Countries around the world are taking precautionary measures to stem the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, as the death toll continues to rise.
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At Least 20 on Cruise Ship in Cambodia May be Infected
At least 20 passengers aboard a cruise ship that was stranded for days in the South China Sea are suspected to be infected with COVID-19, local newspaper Khmer Times reported on Thursday.
The Westerdam cruise ship, operated by Holland America, is now docked in Sihanoukville, a port city in Cambodia, after it was turned away by Thailand, the Philippines, Taiwan, and the U.S. territory Guam amid coronavirus fears.
Local newspaper Khmer Times reported on Thursday that they are set to be tested for the virus.
“We suspect that 20 of the passengers may be infected with Coronavirus and their blood specimens will be air flown to Phnom Penh to expedite matters,” Major General Chuon Narin said, the paper reported.
Chinese Authorities Are Controlling the Sale of Fever and Cough Medicine
Jilin, a province in northeastern China, announced on Feb. 13 that all pharmacies in the province must take down the names of customers who purchase fever medicine.
Xiantao, a city in Hubei province, and Changfeng County, which is located in Anhui province, also announced on Thursday that pharmacies in their region must take down the names, ID number, address, and phone numbers of customers who purchase fever and cough medicine.
Meanwhile, local authorities in Jiangdu District of Jiangsu, a city in coastal China’s Jiangsu province, announced that all pharmacies must remove fever and cough medicine from their shelves and suspend their sale.
The same sale ban is also announced by Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province.
Both Jiangdu and Nanjiang authorities have urged citizens with a fever and cough to seek treatment at hospital instead.
Some netizens have expressed concern about the sale ban on a post made to Nanjing’s official Weibo account.
One netizen questioned: “Should he try to ride out a normal fever if he had one at home [without any medicine], or going to a hospital for treatment and putting himself at risk [of contracting the coronavirus]?”
Vietnam Reports 16th Case Triggering Lockdown of Town With 10,000 Residents
A 50-year-old man in Son Loi, a Vietnamese town in Vinh Phuc Province’s Binh Xuyen District, has tested positive for COVID-19, local newspaper VnExpress reported on Thursday, citing the local health ministry.
The infected man is the father of a 23-year-old woman who has already tested positive for the virus. She was one of eight Vietnamese workers of the Japan-based company Nihon Plast sent to Wuhan for training last month.
Since the group returned to Vietnam on Jan. 17, six have tested positive for the virus.
The woman has infected other members of her family, including her mother and younger sister, as well as a neighbor.
The neighbor has also passed the virus to her three-month-old granddaughter.
Currently, Vietnam has 16 known cases of coronavirus, with eight of them in Son Loi.
Authorities announced that as of Feb. 13, Son Loi is on lockdown for 20 days, the Bangkok Post reported. Local authorities are also increasing the number of disease control checkpoints in the town from five to eight.
Son Loi, a farming town made up of several villages, is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the country’s capital city of Hanoi.
Beijing Shakes Up Leadership in Virus Epicenter Province of Hubei
Former Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong has been named to replace Jiang Chaolinang as the new party secretary in Hubei province, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Communist Party mouthpiece Xinhua reported on Feb. 13.
Hubei’s capital city of Wuhan will also have a new party secretary, Wang Zhonglin, the former party secretary of Shangdong Province’s Jinan. Wang will replace Ma Guoqiang, according to the report.
Ma will also be removed from his post as Hubei’s deputy party secretary. Xinhua did not name anyone to take up the provincial deputy party secretary position.
Xinhua gave a vague explanation for the sudden leadership shake up, saying that Ying’s appointment was necessary for “the needs of epidemic prevention.”
Beijing Removes Top Official in Managing Hong Kong Affairs
China’s State Council on Feb. 13 announced the demotion of the current director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Zhang Xiaoming, who has been Beijing’s highest official managing Hong Kong affairs.
Xia Baolong—current vice-chairman and secretary-general of China’s political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), and the former party secretary of eastern China’s Zhejiang Province—is to take over from Zhang’s post.
Zhang will take on a new position as deputy director alongside Luo Huining, who is also currently the director of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, and Fu Ziying, who is the director of Beijing’s liaison office in Macau.
44 More Infections Reported on Cruise Ship in Japan
An additional 44 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus abroad the Diamond Prince cruise ship docked in Japan, local newspaper Japan Times reported, citing the local health ministry.
Among the newly infected people, 29 are Japanese nationals and 15 are non-Japanese. One crew member is among them.
There are now 218 people that have tested positive for the virus on the cruise ship.
“We are currently making hospital arrangements for those who tested positive,” health minister Katsunobu Kato said, according to the outlet.
The other patients were all removed from the ship and are quarantined in hospitals across Tokyo, according to previous reports.
Hong Kong Schools To Be Closed Until March 16
Hong Kong’s Education Secretary Kevin Yeung announced in a press conference on Thursday that all schools in the city will remain closed until at least March 16.
Previously, the Hong Kong government had postponed returning to school until Feb. 17 following the Chinese New Year holiday, before extending the delay until March 2.
A District in Hubei Announces ‘Wartime Regulation’
Health officials in Zhangwan, a district in the city of Shiyan in Hubei province, announced on Wednesday eight measures to enforce “wartime regulation” of the district. The measures take effect at midnight on Thursday for at least 14 days.
One measure calls for “complete seal-off management” of all buildings. Except for medical personnel, health officials, and people in the sectors of water, electricity, telecommunications, and basic living necessities, all others are forbidden from entering and leaving these buildings.
As part of the “wartime regulation,” government officials are in charge of buying living necessities, including drugs, for local residents.
All cars, with the exception of medical vehicles, police cars, firefighting vehicles, trucks, and government vehicles, will be forbidden from going in and out of local residential areas.
People will be detained for trying to enter any sealed-off areas.
All members of the Chinese Communist Party are also told they should “unconditionally obey” the orders given by the government officials at local villages and residences.
United Airlines Extends Service Suspension to Hong Kong and China
In a statement on Feb. 12, United Airlines said its services to Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu, which is the capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan province, will be further suspended until April 24.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and will evaluate our schedule as we remain in close contact with the CDC and other public health experts around the globe,” the statement said.
New York City Clears Final Suspected Case
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in New York City announced on Feb. 12 that the 7th person it was testing for the novel coronavirus has been given the all clear.
“We now have zero cases pending,” the department said.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are currently 14 known cases in the United States, with eight of them in California.
What We Know and Tips to Stay Safe
While health experts say there is still no clear indication of how potent the virus is, there are some things that we do know about COVID-19.
The carrier of the virus can be infectious before showing symptoms. The most common symptoms associated with the virus include fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing. But Chinese researchers are saying that patients have also displayed other symptoms such as fatigue, diarrhea, chest pains, and headaches.
The incubation period—or amount of time from exposure to the onset of symptoms—is thought to be up to 14 days. A recent study from Chinese researchers says it may be as long as 24 days.
According to preliminary research on how fast the coronavirus strain is spreading, scientists say COVID-19 is moderately infectious. Each patient could infect between 1.5 to 3.5 people in the absence of containment measures—similar to SARS.
According to the U.S. CDC, most human transmission cases thus far have occurred among those with close contact to a patient—likely spread through airborne particles when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Chinese scientists say there is evidence that the virus could also spread through fecal contamination.
It’s unclear how long the coronavirus can survive on inanimate surfaces, but an expert with China’s National Health Commission recently put the duration at several hours to up to five days.
To stay safe, it is recommended that you do not travel to China and avoid contact with infected patients. It is also recommended that people adhere to good personal hygiene practices, and wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when visiting public places.
Currently, there is still no need for the general public to wear face masks in the United States, the CDC said.