The number of new cases in China dropped for a second consecutive day in a virus outbreak that has infected about 45,000 people and killed more than 1,100, health officials said.
The outbreak has become the latest political challenge for China's ruling Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping.
On Wednesday, Xi promised tax cuts and other aid to industries hurt by the outbreak in a renewed effort to rein in the rising damage to the economy.
While most of the infections have been in China, it has gradually rippled overseas.
In Japan, the coronavirus has jumped from ship to shore, officials said, 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 3,600 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.
China is struggling to restart its economy after the annual Lunar New Year holiday was extended to try to curb the spread of the virus. Traffic remained light in Beijing, and many people are still working at home.
The latest developments in the outbreak, which started in December in the city of Wuhan:
New cases decline
The number of new cases has trended down in the last week, raising hopes that the epidemic may be peaking.
The National Health Commission said 2,015 new cases had been tallied Tuesday, the second consecutive daily decline and down from nearly 3,900 a week ago. Commission spokesman Mi Feng said the situation is still grim but “we have seen some positive changes.”
Leading Chinese epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan told doctors in Wuhan that while the rest of China may have turned the corner, more efforts are still needed to stop the spread of the virus in the city and the rest of Hubei province, the hardest-hit area.
The total number of cases in mainland China reached 44,653 and the death toll hit 1,113. Two people have died elsewhere, one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.
The latest in the US
In total, 13 people in the United States have tested positive for the virus across six states.
A person sick from the coronavirus was released from a San Diego hospital this week after a labeling error led the Centers 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.
Local health officials in Riverside County, California, said Tuesday that 195 people from the first government evacuation flight, which left Wuhan on Jan. 29, were to be released from quarantine at March Air Reserve Base by Wednesday. All were found to be free of the virus during two weeks in quarantine.
Virus gets official name
The World Health Organization 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.
Singapore bank clears office
DBS told 300 employees to work from home after it learned that an employee had been infected by the virus. The Singapore bank said all staff on the same floor should do so as a precautionary measure. The city-state has 50 confirmed cases.
In China, state media said a large cluster of cases in a district of Tianjin, a port city southeast of Beijing, has been traced to a department store. One-third of Tianjin's 104 confirmed cases are in Baodi district, where the store is located, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
A salesperson in the store's home appliance section was the first diagnosed Jan. 31, Xinhua said, and a series of cases followed. None of the infected had visited Wuhan recently, and with the exception of one married couple, they worked in different sections of the store and did not know one another.
Cambodia allows ship to dock
The operators of a cruise ship that was barred from docking by four governments due to virus fears announced Wednesday that it will finally disembark passengers in Cambodia.
Thailand refused Tuesday to allow the MS Westerdam to dock at a Thai port after it had already been turned away by the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan.
The ship was unwelcome despite assurances from operator Holland America Line that no cases of the viral disease known as COVID-19 have been confirmed among the more than 2,200 passengers and crew on board.
U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia W. Patrick Murphy confirmed on Twitter late Wednesday night that Cambodia had authorized the ship to dock in the port of Sihanoukville. He said he had dispatched an embassy team to work with the ship's representatives and Cambodian officials to help U.S. citizens disembark and transfer to their onward destinations.
“We have also coordinated with foreign embassies of other nationalities,” he wrote.
2 Russians flee quarantine
Two Russian women who were kept in isolation for possible inflection by the virus say they fled from their hospitals this month because of uncooperative doctors, poor conditions and fear they would become infected. Reports said one of the patients jumped out of a window.
Both women said their hospital ordeals began after returning from Hainan, a tropical island in southern China popular with Russian tourists.
Many of those quarantined in Russian hospitals have complained about conditions in the isolation rooms and lack of cooperation from doctors who are uncertain about quarantine protocols.
A Chinese drug manufacturer announced it has begun producing a drug developed by U.S. company Gilead Sciences Ltd. for possible use against the new virus.
BrightGene Bio-Medical Technology Co. said in a statement issued through the Shanghai Stock Exchange that it had successfully synthesized the active ingredients in remdesivir.
A government laboratory said last week it was applying for a patent on the drug for treatment of the virus.
Gilead said earlier it was working with U.S. and Chinese authorities to test remdesivir as a treatment for the virus. Xinhua reported last week that clinical trials were starting.
Formula One organizers on Wednesday postponed the Chinese Grand Prix that was due to be staged in Shanghai in April, the latest sporting event impacted by the fast-spreading viral infection in the country.
— Information provided by The New York Times was used to supplement this report. Compiled by ArLuther Lee for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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