Coronavirus news and live updates: Two Japan cruise ship passengers die


A nurse prepares medicines for patients at Jinyintan Hospital designated for new coronavirus infected patients, in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province on Sunday, February 16.
A nurse prepares medicines for patients at Jinyintan Hospital designated for new coronavirus infected patients, in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province on Sunday, February 16. Chinatopix via AP

Hubei, the Chinese province at the center of the novel coronavirus outbreak, announced 349 new cases today, the lowest daily number of infections officially recorded by China in weeks.

Chinese state media is adopting a positive stance on the fall in new infections today, but it remains too early to predict the end of the current outbreak, Dr. Mike Ryan, World Health Organization executive director of health emergencies program, said during a news conference on Wednesday.

The news of a fall in infections in China comes amid a spikes in cases in other Asian countries, notably South Korea, Singapore and Japan.

Infections drop in virus epicenter: Confirmed cases in mainland China increased by 394, according to the country’s National Health Commission. Only 45 of those new cases were outside of Hubei, according to the NHC’s official figures.

The total number of confirmed cases in mainland China is now 74,576, bringing the global total to 75,674.

Death toll rises: The number of people killed by the virus continues to rise, with 114 more deaths announced in mainland China today. In total, the global death toll is now 2,126.

South Korea infections jump: There are now 82 cases of the deadly coronavirus in South Korea, the government reported today, after a jump of 31 additional cases overnight. Many of the new infections went to the same church as a previous confirmed patient.

Diamond Princess passengers departing: Large numbers of passengers are due to leave their cruise ship today after two weeks in quarantine on board. Cruise goers from Canada and Israel will be among those allowed off Thursday.

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has given up to 500 passengers permission to leave, a Princess Cruises spokesperson told CNN. A total of 624 cases of the coronavirus have been found on board the ship so far.

Quarantine criticism dismissed: Japan’s health ministry has defended its quarantine of the Diamond Princess, saying it is repeatedly in contact with “experts from university hospitals and other institutions” on how to handle the cruise ship.

It came after a viral YouTube video made by Professor Kentaro Iwata criticized the government’s handling of the situation, implying the virus was out of control onboard.

Scientists slam conspiracy theories: A group of scientists from around the world have come together to denounce rumors that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese laboratory, rather than naturally in animals.

“(We) overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging pathogens,” 27 study authors said in a statement published Wednesday in medical journal The Lancet.

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