New virus cases in China fall for 2nd day, deaths top 2,000

BEIJING (AP) — New virus cases in China continued to fall, with 1,749 new infections and 136 new deaths announced after China’s leader said disease prevention and control was at “a critical time.”

Electric screens about precautions against the illness COVID-19 are seen in a subway train in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. (Source: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

The updated figures on the COVID-19 illness for mainland China bring the total for cases to 74,185 and deaths to 2,004. New cases have fallen to under 2,000 daily for the past two days.

China has locked down several hard-hit cities, halting nearly all movement except for the quarantine efforts, medical care and delivery of food and basic necessities.

Quarantine on cruise ship in Japan comes under question

The much-criticized quarantine of a cruise ship in Japan to avoid spreading the virus ended. The 542 cases on the ship were the most outside China.

When the Diamond Princess cruise ship was quarantined in Yokohama earlier this month, Japanese health officials said the extraordinary measure was needed to stop the spread of a worrying new virus that emerged in China.

The Japanese government has repeatedly defended the effectiveness of the quarantine and bristled against criticism that the ship became a virus incubator instead of a quarantine facility.

However, scientists say it’s clear the quarantine did not work and that an investigation is needed to determine why it failed and if there’s another mode of transmission aboard the ship. One ethicist said the failure was “tragic” but that the quarantine was justified.

UN chief: New virus outbreak is ‘a very dangerous situation’

The U.N. secretary general has told The Associated Press that the virus outbreak that began in China “is not out of control but it is a very dangerous situation.”

Antonio Guterres said in an interview Tuesday that “the risks are enormous and we need to be prepared worldwide for that.”

Egypt recently reported its first case of the virus, raising fears of its spread to the African continent.

Russia to ban entry of Chinese nationals to halt virus

Russia says it will temporarily ban Chinese nationals from entering the country amid the outbreak of the new virus.

A decree signed Tuesday by the Russian prime minister says the entry ban goes into effect on Thursday at midnight Moscow time (2100 GMT).

Officials said the ban was approved due to the “worsening epidemiological situation” in China.

Meanwhile, Germany says it will send to China a second shipment of medical aid supplies, worth 150,000 euros ($162,000), to help fight the epidemic.

The shipment will include protection gear and disinfectants.

Virus claims life of hospital director in hard-hit Wuhan

A hospital director who helped lead the fight against China’s new virus has become one of its victims. He is at least the seventh health worker to die of the disease among the more than 1,700 who have become sick.

Liu Zhiming had mobilized all the resources of his hospital in Wuhan city, at the center of the outbreak, as thousands of patients arrived each day.

His death comes as authorities are cautiously cheering a reduction in the number of new daily cases and deaths, along with the results of a study showing most people who contract the virus experience only mild symptoms.

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