to be cleared Thursday.

The two deaths linked to the Diamond Princess brings the number of people who have died in Japan to three. The other death was not connected to the cruise ship. — Olivier Fabre and Phil Helsel

Coronavirus quarantine on Diamond Princess cruise ship 'chaotic,' Japanese expert claims

The coronavirus quarantine measures put in place by Japanese officials on board a cruise ship where thousands of people have been kept in isolation were “completely chaotic,” an infectious disease specialist who visited the vessel has claimed.

In two YouTube videos, one in English and one in Japanese, Kentaro Iwata, a professor at Kobe University Hospital in the central Japanese city of Kobe, criticized the situation on the Diamond Princess.

“Everybody could have the virus,” he said, adding, "The cruise ship was completely inadequate in terms of the infection control.” — Matthew Mulligan and Yuliya Talmazan

Number of new confirmed cases drops in Hubei province after diagnostic change

Health officials in Hubei province, the center of the coronavirus outbreak, recorded a big drop in the number of new confirmed cases Wednesday.

Over the last 24 hours, there were 349 new confirmed cases, down from 1,693 a day earlier.

However the number of deaths in Hubei jumped to 2,029, up by 108 the previous day.

On Wednesday, China's health authority released the sixth edition of its diagnostic criteria for the coronavirus, removing a category of cases diagnosed clinically, such as through chest X-rays, in Hubei.

The Hubei health commission did not say in its statement if the sharp drop in the province's new confirmed cases Wednesday was due to the change.

Last week, the province tweaked its diagnostic methodology to include clinically confirmed cases, resulting in a massive spike in new confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, nationwide, the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak climbed to 2,118 as of Wednesday. It surpassed 2,000 the day before. The total number of confirmed cases rose to 74,576. — Leou Chen, Dawn Liu and Reuters

South Korea confirms first coronavirus death

South Korea has reported its first death of a person infected with coronavirus as well as 22 new cases, bringing the nation's total to 104.

The exact cause of death is being investigated, the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the mayor of a large South Korean city told residents to stay indoors Thursday as a surge in confirmed cases linked to a local church raised the prospect of wider transmission.

Malls, restaurants and streets in Daegu, the country's fourth largest city with a population of 2.5 million, were largely empty in scenes that local social media users likened to a disaster movie.

The cases in the city have been traced to an infected person who attended a local church, a scenario that KCDC described as a "super-spreading event."

Image: Workers wearing protective gears spray disinfectant against the new coronavirus in front of a church in Daegu, South Korea,
Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant in front of a church in Daegu, South Korea, on Thursday. Kim Jun-beom / AP

The mayor cautioned that at least 90 more of the around 1,000 other people who attended services at the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony were also showing symptoms. — Nayeong Kim and Reuters

Two people die after contracting coronavirus in Iran

Iran has recorded its first two deaths linked to the coronavirus outbreak, an adviser to the country’s minister of health told Mehr news agency Wednesday.

Alireza Vahabzadeh said the two people died in hospital due to age, respiratory illness and immune deficiency.

Six other people and families of the two dead have also been put under quarantine as schools and universities in the city of Qom closed their doors to stop the spread of the virus.

On Thursday, thee more patients were confirmed to have the virus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to five, according to the head of the health ministry's public relations office. — Amin Hossein Khodadadi

Thousands of Americans voluntarily self-quarantine after returning from China

Thousands of travelers who have returned to the United States after recent trips to China are spending nearly half a month behind closed doors under voluntary self-quarantine, even though they do not pose any immediate coronavirus-related health risk to others and are showing no symptoms.

Instead, they simply traveled in China within the past few weeks and have since been flagged by health officials at one of the 11 airports nationwide through which all U.S. citizens and their families flying from China are being routed.

And now they're being asked to stay home for 14 days — the maximum amount of time it's thought to take to develop the illness after being exposed — limiting physical contact with others as much as possible and watching for symptoms. — Erika Edwards