American From Westerdam Tests Positive: Coronavirus Updates from Feb. 15

By Epoch Times Staff

Countries around the world are taking measures to stem the spread of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, as the death toll continues to rise.

This page has updates from Feb. 15. For updates from Feb. 16, click here.

American From Cruise Ship Tests Positive

A woman who was on a cruise ship that was rejected by five countries before being allowed to dock in Cambodia tested positive for the new coronavirus, Malaysian authorities said on Saturday.

The 83-year-old woman, an American, flew to Malaysia on Friday from Cambodia, Malaysia’s health ministry said in a statement. The confirmed case is the 22nd in Malaysia and the first among people who were on the Westerdam cruise ship.

The woman is in stable condition and is in isolation at the hospital, the health ministry said.

Her husband, who is also a U.S. citizen and tested negative, is still receiving treatment and is being monitored.

NTD Photo
Passengers waiting to travel home get a last health screening before disembarking from the MS Westerdam cruise ship in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, on Feb. 15, 2020. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Impossible to Predict What Direction Epidemic Will Take: WHO Chief

No one can predict what direction the new coronavirus epidemic will take, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday.

“Let me be clear: It is impossible to predict which direction this epidemic will take,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

International experts are concerned about the continuing increase in the number of cases in China, Tedros said.

They’re also worried about the over-1,700 health workers that China said have been infected by the new virus, the lack of funding that’s come for the virus response, and “the severe disruption in the market for personal protective equipment” like masks, he said.

Read more here.

8 of 9 Coronavirus Patients in UK Released From Hospital

Eight of nine people in the United Kingdom who tested positive for the new coronavirus COVID-19 have been released from the hospital, UK authorities said on Saturday.

Each person tested negative twice before being released, the National Health Service (NHS) said in a statement.

Officials said the people don’t pose any health risk to the public.

Five of the nine cases were in contact with a British man who traveled from Singapore to France before returning to the United Kingdom; a sixth case was the man himself. They were among those discharged this week.

The five patients in contact with the man said in a statement that they “recovered quickly from the virus” and “required minimal medical treatment during our time in isolation.”

Read more here.

Australia Weighs Evacuating Australians From Cruise Ship

Australia is sending an infectious disease expert to the quarantined cruise ship in Japan as it weighs an evacuation plan.

The expert will join a team of officials from around the world to get information about the passengers, including the 200 Australians on board, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly told reporters in Canberra on Saturday, 7News reported.

“We will be looking at the health and welfare of that group and what might be best done with a view to getting them off the ship,” Kelly said.

The expert will arrive as early as Sunday, he said.

The United States said early Saturday that it was sending a plane to evacuate Americans from the Diamond Princess ship.

France Confirms First Death in Europe

The first death from the new coronavirus in Europe—and the third outside of China—was reported in France on Saturday.

The patient was an 80-year-old Chinese tourist from Hubei province, the epicenter of the new virus, French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn told reporters in Paris.

The male patient was hospitalized on Jan. 25 “under strict isolation measures.”

“His condition deteriorated rapidly, he was in a critical state for several days and he was in intensive care,” Buzyn said. “This is the first death from the coronavirus outside of Asia, the first death in Europe.”

Read more here.

Trump Thanks Cambodia for Taking in Cruise Ship

U.S. President Donald Trump thanked Cambodia for taking in the castaway cruise ship MS Westerdam in a rare message to a country that is one of China’s closest allies.

Five countries turned away the Westerdam, worried its passengers could be carrying the coronavirus despite it having no known cases before Cambodia’s authoritarian prime minister, Hun Sen, agreed the passengers could disembark there.

“Thank you to the beautiful country of Cambodia for accepting the @CarnivalCruise ship Westerdam into your port. The United States will remember your courtesy,” Trump said in a post on Twitter late on Friday.

The Westerdam, operated by Carnival Corp. unit Holland America Inc., docked in the port of Sihanoukville on Thursday after being shunned for two weeks.

Its 1,455 passengers began to disembark on Friday.

Cambodia’s Hun Sen has often sparred with the United States over its accusations of human rights abuses and its condemnation of a crackdown on the opposition since 2017.

He has brought Cambodia much closer to China, which has provided billions of dollars in aid for infrastructure projects and stood by Cambodia in the face of Western criticism.

“We are very grateful that Cambodia opened its port … We hope that other countries can be equally as helpful to people in need,” U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia W. Patrick Murphy told reporters at the Westerdam.

US to Evacuate Americans From Ship off Japan

The United States is preparing to evacuate Americans held in medical isolation on a cruise ship off the coast of Japan.

About 380 U.S. citizens and their family members on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked at Yokohama, Japan, are being offered the opportunity to be sent back to the United States via a direct flight organized by the State Department.

diamond princess japan
The Diamond Princess cruise ship is seen anchored at the Daikaku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama on Feb. 12, 2020. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP via Getty Images)

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo told American passengers and crew on board in an email (pdf) sent 3:24 a.m. Saturday Tokyo time that a chartered aircraft is set to arrive in Japan late Sunday, Feb. 16.

Read more here.

Doctors Without Borders Sends Supplies to Hospital in Wuhan

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, is sending some 3.5 tons of specialized medical protective equipment from to a hospital in Wuhan treating patients with COVID-19.

The supplies are coming from MSF Supply in Brussels, Belgium through the Hubei Charity Federation to Jinyintan hospital, according to an update from MSF.

Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital
The south tower at Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, on Jan. 10, 2020. (Getty Images)

“Medical protective equipment is key. So, we want to contribute to supporting frontline health workers with the specialized protection they need to work safely in an outbreak of this magnitude,” Gert Verdonck, MSF’s Emergency Coordinator said.

The MSF is also donating one ton of personal protective equipment to the Hong Kong St John Ambulance service to help the group until they can replenish their stocks.

“The staff are transporting high-risk patients, and therefore, it is important to ensure that they have the specialized protection they need to work safely,” MSF said.

US Prepared to Help North Korea

The United States said it’s ready to assist North Korea in preventing the new coronavirus from entering the country and containing the virus if it does.

north korea coronavirus
A woman helps her daughter seen wearing a face mask in Pyongyang on Feb. 6, 2020. (Kim Won-Jin/AFP via Getty Images)

“The United States is deeply concerned about the vulnerability of the North Korean people to a coronavirus outbreak,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

American officials “strongly support and encourage the work of U.S. and international aid and health organizations to counter and contain the spread of coronavirus” in North Korea, she added.

Read more here.

Chinese Regime Fires Party Bosses in Wuhan

State-run media outlet Xinhua reported on Feb. 13 that Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong has replaced Jiang Liangchao to be the Party boss of Hubei province.

On the same day, the Party boss of Wuhan city, Ma Guoqiang, was also replaced by Wang Zhonglin, previously Party boss of Jinan city in Shandong province.

Both of the newly appointed officials made their careers in the Political and Legal Affairs Commission (PLAC), a Party agency that oversees the country’s security apparatus, including courts, police, and armed police.

Read more here.

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This scanning electron microscope image shows the virus that causes COVID-19 isolated from a patient in the United States, emerging from the surface of cells (blue/pink) cultured in a lab in February 2020. (NIAID-RML/CC BY 2.0)

Funeral Home Workers Across China Sent to Wuhan

Funeral home workers across China are heading to Wuhan to assist the city in dealing with the uptick in related deaths. Meanwhile, netizens shared on social media job recruitment notices offering workers high salaries to work at Wuhan funeral homes.

This adds to growing evidence that deaths due to the virus are piling up, at a scale greater than what authorities are officially reporting.

As of Feb. 14, the Chinese central government announced that more than one thousand patients have died in Wuhan in the past 45 days. But staff at local crematoriums told The Epoch Times in recent interviews that their intake has skyrocketed in recent weeks, forcing them to work round the clock in order to process the bodies daily.

Read more here.

Egypt Sees First Confirmed Case in Africa

Egypt has confirmed its first case of COVID-19, which also marks the first case in Africa.

The patient is under isolation in hospital, and is not an Egyptian national, according to local media, citing a statement released by Egypt’s Ministry of Health earlier Friday. One news outlet reported that the person is a Chinese national.

egypt coronavirus screening
Egyptian Quarantine Authority employees prepare to scan body temperature for incoming travellers at Cairo International Airport on Feb. 1, 2020. (AFP via Getty Images)

The person has yet to show any symptoms of being ill, the ministry also said, adding that they were identified based on travel patterns, thanks to the ministry’s contingency and prevention plan, which involves electronically registering and monitoring people coming from coronavirus-affected countries.

The ministry said it informed the World Health Organization about the case. WHO Egypt confirmed the news on Twitter.

Egypt suspended all flights on its national carrier to China earlier this month. The suspension is expected to last until at least the end of this month. AFP reported that 301 Egyptians were earlier evacuated from Wuhan— the epicenter of the virus—and have remained in quarantine for 14 days.

In other parts of Africa, suspected patients have been quarantined in Ethiopia, Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, and Botswana. An article in The Lancet said that WHO “has prioritized support for 13 countries on the basis of their close transport links with China: Algeria, Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.”

For updates from Feb. 14, click here.