Death toll in China's coronavirus outbreak rises to 491
BEIJING - Anadolu Agency
In a statement, the commission said 24,324 confirmed cases have been reported so far and 65 people have died in the last 24 hours.
The number of people under medical observation has risen to 185,555 while the number of those thought to be infected is now 23,260.
The number of those detected with the virus outside China's mainland has reached 18 in Hong Kong and 10 in Macau. Both are special administrative regions.
The NHC also announced that the bodies of those who died due from the outbreak will be burned in crematorium areas near hospitals.
Turkish expat recalls life in virus-stricken Chinese city
As the deadly coronavirus rapidly spread and claimed hundreds of lives at its epicenter in Wuhan, China, Turkey dispatched a military cargo plane to evacuate 42 people, including dozens of Turkish expats.
The A400M plane successfully brought back 32 Turks, six Azerbaijanis, three Georgians and an Albanian to the capital Ankara late Saturday, where they are being held under quarantine until mid-February.
Among them is a 35-year-old researcher who witnessed developments in Wuhan as the crisis rapidly escalated, with the death toll climbing and the Chinese government fighting back through such measures as a quarantine.
“The first reports about the virus were somewhere around Jan. 10-15. Chinese PhD students I spoke to back then said there was nothing to worry about and the state had the virus under control,” said the Turkish man, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“But things escalated quickly after Jan. 20 and access to Wuhan was prohibited, which in fact completely changed social life,” he said, adding that this naturally led to panic in a city with a population of 11 million.
“All large shopping malls, gathering places, and even major parks were closed and streets were suddenly empty,” he said. Even some bridges over the Yangtze River were closed, with only certain vehicles allowed to cross.
He said he did not know anyone who was infected as the New Year’s holiday had just begun when the quarantine process started and the university, where he spent most of his time, was already shut down.
“I just heard on WeChat that one of the Pakistani PhD students got sick and was transferred to a hospital for treatment,” he said. “Ambulances were going in and out of the neighborhood.”
More days in quarantine
When Beijing launched the quarantine process on Jan. 23 in a bid to contain the virus, there was an initial wave of panic among its residents. Some tried to escape the city, while others sought to stock up on food and supplies.
The Turkish evacuee was among those who rushed to grocery stores to fill their cupboards. He bought around five days’ worth of food, fearing it would be very difficult to find it later. But he later realized that this was unnecessary, as the Chinese government had already taken measures on this front.
“It was all in vain. I soon learned there was a market nearby where you could access pretty much anything. Apparently, some markets in the city were assigned to distribute basic food items and fresh fruit and vegetables,” he said.
He went on to say that he heard that some students living in rural areas of Wuhan had problems finding protective masks, but getting food was no problem, unlike some social media rumors.
The Chinese government responded well to the outbreak, he said.
“Although the Chinese state first attempted to hide it, I believe now it’s doing its best. That’s because there was a huge backlash from people, especially on social media.”
“They now follow a more transparent and unifying policy,” he said, praising the government for quickly building hospitals capable of accommodating thousands of patients.
“The building of these hospitals was streamed live online and watched by millions. Donation drives were held all over the country, with money donated by both the public and companies,” he added.
He added that the evacuation to Turkey was carried out without any problems and the Turkish Embassy in China helped significantly.
“The most difficult part was transportation to the airport, as it was stopped throughout city. Through the embassy’s collaboration with the Chinese state, four buses were arranged, and people were taken from their homes,” he said.
“Now we’re in quarantine for 14 days, which is going to be difficult, given that we had already been under quarantine in Wuhan before coming to Turkey,” he added.
Tokyo 2020 pledges trouble-free games
The coronavirus outbreak will not disrupt the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games, with the year's leading sports events to be held as planned, said an official on the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
"The coronavirus has nothing to do with the 2020 Olympics as this outbreak won't block the games," IOC Vice President Uğur Erdener from Turkey said.
Erdener said Olympics officials are currently monitoring the situation concerning the outbreak.
Regarding Chinese athletes and coaching staff, Erdener said: "If some are infected, they won't be allowed [to enter Japan] of course"
Like Turkey, countries are taking necessary screening measures in the arrival areas of their airports, he added.
Turkey has adopted new measures to detect the coronavirus among international passengers and travelers coming from Far East countries and they have been scanned using thermal cameras at Istanbul Airport.
Japan to work to keep virus out
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said this week that the government would make utmost efforts to ensure that the outbreak does not trouble the 2020 Olympics.
"We will keep in close contact with everybody, including the International Olympic Committee and the World Health Organization, to take appropriate steps and keep the coronavirus from affecting the Olympics," Abe said in a parliamentary session.
Meanwhile, Japanese Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto said the Olympics' organizers are not considering cancelling the games.
China halts football matches
Last week, China postponed football matches nationwide due to the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
The Chinese Football Association said on its website that it is postponing all domestic games in 2020 to protect the health of fans, clubs, players, coaches, referees and media staff.
The federation said it would continue to cooperate and communicate with national authorities to determine the schedule and fixtures, considering the development of the coronavirus.
China has also delayed its football Supercup following the outbreak of the coronavirus.
The Chinese football season opener had been scheduled to take place between Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai Shenhua on Feb. 5 in Suzhou, Jiangsu province in eastern China, according to state broadcaster China Global Television Network (CGTN).
"In conformity with the requirements to prevent and contain the spread of the novel coronavirus and to avoid crowds gathering, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) has decided to postpone the 2020 CFA Supercup after cautious analysis and assessment," the football governing body said in a statement cited by the broadcaster.
New dates for the Supercup will be announced later.
Separately, amid concerns over a virus outbreak, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) announced in January that “after having carefully evaluated developments regarding the coronavirus outbreak and placing as the main priority the safety of the participating players and team delegation members," the Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament has been moved from Foshan, China to Serbia's capital Belgrade.
FIBA added that the games will be played on the previously announced dates of Feb. 6-9.
The 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo will run from July 24 to Aug. 9.
Besides China, the virus has spread to more than 20 countries including Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the U.S., Singapore, France, Russia, Spain, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, India and Canada.
The virus, which was first detected in December in the city of Wuhan, the capital of central China's Hubei province, is said to have been transmitted to humans from animals, particularly bats.
It raised alarm globally with cases reported across Asia, Europe, the U.S. and Canada.
The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak an international emergency.
The U.S. also declared a public health emergency due to the new type of coronavirus.
Russia on Jan. 31 suspended visa-free travel for tourists to and from China.
Travelers from China are being screened for the virus at airports worldwide and several airlines have suspended flights to Wuhan.
Japan, South Korea, the U.S., Australia, Pakistan, India, France, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia and Turkey have evacuated their citizens from Wuhan.