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Coronavirus: Free to read

Coronavirus: Week of Feb. 16 to Feb. 22, South Korea cases soar again, to 433

US confirms 34 additional infections and expects more from cruise ship

People wait at a crosswalk along the Dongseong-ro shopping street in Daegu, South Korea. The country reported 142 new coronavirus cases on Saturday.   © Reuters

The Nikkei Asian Review is tracking the spread of the new coronavirus that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

China's National Health Commission raised the total number of cases in the mainland to 76,288 as of the end of Friday, an increase of 397. The official mainland death toll is 2,345.

South Korea reported 229 new cases on Saturday, bringing the nation's total to 433.

Cases also have been confirmed in Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, the U.S., Canada, Germany, France, the U.K., Italy, Russia, Finland, Spain, Sweden and Belgium.

To see how the disease has spread, click this interactive virus tracker:

Here are the latest developments (Tokyo time):



Saturday, February 22

5:10 p.m. South Korea announced 87 new coronavirus infections, in addition to 142 cases reported this morning, bringing the nation's total to 433. Later, Samsung Electronics said one coronavirus case had been confirmed at its mobile device factory complex in the southeastern city of Gumi, causing a shutdown of the entire facility there until Monday morning.

10:20 a.m. South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 142 additional confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing the nation's total to 346. Of the new cases, 91 have been traced to a hospital in Cheongdo County, which was designated as one of the "special care zones" by the government, Reuters reported.

10 a.m. China's National Health Commission confirmed 397 new coronavirus cases on the mainland, bringing the total to 76,288, as of the end of Friday. The death toll reached 2,345.

8:53 a.m. A 78-year-old man in the northern Italian city of Padua has died after being infected with the coronavirus, becoming the country's first epidemic victim, Reuters reported.

4:40 a.m. The U.S. has confirmed 34 cases of novel coronavirus in the country, according to the Center for Disease Control. These include 21 cases among individuals repatriated by the State Department, as well as 13 U.S. cases. More infections are expected among the people who were passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship and are in quarantine, said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

3:35 a.m. The World Health Organization warned that "the window of opportunity to contain wider international spread of the epidemic of the new coronavirus disease is closing." Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the comment in response to a question as to whether the outbreak is at a "tipping point" after new cases and deaths in Iran from COVID-19, and cases in Lebanon and Canada.

2:55 a.m. An outbreak of coronavirus in northern Italy worsened, with officials announcing 14 confirmed cases in the wealthy region of Lombardy, while two cases were reported in the adjacent region of Veneto, Reuters reported.

2:17 a.m. Lebanon confirmed its first coronavirus infection and said it was monitoring two other potential cases after a 45-year-old woman who returned from Iran tested positive, Reuters reported.

00:15 a.m. One of the Israelis who returned home from the Diamond Princess cruise ship was found to be infected with the coronavirus, according to the nation's Health Ministry.

Friday, February 21

7:50 p.m. About 120 Hong Kong residents stranded on the Diamond Princess cruise liner which is moored off Yokohama, Japan, will return home on Friday night via the second charter flight arranged by the Hong Kong government, after testing negative for coronavirus. They will be quarantined for an additional 14 days upon arrival. Among them is Michelle Au, who told Nikkei that life aboard was 'not so bad'.

4:30 p.m. China's Boao forum, an annual Davos-style gathering of Asia's economic and political elites, will be postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, the South China Morning Post reported. It was expected to take place March 24-27.

3 p.m. Hubei Province revised up its number of newly confirmed cases to 631 as of the end of Thursday, adding 220 cases reported in the province's prison system.

2:30 p.m. Japan's Sanrio on Saturday will temporarily close its indoor Puroland theme park in Tokyo due to growing coronavirus transmission concerns. The Hello Kitty company plans to resume park operations on March 13.

11 a.m. Two Australians evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan have tested positive for coronavirus since returning to their home country, the Australian government said.

10:30 a.m. China's National Health Commission reported it had confirmed 118 new deaths and 889 additional coronavirus infections in the mainland as of the end of Thursday, bringing the total number of cases to 75,465.

10 a.m. South Korea confirmed 52 more cases as of the end of Thursday, raising the total number to 156. Cases have soared over just a few days while the country reported on Thursday.

9:30 a.m. China's Hubei Province reported 411 new cases as of the end of Thursday, up from 349 the previous day. This raised the death toll in the province by 115 to 2,144.

1:41 a.m. Projecting the outbreak's precise impact on the economic growth of China and the world is premature, according to the head of the International Monetary Fund. Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said that the IMF's growth forecast for China is still under review.

1:11 a.m. The continued decline in new cases in China is encouraging, but "this is no time for complacency," said World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

12:45 a.m. The government of Hubei Province said it will extend its business shutdown to March 10, more than a month past the traditional end of the Lunar New Year holiday.

Thursday, February 20

11:24 p.m. Wenzhou will reopen access to highways and lift some checkpoints, the city government said in a social media post, according to Reuters. The city, 700 km southeast of Wuhan, has been in a state of lockdown since late January.

5:30 p.m. South Korea confirmed its first death from the coronavirus. The country's number of infection cases jumped to 104, from 46 a day earlier.

4:25 p.m. Indonesia's central bank on Thursday cut its key interest rate for the first time in four months to help cushion the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the economy.

4 p.m. Australia will extend a ban on arrivals from mainland China to Feb. 29 to lessen risk of exposure to the coronavirus, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

11:58 a.m. Two passengers in their 80s who had been on the Diamond Princess -- the cruise ship quarantined at Yokohama -- have died, Japanese government sources said. The victims had been hospitalized.

11:20 a.m. Mainland China had 394 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Wednesday, the National Health Commission said, down from 1,749 cases a day earlier and the lowest since Jan. 23. Total confirmed cases in mainland China are now 74,576. The death toll from the outbreak in the mainland reached 2,118, up 114 from the previous day.

10:10 a.m. South Korea confirmed another 31 cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections there to 82. The most new cases were reported in the southeastern city of Daegu.

9:30 a.m. Hubei Province reported a sharp drop in newly confirmed cases at 349 as of the end of Wednesday, down from 1,692 on the previous day. This marked the lowest number for new cases since Jan. 25.

4:14 a.m. Multinational companies are avoiding travel to and from Japan over fears the country could be the next hot spot in the coronavirus outbreak. Luxury fashion house Prada has postponed its first-ever fashion show in Japan scheduled for May 21.

2:38 a.m. Two elderly Iranians infected with the new coronavirus have died, The Associated Press reported, quoting the state-run IRNA news agency.

2:30 a.m. Chinese factories and construction sites face labor shortages as an estimated 220 million migrant workers remain unable to return from their hometowns two weeks after the Lunar New Year holiday.

2:15 a.m. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced the Chinese Foreign Ministry's decision to expel three Wall Street Journal journalists. "Mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinions. The correct response is to present counter arguments, not restrict speech," Pompeo said in a statement.

2:05 a.m. Chinese travel around the Lunar New Year holiday plunged by half this year to 1.48 billion trips, according to China's transport ministry, as the coronavirus outbreak disrupted trips nationwide.

Wednesday, February 19

8:16 p.m. Iranian authorities confirmed two cases of the new coronavirus, the first in the country, the semiofficial ISNA news agency reported.

8:11 p.m. Japan's health ministry found another 79 people carrying the coronavirus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama. A total of 621 passengers and crew members from the vessel have been diagnosed with the virus.

4:39 p.m. China's foreign ministry revoked the press credentials of three journalists from The Wall Street Journal after the newspaper declined to apologize for a column with a headline calling China the "real sick man of Asia."

The opinion piece in question that was published on Feb. 3.

4:45 p.m. Taiwan plans to send a chartered plane this week to evacuate its people from virus-hit cruise ship the Diamond Princess in Yokohama, Japan.

12 p.m. Hong Kong recorded its second fatality from the new coronavirus as a 70-year-old man with underlying health issues died on Wednesday morning.

11:10 a.m. Some passengers aboard the virus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama started disembarking after a two-week quarantine. About 500 passengers who tested negative for the virus -- mostly elderly -- are expected to leave the ship on Wednesday. The disembarkation of nearly 3,000 people is likely to take at least three days.

10:30 a.m. South Korea confirmed another 15 cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 46, Yonhap reported.

9:20 a.m. China confirmed 1,749 new coronavirus cases on the mainland, bringing the total to 74,185 as of the end of Tuesday, with the death toll hitting 2,004, up by 136 from the previous day. Of the new deaths, 132 were reported in Hubei Province.

4:39 a.m. Authorities across Asia are taking bolder action to contain the new coronavirus, going as far as to make patients' movements public.

2:52 a.m. Russia will temporarily bar entry of Chinese citizens from Thursday. The suspension applies to those seeking to enter Russia for work, education, tourist or other private purposes, according to authorities in charge of coronavirus prevention.

2:03 a.m. Apple's supply shortage is expected to last into April, with mass production of cheaper iPhones likely behind schedule.

Medical workers in protective suits treat a patient inside an isolation ward at Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan, epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak in Hubei Province.   © Reuters

1:23 a.m. The Chinese government is urging companies to ramp up production of face masks to meet surging demand.

12:44 a.m. China will take steps to stabilize foreign trade, foreign investment and consumption to minimize the impact of the outbreak, the Commerce Ministry said, with companies to be encouraged to boost imports of medical goods and agricultural products.

Tuesday, February 18

11:38 p.m. Jaguar Land Rover will run out of Chinese parts for its British production in two weeks, according to CEO Ralf Speth, as the outbreak disrupts supply chains and delays the reopening of factories.

10:59 p.m. Italian fashion house Prada postponed a show in Japan scheduled for May, citing the uncertainty surrounding the outbreak.

8:45 p.m. Singaporean Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced the city-state's budget for 2020, which includes financial expenditures of more than $4 billion to help businesses and households deal with the impact from the epidemic.

7:10 p.m. French fashion house Chanel announced it has postponed a show scheduled for May in China "to a later and more appropriate moment," Reuters reported.

6:50 p.m. The Philippines on Tuesday allowed migrant workers with existing contracts to return to their jobs in Hong Kong and Macao, partially lifting a ban imposed to contain the coronavirus epidemic. The country's central bank on Monday announced cash remittances from overseas Filipinos in 2019 rose 4.1% to a record $30.1 billion.

6:15 p.m. Japan's Health Ministry announced that after testing 681 people aboard the Diamond Princess, it found another 88 carrying the coronavirus. A total of 542 passengers and crew members from the cruise ship have now been diagnosed with the virus.

4:24 p.m. Thailand has advised its citizens to postpone unnecessary travels to Japan and Singapore, saying the two countries are suffering from outbreaks of the virus.

1:21 p.m. Singapore Airlines announced it is further reducing its global flight services as the virus cuts into demand, with the latest retrenchment due to hit cities like Los Angeles, London and Tokyo through May.

1:18 p.m. The head of a Wuhan hospital, Liu Zhiming, died on Tuesday after having become infected with the coronavirus, Chinese state media reported.

10:21 a.m. The South Korean government announced that it will send a presidential plane this afternoon to evacuate its citizens aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.

9:12 a.m. China's National Health Commission confirmed 1,886 new coronavirus cases on the mainland, bringing the total to 72,436, as of the end of Monday. The death toll reached 1,868, up by 98 from the previous day.

7:11 a.m. Apple said it will not meet revenue guidance for the January-March quarter, citing the outbreak's impact on production and demand in China.

6:17 a.m. The head of the World Health Organization acknowledged that the latest data from China suggests a decline in new cases, but said that "this trend must be interpreted very cautiously." Noting the uncertainty of whether the trend will hold, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said "every scenario is still on the table."

4:19 a.m. As the coronavirus outbreak weighs on exports and consumer spending, Japan is at risk of a second straight quarter of negative growth, some economists say.

The government of Moon Jae-in is sending a presidential plane to evacuate its citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. (Photo courtesy of South Korean government) 

2:57 a.m. The epidemic's impact on the eurozone economy is expected to be temporary, said Eurogroup chief Mario Centeno, noting the "need to look at the more long-term prospects of growth."

2:13 a.m. The World Health Organization is working with Japanese authorities to ensure that the objective of the quarantine of the Diamond Princess cruise ship is to "contain the virus and not contain the people," according to Sylvie Briand, director of pandemic and epidemic diseases.

Monday, February 17

11:45 p.m. More than 300 Americans who had been quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan arrived in the U.S. on two chartered planes. Fourteen people tested positive for the coronavirus. All passengers will remain under quarantine for another 14 days.

10:28 p.m. South Korea announced plans to provide as much as 300 billion won ($250 million) in emergency financing to domestic discount carriers adversely affected by the outbreak and resulting slump in air travel.

7:44 p.m. Macao announced that it will allow all casinos in the city, the world's biggest gambling hub, to reopen on Thursday as a 15-day closure order expires. Many though are expected to remain closed with the flow of visitors into the city slowed to a trickle.

6 p.m. Japan's health ministry confirmed that an additional 99 people aboard the Diamond Princess, moored off Yokohama, have the virus, bringing the total number of infected people on the cruise ship to 454. Of the 99, 70 show no symptoms.

5 p.m. China's top parliamentary committee will meet on Feb. 24 to discuss a potential delay to the annual parliamentary gathering of 3,000 delegates, or National People's Congress, scheduled for March, due to a need to focus on combating the spread of coronavirus, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on Monday.

3:30 p.m. Japan's Imperial Household Agency said it has canceled a birthday event for Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace scheduled for Feb. 23 over concern of spreading the coronavirus.

3:15 p.m. Tokyo Marathon organizers are in the final stages of discussions to limit Asia's largest marathon to 200 elite athletes. The Olympic-qualifier event, set to take place on March 1, had accepted about 38,000 runners.

3:08 p.m. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his country would evacuate more than 200 citizens from the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship under quarantine in Yokohama.

The Tokyo Marathon is now telling the mass majority of the 38,000 runners it has accepted to run in the event on March 1 not to show up.

11:45 a.m. Thailand reported its slowest annual GDP growth in five years, and is predicting a further slump due to the effects of the coronavirus on tourism and trade.

10:30 a.m. Deaths from the coronavirus in mainland China hit 1,770 as of the end of Sunday, up by 105 from the previous day. There were 2,048 new cases on the day, bringing the total number of infections since the outbreak began to 70,548.

9:09 a.m. Singapore downgraded its growth forecast over fears the coronavirus will further weigh on already sluggish local businesses. Meanwhile, Japan's GDP plunged in the final quarter of 2019, hammered by a sales tax hike and destructive typhoon, and will likely be hit further from the coronavirus.

8:10 a.m. Hubei Province reported 1,933 new cases and 100 deaths on Sunday. New cases rose nearly 5% from Saturday, but the number of deaths fell from 139. As of Feb. 16, infections had reached 58,182 with 1,696 deaths.

7 a.m. Americans from the Diamond Princess cruise ship left Japan for the U.S. on chartered planes Monday morning, after being quarantined for two weeks on the ship, which remains docked in Yokohama.

6:36 a.m. American evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship arrived at Haneda International Airport early Monday to board chartered planes that will take them back to the U.S., while Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Italy also are sending planes to take their citizens home. Two planes chartered by the U.S. government arrived at the airport in Tokyo on Sunday night to evacuate the roughly 400 Americans aboard the ship.

Two U.S. government-chartered planes carrying American evacuees from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama departed Tokyo Monday morning.   © Kyodo

5:21 a.m. The coronavirus outbreak remains at an initial stage in Japan, an expert panel under the health ministry said Sunday, choosing not to raise the country's alert level to allow for a more aggressive response.

4:13 a.m. Nippon Telegraph & Telephone is telling its 200,000 employees to avoid commuting during rush hour or to work from home starting Monday, as the telecom giant tries to protect staffers from the growing coronavirus outbreak in Japan. The company issued the notice on Friday to mobile service provider NTT Docomo and regional arms.

2:01 a.m. Venture capital companies in Silicon Valley are not taking any chances when it comes to the coronavirus outbreak. "We have pushed the pause button on every deal in China and even some in other Asian countries," a venture capitalist in the consumer tech sector told the Nikkei Asian Review, asking not to be named.

1:59 a.m. China's President Xi Jinping is aggressively pushing a narrative that the leadership was taking action weeks before previously reported. The latest edition of the official party magazine Qiushi published Sunday suggests Xi was concerned about the situation from the beginning. In a speech to the Chinese Communist Party Politburo on Feb. 3, Xi said he "demanded measures to curb the outbreak" on Jan. 7, according to an online transcript. Party- and state-run media had previously reported that Xi first gave orders to control the outbreak on Jan. 20.

Sunday, February 16

8:32 p.m. Taiwan's health ministry confirms the first coronavirus death on the island, which has registered 20 confirmed cases to date.

8:12 p.m. Italy's Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Twitter on Sunday that it would send a flight and evacuate 35 Italian nationals from a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship being held under quarantine in the Japanese port of Yokohama, Reuters reported.

7:06 p.m. Hundreds of demonstrators rallied for a second day in Hong Kong on Sunday to protest plans to turn some buildings into coronavirus quarantine centers, reviving anti-government protests in the city, Reuters reported.

7:01 p.m. An American passenger from a cruise ship that docked in Cambodia has tested positive for the new coronavirus a second time in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Waz Azizah Wan Ismail said on Sunday, after the cruise operator and Cambodian authorities sought further tests, Reuters reported.

6:15 p.m. South Korea's Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo told in a briefing on Sunday that it would evacuate Koreans from a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship being held under quarantine in the Japanese port of Yokohama, Reuters reported.

5:52 p.m. The government of China's Hubei Province said a ban will be imposed on vehicle traffic across the province to curb the spread of the virus. Police cars, ambulances, vehicles carrying essential goods, or other vehicles related to public service would be exempted, according to a published document.

3:12 p.m. Another 70 people on board a quarantined cruise ship in Japan have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases from the vessel to 355, Japanese health minister Katsunobu Kato said on Sunday.

12:45 p.m. Canada said in a statement late on Saturday that it has chartered a plane to evacuate its citizens onboard the Diamond Princess cruise liner docked in Yokohama, Japan.

11:35 a.m. The Hong Kong government said it would send aircraft to Japan to bring back passengers from the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess.

10:01 a.m. The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in mainland China has reached 1,665 as of the end of Saturday, an increase of 142 from the previous day, the country's National Health Commission said Sunday morning. In mainland China, there were 2,009 new confirmed infections on Saturday. The total number of cases so far has reached 68,500.

Saturday, February 15

11:25 p.m. An 80-year-old Chinese tourist has died of the fast-spreading coronavirus in France, becoming the first fatality in Europe, French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said on Saturday.

11:21 p.m. Malaysia's Health Ministry said in a statement on Saturday that an 83-year-old American passenger on the cruise ship Westerdam that docked in the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia has tested positive for the new coronavirus. The American woman flew to Malaysia on Friday from Cambodia, where the cruise ship docked on Thursday after being denied entry by several countries.

11:18 p.m. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, said that the coronavirus outbreak is still an emergency for China and that it is impossible to tell where the epidemic will spread. The WHO chief was speaking at the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

5:38 p.m. China is confident that the coronavirus epidemic will be over soon, that the impact on its economy will be temporary and that it will rebound strongly, Qin Gang, China's vice minister of foreign affairs said at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Reuters reported.

5:17 p.m. The U.S. will send an aircraft to Japan to bring back American passengers on the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship under quarantine in Yokohama, the U.S. Embassy said.

12:03 p.m. China will help companies resume production as soon as possible, Liang Tao, vice chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, said at a news conference on Saturday. Separately, Xuan Changneng, deputy head of the country's foreign exchange regulator, told the briefing China was expected to maintain a small current account surplus and maintain basic balance in international payments.

9:30 a.m. China's National Health Commission confirmed 2,641 new coronavirus cases on the mainland, bringing the total to 66,492, as of the end of Friday. The death toll reached 1,523, up by 143 from the previous day, with Hubei Province alone reporting 139.

7:33 a.m. Now that several cases of coronavirus infections have been confirmed in Japan, fears are rising about a homegrown outbreak there. But the nation may not be fully prepared.

To catch up on earlier developments, see last week's latest updates.

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