Coronavirus
A man holding a loudspeaker sits on a motorcycle as it travels past a sanitising vehicle disinfecting the public space near residential buildings, following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country, in Panyu district of Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China.
Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: The impact of coronavirus on Thursday became more stark with the biggest daily spike in death cases so far – a shocking 254, taking the grim tally to 1,367 worldwide. The virus has infected more than 60,000 people globally, with new cases in China jumping by a whopping 15,000 after Hubei province, which is at the centre of the problem, revised the manner in which it counts infections. This came as Japan reported its first death from the illness. Thursday also saw the first major political fallout in China, with two top officials being removed.

A woman in her 80s has become the first person with the new coronavirus to die in Japan, the country’s health minister said Thursday, cautioning it was not clear if the virus caused her death.

“The relationship between the new coronavirus and the death of the person is still unclear,” Katsunobu Kato said at a late-night briefing. “This is the first death of a person who tested positive.”

Good news for passengers on cruise ship

Meanwhile, passengers on a cruise ship that spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by five countries over coronavirus fears cheered and clapped as the vessel finally arrived at a port in Cambodia on Thursday.

The MS Westerdam, carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, docked in Sihanoukville in the evening after anchoring 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.

None of the fluid samples taken from 20 people and transported by helicopter to the capital Phnom Penh for tests came back positive for coronavirus, Cambodia’s health ministry said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said he would travel to Sihanoukville on Friday to personally welcome the passengers.

Largest cluster of infections outside China

However, life on another cruise ship, the Diamond Princess quarantined in a Japanese port with scores of cases of a new virus, remained mostly grim, according to interviews by The Associated Press with passengers and a growing stream of tweets and YouTube videos.

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The Diamond Princess has been quarantined in the Japanese port city of Yokohama.

At times there’s an almost festive atmosphere, as when locals on Jet Skis buzz the ship, shouting greetings. Other times, there’s deep worry, like on the days when new cases of the illness are confirmed, pushing the total on the ship to 218 – the largest cluster of infections outside China. One passenger who became ill described the initial terror of being whisked to a hospital while covered in protective plastic, but also of the surprisingly mild symptoms.

Surveillance in India

The Indian authorities began a community surveillance programme across 34 states and union territories. The country is also screening passengers at 21 airports, international seaports and border crossings.

As foreigners flee, Pakistan tells citizens to stay

The Pakistani government has asked 800 Pakistani students in Wuhan to stay put, the result of a grim government calculus. Pakistan’s health care system is in shambles. Already strained hospitals lack trained doctors and supplies. If infected nationals return home, the virus would likely spread unabated across the country. Pakistan is one of the last places in the world still battling polio, and incidents of dengue fever and HIV are on the rise.

But other Pakistanis wonder whether they are pawns in a larger geopolitical game. China is one of Pakistan’s most important allies, and as the weaker of the two partners, Pakistan may be under pressure to keep its citizens in China so as not to embarrass Beijing.

Suspicions that Pakistan was being overly obsequious grew last week after the country resumed commercial flights to China. Pakistani citizens with the means can return home if they test negative for coronavirus.

On Twitter this week, Dr. Zafar Mirza, a senior health adviser to Pakistan’s prime minister, urged Pakistani nationals in China to remain calm.

Bahrain bars travellers from China

Bahrain has temporarily barred the entry of foreign travellers coming from China as a precaution against the outbreak of the new coronavirus, Bahraini media reported Thursday.

Foreign travellers are to be denied entry to Bahrain if they have been in China at least 14 days before their arrival in the kingdom, the Bahraini Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Rugby Sevens scrapped

Hong Kong Rugby Union and Sport Singapore confirmed plans to reschedule the World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 to October from April due to concerns related to novel coronavirus outbreak.