Copy of 2020-02-12T094609Z_199468284_RC2XYE93L34H_RTRMADP_3_CHINA-HEALTH-JAPAN-SHIP-1581513482550
Tourists on a sightseeing cruise ship wave to passengers of the cruise ship Diamond Princess, which is anchored at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan February 12. Image Credit: REUTERS

Yokohama: The coronavirus has jumped from ship to shore, officials in Japan said Wednesday, after an employee of the country’s Health Ministry tested positive for the illness after surveying passengers aboard a cruise ship being held under quarantine in the port of Yokohama.

Additionally, another 39 of the more than 3,700 crew and passengers have tested positive, bringing the total number of cases to 175.

The ship, known as the Diamond Princess, has been under quarantine for a week, after a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong was diagnosed with coronavirus.

Japanese authorities have been slowly moving those diagnosed with the illness off the ship and to hospitals. But onboard, many passengers are complaining of lack of information and poor access to necessary medicines.

The World Health Organisation on Tuesday proposed an official name for the illness caused by the new coronavirus: COVID-19. The acronym stands for coronavirus disease 2019, as the illness was first detected toward the end of last year.

The director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, noted that the new name made no reference to any of the people, places or animals associated with the coronavirus. The goal was to avoid stigma.

Under international guidelines, the WHO “had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease,” he said on Twitter.

The death toll from the coronavirus in China reached a new high on Wednesday even as officials said that the rate of new infections showed signs of slowing.

Nationwide, 97 new deaths and 2,015 new cases emerged in the previous 24 hours, the national health authorities said.

Death toll rising

The total number of deaths in China stands at at least 1,113. And the total number of confirmed cases rose to 44,653. Most of the newly reported deaths, 94, occurred in Hubei province, the heart of the outbreak.

There are 393 COVID-19 cases outside China, in 24 countries.

The United States will allow nonemergency consulate employees in Hong Kong and their families to leave because of the coronavirus outbreak, a State Department official said Wednesday.

The decision to allow voluntary departures was made in response to continuing uncertainty surrounding the outbreak and practical considerations such as school closures, the official said.

The consulate in Hong Kong will remain open and continue to provide regular services.

A similar decision was made to allow nonemergency State Department personnel and their families to leave mainland China in late January.

The State Department chartered flights and evacuated around 850 people from Wuhan, where the outbreak began late last year, including employees of the US Consulate in the city.

Hong Kong has 50 confirmed coronavirus cases and one death. The State Department’s travel advisory for the city is at Level 2, the second-lowest of four levels, and recommends that visitors to Hong Kong “exercise increased caution” because of the outbreak.

This month, the warning for mainland China was raised to 4, the highest level.

“Do not travel to China due to the novel coronavirus,” it warns.

The coronavirus outbreak in China has generated economic waves that are rocking commodities markets and disrupting the supply networks that act as the backbone of the global economy.

14-day quarantine

In Australia, after hauling hundreds of thousands of tons of iron ore to China, returning freighters can face a 14-day quarantine.

BHP, one of the world’s largest copper mining companies, which has headquarters in London and Melbourne, Australia, has been in talks to possibly delay shipments to Chinese ports.

And from Qatar to Indonesia, exporters of liquefied natural gas face the prospect of disrupted shipments because China, a crucial importer, is turning back deliveries.

“We’re seeing a rippling out,” said Ed Morse, global head of commodities research at Citigroup in New York. “And we don’t see it stopping.”

Prices for key industrial raw materials such as copper, iron ore, nickel, aluminium and liquid natural gas have plummeted since the virus emerged. Countries that export those goods at high rates, including Australia, Brazil and South Africa, are near their lowest levels in recent memory.

And manufacturers, mining companies and commodity producers of all stripes are weighing whether they will be forced to cut back on production for fear of adding to a growing inventory glut.

Airbnb will suspend bookings in the Chinese capital until May 1, the company said Wednesday.

The decision was made “in accordance with guidance issued by the government to all companies in the short-term rental industry,” a spokesman for the company said. He added that existing reservations would be refunded.

Airbnb has also waived cancellation fees for travel to and from mainland China until the end of February. Travellers who had booked stays in Hubei, the province at the centre of the outbreak, can cancel reservations without charge until April 1.

The company had continued to accept reservations throughout China during the busy travel season before and after the Lunar New Year holiday, even as the government started to lock down cities and impose road restrictions to stop the spread of the virus.

The company also said it would set aside $10 million “to support hosts in the next few years, during the recovery period of the local tourism industry.”

A person sick from the coronavirus was released from a San Diego hospital this week after a labelling error led the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to incorrectly indicate that the person was not infected, federal authorities said.

The samples had not yet been tested when officials announced mistakenly that the results were negative.

The patient, among hundreds recently evacuated to the United States from China and under quarantine at a military base, was sent back to the base because of the error, the CDC said.

The patient was among three quarantined evacuees at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego whose samples were lacking information and went untested, said Kristen Nordlund, a spokeswoman for the CDC.

It was uncertain how the labelling error had been made and which agency had been responsible. A spokeswoman for the hospital, the University of California San Diego, said there had been a miscommunication over how to identify patients.

With a rare, federal quarantine mandated for people arriving from Wuhan, China, the center of the outbreak, the labeling error raised concerns among some being kept at the base.

“It caused quite a commotion on the base,” said John McGory, who had taught English in Wuhan for six years and is one of about 230 people being held there.