A nurse prepares medicines for patients at Jinyintan Hospital designated for new coronavirus infected patients, in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province. Image Credit: AP

Follow the latest updates from around the globe here.

[This is a live blog from February 12. Please refresh for updates. To read developments from February 5 until February 12, click here]

15 new Covid-19 cases in S. Korea

South Korea has reported 15 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, acccording to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hong Kong records second coronavirus death

Hong Kong recorded its second death caused by the new coronavirus on Wednesday, a Princess Margaret Hospital spokeswoman said.

The 70-year-old man, who had underlying illnesses, was one of the 62 confirmed cases in the Chinese-ruled city.

Virus-hit cruise ship passengers to start disembarking in Japan

Around 500 passengers on the virus-hit cruise ship quarantined off Yokohama near Tokyo were set to disembark on Wednesday, although those sharing a room with people testing positive would have to stay on board longer, media and officials said.

The Diamond Princess, operated by Carnival Corp, has been quarantined in Yokohama since Feb. 3 after a man, who disembarked in Hong Kong before it travelled to Japan, was diagnosed with the virus.


number of people confirmed infected with Covid-19 on Diamond Princess cruise liner out of the original 3,700 passengers and crew

More than 540 people have been infected with the virus on the liner, which originally carried some 3,700 passengers and crew. Many of those infected have been transfered to hospitals.

About half the passengers are Japanese.

Mainland China reports 1,749 new confirmed cases

Mainland China had 1,749 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Tuesday, the country's National Health Commission said on Wednesday, down from 1,886 cases a day earlier and the lowest since Jan. 29.


confirmed coronavirus cases on mainland as of end-February 18, 2020

That brings the total accumulated number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far to 74,185.

The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China reached 2,004 as of the end of Tuesday, up by 136 from the previous day.

The central province of Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, reported 132 new deaths, while in the provincial capital of Wuhan, 116 people died.

China's Hubei province reports 132 new coronavirus deaths

The number of deaths in China's central Hubei province from a coronavirus outbreak had risen by 132 to 1,921 as of Tuesday, the province's health commission said in a statement on its website on Wednesday.

There had been a further 1,693 cases detected in Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, taking the total in the province to 61,682.

Russia bans Chinese citizens from entering its territory over virus

Russia will suspend entry of Chinese citizens to its territory starting from Feb. 20, Russian authorities in charge of coronavirus prevention said on Tuesday.

Travel restrictions of some form to prevent the spread of the disease, which has now killed more than 1,800 people, have been imposed by many countries to ease the risks of its spread.

The suspension will be for Chinese citizens entering Russia for employment, private, educational and tourist purposes. The suspension will be temporary, the statement said.

"The restrictions will not affect transit passengers," Russian authorities added.

China's total number of cases climbs past 72,400

China reported that 1,886 additional coronavirus cases emerged Monday and there were 98 more deaths, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 72,436.

Most were in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, which has seen nearly 60,000 cases so far.

Still, the World Health Organization has cautioned that it's too early to tell if cases are truly declining. Global health authorities are also mobilizing to prevent a further spread of the virus as passengers from the Westerdam cruise ship - where an American guest was found to be infected - begin fanning out around the globe.

Meanwhile, the virus's ripple effects continue to be felt across the corporate world. Apple Inc. said it would miss its quarterly revenue target due to the virus, and in Macau, the gaming hub just across the mainland Chinese border, casinos are back in play and due to reopen Thursday following a temporary closure on virus concerns.

Latest figures reported by each government's health authority as of Tuesday in Beijing
_ Mainland China: 1,868 deaths among 72,436 cases, mostly in the central province of Hubei
_ Hong Kong: 58 cases, 1 death
_ Macao: 10
_ Japan: 610 cases, including 542 from a cruise ship docked in Yokohama, 1 death
_ Singapore: 81 cases
_ Thailand: 35
_ South Korea: 31
_ Malaysia: 22
_ Taiwan: 22 cases, 1 death
_ Vietnam: 16 cases
_ Germany: 16
_ United States: 15 cases" separately, 1 U.S. citizen died in China
_ Australia: 14 cases
_ France: 12 cases, 1 death
_ United Kingdom: 9 cases
_ United Arab Emirates: 9
_ Canada: 8
_ Philippines: 3 cases, 1 death
_ India: 3 cases
_ Italy: 3
_ Russia: 2
_ Spain: 2
_ Belgium: 1
_ Nepal: 1
_ Sri Lanka: 1
_ Sweden: 1
_ Cambodia: 1
_ Finland: 1
_ Egypt: 1

248 Indians cleared after coronavirus quarantine

Manesar: A total of 248 Indians, mostly students, suspected to be affected by coronavirus and who had undergone treatment at an Indian Army quarantine base in Manesar, are all set to return home on Tuesday.

These students who came in distress from China's Wuhan heaved a sigh of relief after they came to know that they will be taken to Indian Army quarantine area for two weeks.

But the Army, which after a short notice on January 27 started setting up the quarantine base for these affected students, were taken aback after civilian contractors refused to provide waste management system and electricians and plumbers also backed out at the last moment.

Indians who were air-lifted from Wuhan following out-break of the deadly novel cornavirus, prepare to leave following their release from the ITBP quarantine facility, at Chhawla, in New Delhi, Monday, Feb 17,2020. Image Credit: PTI

"We are Indian Army soliders. We will never back out. We set up the quarantine area within two days. All the students were brought and now all of them are healthy and have no sign of coronavirus," Major General R. Datta told IANS.

The officer further stated that they have suggested the students to take care for the next 14 days and if they face any health problem, they should immediately report to the concerned civil hospital.

"We had made arrangements for whoever had any symptoms so they could be taken to the base hospital," the officer said.

Indians who were air-lifted from Wuhan following out-break of the deadly novel cornavirus, prepare to leave following their release from the ITBP quarantine facility, at Chhawla, in New Delhi, Monday, Feb 17,2020. Image Credit: PTI

"We had 10 barracks and we formed a group of 22 students and thereafter segregated them," said Major General Datta who was heading the entire set up.

Their luggage was also treated and buses in which they travelled were also disinfected and sent back.

There were morning and evening teams to check the students. When they were out of barracks, the facility was also disinfected.

"All the students had given a consent for quarantine. They were informed over there. Our team was counselling them and we had psychologists for these students," the officer said.

Hospital director dies in China's Wuhan, epicentre of coronavirus outbreak

Dr. Liu Zhiming, the head of a leading hospital in China's central city of Wuhan, the epicentre of a coronavirus outbreak, died of the disease on Tuesday (February 18, 2020), state television said.

Hong Kong increases funds to tackle coronavirus outbreak to $3.6b

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday the government would increase handouts to tackle the coronavirus outbreak to HK$28 billion (Dh13.2 billion) from HK$25 billion pledged previously, to ease the impact on the Chinese-ruled city's battered economy.

Lam last week had said the government would give one-off payments to businesses across the city and the Hospital Authority.

98 new coronavirus deaths across mainland China on Monday

The death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in mainland China rose to 1,868 as of the end of Monday, up by 98 from the previous day, the National Health Commission said on Tuesday.

The central Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, reported 93 deaths, while in the provincial capital of Wuhan, 72 people died.

Across mainland China, there were 1,886 new confirmed infections on Monday, bringing the total so far to 72,436.

China's Hubei province reports 93 new coronavirus deaths

The number of deaths in China's central Hubei province from a coronavirus outbreak rose by 93 to 1,789 as of Monday, the province's health commission said on its website on Tuesday.

There had been a further 1,807 cases detected in Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, taking the total in the province to 59,989.

Chinese doctors 'using plasma therapy' on coronavirus patients

Shanghai: Doctors in Shanghai are using infusions of blood plasma from people who have recovered from the coronavirus to treat those still battling the infection, reporting some encouraging preliminary results, a Chinese professor said on Monday.

The coronavirus epidemic is believed to have originated in a seafood market in the central city of Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, and has so far killed 1,770 people and infected more than 70,000 in mainland China.

Medical workers in protective suits attend to a patient inside an isolated ward of Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, in Hubei. Image Credit: Reuters

China's financial hub of Shanghai on Monday had 332 infected cases, one of whom died in recent weeks. Lu Hongzhou, professor and co-director of the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre, said that 184 cases were still hospitalised, including 166 mild cases, while 18 were in serious and critical conditions.

He said the hospital had set up a special clinic to administer plasma therapy and was selecting patients who were willing to donate. The blood would be screened to check if he or she had other diseases like hepatitis B or C, he added.

"We are positive that this method can be very effective in our patients," he said.

There are no fully licensed treatments or vaccines against the new coronavirus, and the process of developing and testing drugs can take many months and even years.

As well as using plasma therapies, which harness antibodies in the blood of someone who has fought off the viral infection, doctors are also trying antiviral drugs licensed for use against other infections to see if they might help.

Chinese scientists are testing two antiviral drugs and preliminary results are due in weeks, while the head of a Wuhan hospital had said plasma infusions from recovered patients had shown some encouraging preliminary results.

A senior Chinese health official said on Friday 1,716 health workers have been infected by the coronavirus and six of them had died. More than 87% of infected medical workers were in Hubei.


Death toll from coronavirus as of Sunday, February 16, 2020

27 Filipinos contracted coronavirus on board ship

Twenty-seven of the people who contracted the Covid-19 on board a cruise ship are Filipinos, the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Monday. Philippine government officials are finalising plans to bring home the Filipinos onboard a coronavirus-infected MV Diamond Princess cruise ship anchored off Japan as global concerns grow over the spread of the deadly disease. All the Diamond Princess staff will undergo quarantine upon arrival in the Philippines.

On Sunday (February 9), Japan's Health Ministry reported 70 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the number of confirmed cases onboard the ship to 355.

Australia to evacuate more than 200 citizens from cruise ship quarantined off Japan

A cruise ship Diamond Princess anchor off the Yokohama Port upon arrival in Yokohama, near Tokyo Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. Image Credit: AP

SYDNEY: Australia will evacuate more than 200 of its citizens onboard a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship being held under quarantine in the Japanese port of Yokohama, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday. Morrison said the passengers will be taken to Australia's tropical north, where they will be required to be quarantined for another 14 days. The Diamond Princess, cruise ship, owned by Carnival Corp, has been quarantined since arriving in Yokohama on Feb. 3, after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong before it travelled to Japan was diagnosed with the virus. (Reuters)

Further contagion? 3,000 passengers returning home

More than 3,000 travelers on two coronavirus-stricken cruise ships are returning home, fanning out to dozens of countries and fueling fears of further contagion.

Evacuated to the US coronavirus
Those bound for the US left from Tokyo's Haneda Airport. Some of the Americans have declined to be evacuated, preferring to wait until the ship quarantine comes to an end on 19 February. Those entering the US will undergo a 14-day quarantine, on top of the time they have already spent confined on the ship. "And the reason for that," Dr Fauci added, "is that the degree of transmissibility, on that cruise ship, is essentially akin to being in a hotspot." Image Credit: AFP

40 Americans test positive for coronavirus

Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said that more than 40 Americans aboard the quarantined cruise liner in Japan tested positive for the coronavirus.

China reports 105 new deaths from coronavirus on mainland

The death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in mainland China reached 1,770 as of the end of Sunday, up by 105 from the previous day, the country's National Health Commission said on Monday morning.

The number of new deaths in China's central Hubei province from the coronavirus outbreak rose by 100 as of Sunday.


new cases of confirmed infections across mainland China on Sunday.

Across mainland China, there were 2,048 new confirmed infections on Sunday. The total accumulated number so far has reached 70,548.

China's Hubei reports 1,933 new cases of coronavirus

China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic, reported 1,933 new cases and 100 new deaths on February 16, the local health authority said on Monday.

The Hubei health commission said the total number of cases in the province had reached 58,182 by the end of Sunday, with 1,696 deaths.

The province announced tough new measures to try to curb the outbreak on Sunday, ordering its cities to block roads to all private vehicles.

Evacuation of US passengers from quarantined ship begins

Yokohama: American passengers began evacuating a cruise ship quarantined off Japan early on Monday morning, boarding around a dozen buses at a port in Yokohama. 44 Americans on the cruise ship tested positive for virus, officials said.

An AFP reporter saw buses in a convoy starting to move away from the boat, though they did not immediately depart the port.

An American passenger, Sarah Arana, confirmed to AFP she had boarded a bus and was expecting to take one of two charter flights leaving to the United States.

Drop in new cases for third straight day: 142 more deaths in China

China has announced a drop in new cases from the coronavirus outbreak for a third consecutive day. On Sunday, authorities reported 2,009 new cases and 142 more deaths nationwide.

New cases spiked earlier in the week after a change in the way they were counted but have been falling ever since.

Chian coronavirus

68,000+ people infected, death toll at 1,665

In total more than 68,000 people have been infected in China, with the death toll standing at 1,665. Outside of China there have been more than 500 cases in nearly 30 countries. Four people have died — in France, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Japan.

355 test positive for Covid-19 on ship off Japan

Tokyo: The number of people who have tested positive for the new coronavirus on a quarantined ship off Japan's coast has risen to 355, the country's health minister said Sunday.

"So far, we have conducted tests for 1,219 individuals. Of those, 355 people tested positive. Of those, 73 individuals are not showing symptoms," Katsunobu Kato told a roundtable discussion on public broadcaster NHK — a rise of 70 from the last government toll.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship has been quarantined for almost two weeks off Yokohama, Japan. (AFP)

Eight of 9 UK coronavirus sufferers leave hospital

London: Eight of the nine people diagnosed with the new coronavirus in Britain have left hospital having now tested negatively twice for the virus, NHS England said on Saturday.

"I want to stress that any individuals who are discharged from hospital are now well and do not pose any public health risk," said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

The final person is still being treated at Guy's and St Thomas's Hospital in central London.

In addition, all 94 people who were quarantined at Arrowe Park hospital in north west England after being flown back from Wuhan have now left the site.

But more than 100 people are still in quarantine in a hotel north of London after arriving from China last week.

An 80-year-old Chinese tourist visiting France has become the first fatality from the virus confirmed outside of Asia.

An elderly Chinese tourist has died of the new coronavirus in France, French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said Saturday, confirming the first fatality from the fast-spreading respiratory virus in Europe. France has 11 confirmed cases of the illness, with more than 63,800 cases around the world, the vast majority of which are in China.

US to evacuate all Americans from Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Japan

The U.S. State Department has said it will evacuate its citizens and their families who are onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan that has been quarantined for almost two weeks.

'Coronavirus patient fell ill while on vacation in Hawaii'

A man who grew ill while on a vacation in Hawaii has tested positive for the coronavirus, health officials in Hawaii said. The man, who is in his 60s, had returned to his home in Japan, where he received the diagnosis this week. Word of the man's infection, which followed a visit to Hawaii in late January and early February, raised concerns among health officials in Hawaii, who said they were working to track down people the man had met during his time there. "All of the state agencies have been preparing for exactly this scenario, where someone visits the island and the virus is present," Gov. David Ige said at a news conference. Ige said the situation was of serious concern, but that the state was prepared to deal with it. (New York Times)

Cruise ship allowed to dock in Manila 

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) confirmed it had allowed a cruise ship from Japan to dock at a port in Manila to refuel “for a few hours.” Cruise ship Spectrum of the Seas was allowed to dock at the Manila South Harbor after it secured clearance from the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ). The ship was supposed to leave at 5 pm Friday.

Spectrum of the Seas cruise ship
Spectrum of the Seas. Image Credit: Courtesy Meyer Werft

“The crew and passengers were not allowed to disembark. The ship was allowed to dock because its purpose was for bunkering only,” said Capt. Armand Balilo, PCG spokesman.

NewCovid-19 case in Thailand

Thailand has recorded a new case of Covid-19, according to a health official.

Death toll in China epidemic surges past 1,500

BEIJING, China (AFP) — The death toll from China's new coronavirus epidemic surged past 1,500 on Saturday after 143 more people died in the country, according to official data.

The National Health Commission (NHC) also reported 2,641 new cases of the COVID-19 strain, with the vast majority in hard-hit central Hubei province.


death toll from coronavirus (Covid-19), with the vast majority in Wuhan

More than 66,000 people have now been infected in China from an illness that emerged in the Hubei capital Wuhan in December and spread nationwide a month later.

A bus with a driver (L) wearing full protective gear departs from the dockside next to the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has around 3,600 people quarantined onboard due to fears of the new COVID-19 coronavirus, at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 14, 2020. Image Credit: AFP

All but four of the 143 new deaths were in Hubei, raising the toll to 1,523. Chinese authorities have placed some 56 million people in Hubei under quarantine, virtually sealing off the province from the rest of the country in an unprecedented effort to contain the virus.


number of people in Hubei under quarantine

Egypt confirms first coronavirus case

Egypt confirmed on Friday its first coronavirus case and said the affected person was a foreigner who had been put into isolation at hospital. The health ministry said in a statement that it had immediately informed the World Health Organization and had taken all necessary preventative measures. It did not give the nationality of the affected person or any other details.

Third Indian tests positive on Diamond Princess

The India embassy in Japan on Friday said that third Indian national had been tested positive for novel coronavirus or COVID 19 on-board the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess.

The embassy tweeted: "Update (as on 14 Feb 2020) On #Indian Nationals On-Board the Quarantined Cruise Ship #DiamondPrincess at #Japan" and attached the health bulletin in the tweet, Which said: "As of 14 February 2020, altogether 218 people have tested positive for COVID-19,including 3 (three) Indian crew members. All 2018 people including Indian nationals have been taken to hospitals for further treatment and quarantine."

According to the embassy no other Indian national on board the cruise ship has developed any symptoms of the infection.

All three Indians, who have tested positive for the disease, have been contacted by the embassy of India in Tokyo and are under treatment at the medical facilities. "Their health conditions have been confirmed to be stable and improving," said the embassy in the health bulletin.

China says 6 health workers died from virus, 1,716 infected

Six health workers have died from the new coronavirus in China and more than 1,700 have been infected, health officials said Friday, underscoring the risks doctors and nurses have taken amid shortages of masks and protective suits.

First passengers exit quarantined Japan ship

The first passengers began leaving a quarantined cruise ship off Japan's coast on Friday to finish their isolation in government-designated lodging after testing negative for the new coronavirus.

Japan's government has given passengers aged 80 or older in poor health or confined to windowless inner cabins on the Diamond Princess the chance to move from the ship to accommodation on land.

But only those who test negative for the virus that has so far infected more than 200 people on board the ship have the option to move.

The first of them departed the massive cruise ship on Friday afternoon, travelling in buses with blacked out windows.

At the wheel, one driver was dressed in a head-to-toe white protective suit, complete with goggles and mask.

A government official said 11 people had left, but declined to say whether more would depart Friday or offer further details.

The move comes a day after the number of infections diagnosed on the ship rose to 218.

Passengers on ship turned away over virus fears disembark in Cambodia

Passengers on a cruise ship that spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by five countries over coronavirus fears started disembarking in Cambodia on Friday.

The MS Westerdam, carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, docked in the Cambodian port town of Sihanoukville on Thursday.

It had anchored offshore early in the morning to allow Cambodian officials to board and collect samples from passengers with any signs of ill health or flu-like symptoms.

After tests, no one on board was found to be carrying the virus, Cambodia's health ministry said.

Cambodian authorities granted permission for passengers to disembark on Friday morning, the ship's operator, Holland America Line, a unit of Miami-based Carnival Corp, said in an emailed statement.

China virus death toll nears 1,500 but new cases fall

The death toll from China's coronavirus epidemic rose to 1,483 on Friday but the number of new infections in hard-hit Hubei province fell after a change in case definitions caused a massive increase the previous day.

The central province's health commission reported 116 more deaths and 4,823 new cases, the majority involving "clinically diagnosed" patients.

The province, the epicentre of the outbreak, had 242 more deaths and over 14,800 new cases on Thursday.

More than 64,600 people have now been infected in the country.

Health officials in Hubei said they started to count clinically diagnosed cases to ensure that patients get treated as early as possible instead of having to wait for laboratory tests to confirm they have the COVID-19 disease.

But the change raised concerns that the crisis may be more serious than Chinese authorities have reported.

China cases jump by 15,000 on new testing method

New cases in China jumped by almost 15,000 after Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, revised its method for counting infections. Two top officials were removed in the biggest political fallout so far from the epidemic.

The International Energy Agency warned global oil demand will drop this quarter for the first time in more than a decade. Stocks fell amid concerns over the rise in cases and Pernod Ricard SA cut its forecast for full-year profit growth by about half.

Two more passengers test positive for coronavirus during thermal screening in Kolkata airport

Kolkata: Two passengers who arrived at NSCBI Airport from Bangkok have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Airports Authority of India officials said on Thursday.

With this, a total of three passengers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Kolkata.

A passenger called Himadri Barman tested positive on Tuesday, and Nagendra Singh tested positive on Wednesday, the Director of NSCBI Airport, Kaushik Bhattacharjee, told PTI.

Both of them were sent to Beliaghata ID Hospital, he said.

"Earlier a passenger called Anita Oraon had also tested positive during thermal scanning," Bhattacharjee said.

Already two airlines which had direct flights between Kolkata and China have suspended their flights.

Low cost carier IndiGo has temporarily suspended its flights between Kolkata and Guangzhou from February 6.

"In line with the WHO guideline to contain the spread of coronavirus, IndiGo will be suspending its Kolkata- Guangzhou service from February 6, 2020 to February 25, 2020 and Guangzhou-Kolkata from February 7 till February 26," the airline had said in a statement.

After IndiGo, China Eastern Airlines suspended its flights between Kolkata and Kunming in China from February 10 to February 29.

Passengers of flights coming to Kolkata from Kunming and Guangzhou in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok were being screened since January 17.

At present, passengers arriving from Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok are being screened as no flights are operating to and from China.

Hubei's virus-hit county to add another hospital for COVID-19 patients

Wuhan: One of the hardest-hit counties in central China's Hubei Province amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, has planned to rebuild a hospital in seven days.

According to the health commission of Huanggang, which administers Xishui, the city reported 2,662 confirmed cases COVID-19 as of Tuesday, including about 300 in Xishui.

The county's virus control and prevention headquarters said it will rebuild the new maternity and childcare hospital, which is under construction, into a temporary designated hospital for COVID-19 patients.

An estimated 200 hospital beds will be put into operation within one week. The rebuilding has begun since Tuesday, with numerous excavators and forklifts as well as nearly 100 workers working around the clock.

China removes party chief of virus epicentre province

China has sacked the top political leader of virus-stricken Hubei province, the epicentre of an epidemic that has killed 1,355, state media reported Thursday.

Jiang Chaoliang, Hubei's party secretary, will be replaced by Shanghai mayor Ying Yong, according to the official Xinhua news agency, which gave no additional details.

Jiang's removal comes after Hubei's two most senior health officials were sacked Monday amid growing criticism of how local officials have handled the crisis.

The province reported a dramatic spike in confirmed virus cases Thursday, raising the total number of nationwide infections to nearly 60,000 after Hubei authorities changed the way they count infections.

The virus is believed to have originated late last year at a seafood market in Hubei province's capital Wuhan.

Pressure on local officials for their perceived incompetence has mounted particularly after the death last week of a Chinese doctor who was punished by Wuhan authorities for raising the alarm about the new virus.

Wuhan authorities also faced criticism in January for going ahead with an annual public banquet for 40,000 families just days before the city was placed on lockdown.

Other changes have been taking place in the province, including the sacking of a top Red Cross official in Wuhan for dereliction of duty, while senior Beijing official Chen Yixin has been sent to Wuhan to guide epidemic control work.

44 more novel coronavirus cases on Japan ship: health minister

Another 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 Thursday.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said the 44 new cases were 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.

Kato said authorities now want to move elderly people off the ship if they test negative for the virus, offering to put them in government-designated lodging.

"We wish to start the operation from tomorrow or later," Kato told reporters.

Hong Kong extends school suspension

Hong Kong extended on Wednesday the suspension of schools till at least March 16 in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the city, where 50 cases of the flu-like infection have been confirmed.

Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said secondary and primary schools would not return from the prolonged break until at least mid-March, extending an earlier suspension that was due to see students return to lessons on March 2.

Cruise ship turned away by 5 countries drops anchor in Cambodia

A cruise ship which had spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by five countries over fears that someone aboard may have the coronavirus arrived in Cambodia on Thursday to the relief of passengers and the praise of global health officials.

The MS Westerdam, which has 1,455 passengers and 802 crew on board, arrived at an anchoring point in the Cambodian port town of Sihanoukville early on Thursday morning, according to data published by the Marine Traffic website.

"We've had so many near moments we thought we were going home only to be turned away," Angela Jones, an American tourist on board the ship, told Reuters.

Jones and her fellow passengers had spent almost two weeks at sea as the ship failed to find a country that would allow it to dock.

"This morning, just seeing land was such a breathtaking moment," said Jones. "I thought: Is this real?" Passengers on board the ship have been subjected to regular health checks throughout the troubled journey, according to Holland America, the ship operator and a unit of Miami-based Carnival Corp.

Although no-one on board has fallen ill, the ship had been turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand over fears that someone on the cruise could have the new flu-like virus that has killed more than 1,300 people, almost all of them in China.

United extends China flight cancellations to late April

United Airlines said late on Wednesday it will extend cancellations of all US flights to China until late April due to the coronavirus epidemic.

With the announcement by Chicago-based United, all US passenger carriers flying to China have now canceled flights into late April. Carriers say part of the reason is a dramatic drop-off in demand.

United said it was extending cancellations of flights to Hong Kong, which had been set to resume on Feb. 21, and for flights to mainland China, that had been set to resume on March 28. Flights will resume starting April 24.

United normally operates roughly 12 flights per day from the United States to mainland China and Hong Kong.

American Airlines Group Inc, the largest US carrier, said on Tuesday it was extending the suspension of its China and Hong Kong flights through April 24, amid reduced demand due to the coronavirus outbreak. The carrier had earlier suspended its China and Hong Kong flights until March 27.

Deaths in Hubei province surge by 242

The number of deaths in China's central Hubei province from a coronavirus outbreak rose by 242 to 1,310 as of Wednesday, the province's health commission said on its website on Thursday.

A further 14,840 cases had been detected in Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, taking the total in the province to 48,206.

The commission said that it had begun including cases diagnosed through new clinical methods from Thursday.

2 Indians test positive for coronavirus on quarantined ship off Japan coast

Two Indian crew members have been tested positive for novel Coronavirus onboard quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess.

At least 174 people on the ship have been tested positive out of 3711 persons on-board (including 2666 guests and 1045 crew members). Among all, 132 crew members and 6 passengers are Indian nationals.

The cruise ship has been kept in quarantine at anchor, off the coast of Yokohama, Japan till February 19.

"As of 12 February 2020, altogether 174 people have tested positive for nCoV, including 2(two) Indian crew members. All 174 have been taken to hospitals for adequate treatment - including further quarantine, in accordance with the Japanese health protocol. Those who have not tested positive, irrespective of their nationality, have not been allowed to disembark. However, an exception has been made for critically ill passengers/crew members, who have been allowed to be taken to hospitals/medical facilities, under supervision, for further treatment and quarantine," officials said.

Japan confirms 39 new virus cases, 174 total on cruise ship

Japan's health ministry said Wednesday that 39 new cases of a virus have been confirmed on a cruise ship quarantined at a Japanese port.

The update brings the total found on the Diamond Princess to 174 cases.

The ministry also said the virus was confirmed in a official who participated in the initial quarantine checks the night the ship returned to Yokohama Port near Tokyo on Feb. 3. The quarantine official is being treated in a hospital.

The new cases bring Japan's total to 203 people with the new disease, COVID-19.

The night of the ship's arrival, Japanese health officials began medical checks on all of the ship's 3,700 passengers and crew after one previous passenger tested positive for the virus.

The US-operated Diamond Princess had completed a 14-day tour during which it stopped at Hong Kong and several other Asian ports before returning to Japan. An 80-year-old man who disembarked in Hong Kong tested positive for the virus, prompting Hong Kong to notify the ship and Japanese authorities, who then ordered the quarantine and testing.

Concerns over the virus have rerouted and canceled other cruises. The Westerdam cruise ship carrying 2,257 passengers and crew is now in the Gulf of Thailand with nowhere to dock after being refused entry in Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Thailand. There are no confirmed cases of the virus on board, but it stopped in Hong Kong less than two weeks ago, which is within the incubation period of the virus.

1,113: Death toll from Covid-19

The total death toll from Covid-19 on Tuesday was 1,113, Chinese health authorities said on Wednesday.

The central Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, reported 94 deaths, while in the provincial capital of Wuhan, 72 people died. Across mainland China, there were 2,015 new confirmed infections on Tuesday, the lowest since Jan. 30. The total accumulated number so far has reached 45,100 people globally.

The latest figures reported by each government's health authority as of Wednesday in Beijing
_ Mainland China: 1,113 deaths among 44,653 confirmed cases, mostly in the central province of Hubei.
_ Hong Kong: 509 cases, 1 death
_ Macao: 10
_ Japan: 203, including 174 from a cruise ship docked in Japan
_ Singapore: 47
_ Thailand: 33
_ South Korea: 28
_ Malaysia: 18
_ Taiwan: 18
_ Vietnam: 15
_ Australia: 14
_ Germany: 14
_ United States: 13. Separately, one U.S. citizen died in China
_ France: 11
_ United Kingdom: 8
_ United Arab Emirates: 8
_ Canada: 7
_ Philippines: 3 cases, including 1 death
_ India: 3
_ Italy: 3
_ Russia: 2
_ Spain: 2
_ Belgium: 1
_ Nepal: 1
_ Sri Lanka: 1
_ Sweden: 1
_ Cambodia: 1
_ Finland: 1