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China coronavirus outbreak: All the latest updates

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China on Thursday removed the top political leadership in Hubei, the province at the centre of the escalating coroanvirus outbreak, shortly after health officials there reported 242 people died from the virus on Wednesday – more than twice the number of the previous day and the highest daily toll since the outbreak began.

The province and its capital Wuhan where the infection now known as COVID-19 is thought to have originated in late December also reported more than 14,800 new cases of the infection after adopting new clinical methods to diagnose the virus.

The number of infected across China rose to nearly 60,000.

At least 25 countries have confirmed cases and several nations have evacuated their citizens from Hubei. Two deaths have been recorded outside mainland China – one in  Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned the virus poses a “grave threat” to the world, with chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, saying the virus could have “more powerful consequences than any terrorist action”.

Here are the latest updates:

Thursday, February 13

Official media have reported that a commune of 10,000 residents northwest of the capital Hanoi was put in lockdown due to a cluster of cases there.

The online newspaper VN Express cited a senior official of Vinh Phuc province as reporting an increase in cases in Son Loi commune.

Vietnam has confirmed 16 case of the diseases, most of them in the province.

Researchers ramp up efforts to develop coronavirus vaccine

North Korea imposes quarantine measures on all foreign visitors

North Korea will impose a month-long quarantine on all foreign visitors and others suspected to have COVID-19, the official Korean Central News Agency said on Thursday.

The decision to extend the quarantine period to 30 days was based on research studies suggesting the incubation period of the virus could be as long as 24 days.

The report did not confirm the country’s previous quarantine period, but the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang said in a Facebook post earlier this month that North Korea was putting foreign visitors under a 15-day quarantine.

North Korea has yet to report a case of the virus, but state media reports have hinted that an uncertain number of people have been quarantined after showing symptoms.

China replaces head of its Hong Kong and Macau affairs office

China is replacing the head of its office that oversees matters in Hong Kong, the human resources ministry announced in Beijing on Thursday.

Xia Baolong, a 67-year-old vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), will replace Zhang Xiaoming.

Communist party chief in Wuhan replaced – state media

Ma Guoqiang, the party chief in Hubei’s capital Wuhan, has been fired, the state-run Global Times reported.

The paper said the removal of the provincial bosses amid complaints over their handling of the outbreak showed the central government was responding swiftly to the crisis.

Singapore official warns more coronavirus cases likely

An official in Singapore official said the number of infections in the city-state was likely to rise because the virus was clearly circulating within the population.

“We really cannot say whether it will get better, whether it will get worse, what sort of situation is going to unfold,” Lawrence Wong, a co-chairman of Singapore’s task force fighting the outbreak, said.

“We don’t know how successful we will be in all of these containment measures that we have put in place.”

Wong said additional measures could involve “social distancing in order to try and reduce the chance of the virus spreading further.”

Singapore has reported 50 confirmed cases. Eight people are in criticial condition, while 15 have fully recovered.

China’s Hubei province communist party chief relieved of duty – state media

Jiang Chaoliang, the head of the Communist Party in the Chinese province of Hubei, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, has been relieved of his duties, state media reported on Thursday.

Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong has been appointed as the new secretary of the Hubei Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China, the report said, citing the party’s central committee

44 more coronavirus cases on Japan ship: health minister

A further 44 people on board a cruise ship moored off Japan’s coast have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the country’s health minister said on Thursday.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said the 44 new cases were detected from another 221 new tests. They raise the number of infections detected on the Diamond Princess to 218, in addition to a quarantine officer who also tested positive for the virus.

More people on board the quarantined Diamond Princess were diagnosed with COVID-19 on Thursday [Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters]

Tokyo, IOC officials reiterate that the Olympics are on

Tokyo Olympic organisers reiterated on Thursday at the start of two days of meetings with the International Olympic Committee: the Summer Games will not be waylaid by the coronavirus that is spreading from neighbouring China.

“I would like to make it clear again that we are not considering a cancellation or postponement of the games. Let me make that clear,” Yoshiro Mori, the president of the organising committee, said, speaking through an interpreter to dozens of top IOC officials gathered in Tokyo.

The Olympics open in just over five months, and the torch relay begins next month.

Numerous sporting events have already been postponed as a result of the virus.

Seriously ill pushed to margins as China battles coronavirus

Ruyi Wan was diagnosed with leukaemia last May and was hoping for a bone marrow transplant after chemotherapy failed.

But as medical resources are funnelled into fighting the coronavirus, the 20-year-old has been unable to get treatment in Wuhan and cannot go elsewhere because of the travel restrictions. With a serious illness she is also more vulnerable to the infection.

“I hope for a miracle because Ruyi is so young and has so many dreams,” her mother Juan Wan told Al Jazeera. “We can’t let her die.”

Read Shawn Yuan’s story on the people suffering from cancer, kidney disease and HIV now struggling to get the treatment they need in a system stretched to its limits.

US airlines extend China flight cancellations into late April

United Airlines said late on Wednesday it would extend cancellations of all US flights to China until late April because of the coronavirus, joining other US carriers that have suspended China routes.

Airlines say part of the reason is a dramatic drop-off in demand, but the US has also introduced strict restrictions on travellers to the United States who have visited China, barring nearly all non-US residents if they have been in China within the previous14 days.

The US is also limiting flights from China or other international flights with US passengers who have been to China within the previous 14 days to 11 major airports for enhanced screening. It also requires a quarantine of US citizens who have recently visited Hubei province in China.

CDC confirms 14th US case of coronavirus in Wuhan evacuee

A second person evacuated from Wuhan to a US military base near San Diego has been diagnosed with the new coronavirus, raising the tally of confirmed cases in the United States to 14, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday.

The patient was among 232 people under quarantine at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar after being airlifted out of Wuhan earlier this month, CDC spokeswoman Ana Toro said.

Another evacuee was diagnosed with the virus earlier this week, but CDC officials said it appeared the two had been separately exposed to the virus in China before arriving in the United States.

They arrived on different planes and were housed in separate facilities.

“At this time there is no indication of person-to-person spread of this virus at the quarantine facility, but CDC will carry out a thorough contact investigation as part of its current response strategy to detect and contain any cases of infection with this virus,” Dr Christopher Braden, deputy director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, said in a statement.

Cruise ship shunned over coronavirus fears arrives in Cambodia – ship tracker

A cruise ship which had spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by five countries over fears that someone on board might have the coronavirus arrived in Cambodia on Thursday, satellite-tracking data showed.

The MS Westerdam arrived in Sihanoukville, according to data published by the Marine Traffic website.

Although no passengers have fallen ill on board, the ship had been turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand over fears that someone on the cruise could have the virus.

UK confirms new case, first in London

The UK has confirmed its ninth case of coronavirus, saying the latest patient – the first in London – had caught the virus while in China.

“One further patient in England has tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the total number of cases in the UK to nine,” Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England said in a statement.

“This virus was passed on in China and the patient has now been transferred to a specialist NHS centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London.”

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COVID-19: Go-Vaxx mobile vaccination clinic to return to Haliburton County with 3 stops – Globalnews.ca

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Ontario’s GO-VAXX mobile vaccination clinic is making three stops in Haliburton County in the coming weeks, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit announced Wednesday.

The retrofitted GO bus will provide first, second and boosters doses of COVID-19 vaccinations to any eligible residents, including doses for children ages 5-11. Moderna will be provided to individuals 30 and older, unless they have a documented allergy to Moderna.

Read more:

Pfizer’s Paxlovid pill not a replacement for COVID-19 vaccine, officials say

All appointments must be booked in advance through the Provincial Booking System or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900. Appointments can be booked starting at 8 a.m. the day before the clinic.

Clinics will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.:

  • Saturday, Jan. 29 : A.J. LaRue Arena, 728 Mountain St., in Haliburton
  • Saturday, Feb. 5: Lloyd Watson Community Centre, 2249 Loop Rd., in Wilberforce
  • Saturday Feb. 12: A.J. LaRue Arena in Haliburton

“Being fully vaccinated with a booster dose has proven to be effective in preventing severe illness and hospitalization against the Omicron variant,” said Doreen Boville, health promoter with the health unit. “To ensure anyone needing a vaccine can get one, appointments are necessary for a smooth rollout.”

Individuals are asked to bring their Ontario health card. If you do not have a health card or your health card is expired, bring another form of government photo ID such as a driver’s license, passport, Status card, or birth certificate.

The health unit has appointments available at COVID-19 vaccination clinics being held throughout the region. A list of dates and times is available on the health unit’s www.hkpr.on.ca. Residents are also encouraged to check with local pharmacies or their primary health care providers for more opportunities to get vaccinated.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the health unit reported 822 active cases within its jurisdiction including 35 in Haliburton County.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Prior COVID-19 infection offered protection against Delta variant, but vaccines still best shield against the virus, study says – The Globe and Mail

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People who had previously been infected with COVID-19 were better protected against the Delta variant than those who were vaccinated alone, suggesting that natural immunity was a more potent shield than vaccines against that variant, California and New York health officials reported on Wednesday.

Protection against Delta was highest, however, among people who were both vaccinated and had survived a previous COVID infection, and lowest among those who had never been infected or vaccinated, the study found.

Nevertheless, vaccination remains the safest strategy against COVID-19, according to the report published in U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The results do not apply to the Omicron variant of the virus, which now accounts for 99.5 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the United States.

“The evidence in this report does not change our vaccination recommendations,” Dr. Ben Silk of the CDC and one of the study’s authors told a media briefing.

“We know that vaccination is still the safest way to protect yourself against COVID-19,” he said.

For the study, health officials in California and New York gathered data from May through November, which included the period when the Delta variant was dominant.

It showed that people who survived a previous infection had lower rates of COVID-19 than people who were vaccinated alone.

That represented a change from the period when the Alpha variant was dominant, Silk told the briefing.

“Before the Delta variant, COVID-19 vaccination resulted in better protection against a subsequent infection than surviving a previous infection,” he said.

In the summer and fall of 2021, however, when Delta became the predominant circulating iteration of the virus in the United States, “surviving a previous infection now provided greater protection against the subsequent infection than vaccination,” he said.

But acquiring immunity through natural infection carries significant risks. According to the study, by November 30, 2021, roughly 130,781 residents of California and New York had died from COVID-19.

The analysis did not include information on the severity of initial infection, nor does it account for the full range of illness caused by prior infection.

One important limitation to the study was that it ended before administration of vaccine booster doses was widespread.

Dr. Erica Pan, state epidemiologist for the California Department of Public Health, said in an email that the study “clearly shows” that vaccines provide the safest protection against COVID-19 and they offer added protection for those with prior infections.

“Outside of this study, recent data on the highly contagious Omicron variant shows that getting a booster provides significant additional protection against infection, hospitalization and death,” Pan said.

Silk said the CDC is studying the impact of vaccination, boosters and prior infection during the Omicron surge and expects to issue further reports when that data becomes available.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

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Ontario sees ‘glimmers of hope’ over COVID, challenges remain

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The Canadian province of Ontario is starting to see “glimmers of hope” as the rate of new hospitalisations caused by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus slows, but challenges remain, health minister Christine Elliott said on Wednesday.

Elliott’s comments were the latest from officials in Ontario and Quebec – which together account for more than 60% of Canada’s population – to suggest that the worst of the Omicron wave might soon be over.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford told a radio station on Tuesday that the province would make a positive announcement this week about removing COVID-19 related restrictions imposed last month.

“We’re starting to see glimmers of hope … beginning to see signs of stabilisation,” Elliott told a briefing, adding that a peak in new hospitalisations would follow a peak in new infections this month.

“But I do want to be clear, February will continue to pose challenges, especially for our hospitals as people continue to require care for COVID-19.”

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, at a separate briefing, also spoke about pressure on the healthcare system. Duclos repeated the need for more people to get vaccinated, especially children aged between 5 and 12.

“Though the risk of hospitalization is lower for Omicron, the sheer volume of cases will likely increase hospital admissions,” Duclos said.

The Pacific province of British Columbia, citing concerns for its hospitals, extended gathering restrictions until mid-February on Tuesday.

 

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru, editing by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Grant McCool)

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