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2,641 newly confirmed cases of coronavirus in China; San Diego County declares health emergency

As more 'wartime' measures are implemented, here is the latest.
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• Passengers finally begin to leave coronavirus-hit cruise ship in Japan

China confirms more than 1,700 health workers infected, 6 dead

• Coronavirus cases, deaths continue to increase

• First fatality in Japan, increasing deaths outside mainland China to 3

• Another city in China announces wartime measures

• White House official accuses China of lack of transparency

Coronavirus cases increase as death toll passes 1,500

Chinese officials said there were 2,641 newly confirmed cases of coronavirus, 849 severe cases and 143 new death cases Friday. Most of the new cases, 2,420, were in Hubei, the National Health Commission said.

The commission also confirmed a total of 66,492 cases of COVID-19, the new name for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, as of Friday evening. The death toll rose to 1,523, up from the 1,380 reported earlier in the day.

Image: A medical worker in protective suit gets onto an ambulance at a hospital, following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country, in Xuanhua district of Zhangjiakou
A medical worker in protective suit gets onto an ambulance at a hospital, following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country, in Xuanhua district of Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, China Feb. 13.China Daily / Reuters

Chinese officials said late Friday 1,373 new cases were "cured" and 30,081 people flagged as a result of close contact with known carriers were no longer under medical observation. — Leou Chen

San Diego County declares health emergency

San Diego County declared a public health emergency Friday as American evacuees from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, have been quarantined at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in the city of San Diego.

The base received two flights of Wuhan evacuees last week. Two of the travelers have tested positive for the virus and were described as "doing well" and "fair," respectively, by UC San Diego Health CEO Patty Maysent. Five other Wuhan evacuees were described as persons under investigation. All seven were at UC San Diego Health facilities, university officials said at a news conference Friday.

Additionally, two people intercepted at the U.S.-Mexico border were "possible subjects of investigation" as a result of their travel histories, said Dr. Eric McDonald of the Diego County Health and Human Services Agency. They were in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he said.

County officials emphasized that the emergency, which followed a similar declaration by Santa Clara County in the Bay Area, did not signal increased odds of contracting the virus. They said it allowed local government to more easily tap needed resources. - Dennis Romero

Egypt confirms coronavirus case, 1st in Africa

Egypt confirmed Friday its first coronavirus case and said the affected person is a foreigner who had been put into isolation at a hospital.

The health ministry said in a statement that it had immediately informed the World Health Organization and had taken all necessary preventative measures.

Everyone who had come into contact with the person will be quarantined in their homes for 14 days, Dr. Khaled Mujahid, from Egypt's Ministry of Health, said in the statement. The building where the person was staying had been “sterilized,” he said.

The health ministry did not give the nationality of the affected person or any other details. — Charlene Gubash and Reuters

Could smoking make coronavirus infection worse?

Does smoking make a person more vulnerable to the coronavirus?

It’s an “excellent hypothesis,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, said Friday during a briefing.

It’s well established that illnesses tend to be more severe in smokers, so it makes sense that smoking would be associated with more serious coronavirus cases.

Ryan acknowledged there is a “marked difference between males and females in this outbreak in terms of severity." Smoking rates in China are higher in men than in women, he added.

Whether the hypothesis holds true remains to be seen as the outbreak continues to unfold.

“I'm sure through the studies and the observations that are happening, there will be a lot of interest to look at smoking as a risk factor,” Ryan said. — Erika Edwards

Passengers finally begin to leave cruise ship in Japan

Passengers on the quarantined cruise ship off the coast of Yokohama, Japan, finally started disembarking Friday, before being quarantined.

The ministry said 11 passengers left the ship Friday, before they were quarantined at a government designated facility until at least Feb. 19. — Arata Yamamoto

2020 Tokyo Olympic games will go ahead as planned, for now

The International Olympic Committee said Friday there is no need to cancel the 2020 games, as they have been working closing with the WHO.

"Advice that we have received externally from WHO is that there is no case for any contingency plans of canceling the games or moving the games," John Coates, the chairman of the 2020 Coordination Committee, told reporters.

The games are scheduled to take place between July 24 and Aug. 9. — Arata Yamamoto

U.S. says it's ready to help North Korea combat virus

The United States expressed deep concern about North Korea's vulnerability to the outbreak of the new virus, and said it was ready to support efforts by aid organizations to contain the spread of the illness there.

North Korea has moved to strengthen quarantines and other preventive measures to protect itself from the coronavirus illness spreading from China, its neighbor.

North Korea has yet to report a case of the new virus, but state media have hinted that an uncertain number of people have been quarantined after showing symptoms. Experts say an epidemic in North Korea could be dire because of its chronic lack of medical supplies and poor health care infrastructure. — The Associated Press

More than 1,700 health workers infected, 6 dead

China's National Health Commission Vice Minister Zeng Yixin said Friday that 1,716 health workers have been infected by the virus and six of them have died as of Tuesday.

At a press conference on protecting medical workers, Zeng said the number of infected medical staff is increasing.

"At present, the duties of medical workers at the front are indeed extremely heavy; their working and resting circumstances are limited, the psychological pressures are great, and the risk of infection is high," Zeng said.

Chinese officials and hospitals have repeatedly noted a shortage of protective equipment, including face masks, as the disease took hold in Hubei and spread throughout the country. — Reuters

Another Hubei area declares 'wartime control' measures

Authorities in Yunmeng County of Hubei province announced a lockdown to be implemented Friday morning on residential areas, and buildings would be sealed and vehicles banned. Those who violate the rules “will be detained, in accordance with relevant regulations during wartime management.”

Similar wartime control measures were also implemented in the cities of Shiyan and Xiaogan in Hubei province Thursday. —Dawn Liu

First fatality in Japan

Japan confirmed its first fatality from the coronavirus Friday, which increases the total number of deaths outside mainland China to three. There has been one fatality in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered his prayers and condolences to the family of the person Friday morning.

The Japanese leader said the government is coordinating with local municipalities and working on expanding testing systems in the country as well as "further accelerating the treatment system for infected people."

The fatality was a woman in her 80s who had been treated at a hospital near Tokyo since Feb. 1 after developing symptoms. Her infection was confirmed after her death. — The Associated Press

Senior U.S. official accuses China of lack of transparency

White House adviser Larry Kudlow criticized China for lack of transparency when reporting the numbers on the current outbreak.

“We are a little disappointed that we haven’t been invited in and we’re a little disappointed in the lack of transparency coming from the Chinese,” Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, told reporters Thursday.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Geng Shuang responded Friday, saying China is working in an "open, transparent and highly responsible manner" with the international community for the sake of global public health. China has been active and open toward cooperation with the U.S., he noted. — Ed Flanagan