The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the new coronavirus, which has killed almost 1,400 people and is still spreading in China, could be around for at least another year. With the Chinese government reporting 121 more deaths and more than 5,000 new cases Thursday alone, the illness dubbed COVID-19 didn’t even appear to have peaked.
Chinese health officials in the epicenter province of Hubei changed the way they officially diagnosed the disease this week, leading early Thursday to a sudden, alarming jump of about 14,000 new cases recorded in the region. But the person in charge of managing emergencies for the World Health Organization said that jump in the Chinese statistics did not indicate “a significant change in the trajectory of the outbreak.”
It wasn’t necessarily the “tip of an iceberg,” said the WHO’s Mike Ryan.
While the disease takes a fast-mounting toll, and sparks increasing scenes of draconian control measures being enforced in mainland China, there have been only three deaths blamed on it elsewhere; one each in Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan. The U.S. has 15 confirmed cases, but none are said to be suffering serious symptoms.
Meanwhile, in the U.S. and around the world, evacuees flown back to their countries from Hubei province and put under immediate two-week quarantines continue to be released back into public life after being cleared of the disease.
Passengers from a cruise ship that was denied entry by five countries over fears of the virus finally disembarked Friday in Cambodia, expressing deep gratitude to the country’s leader as he welcomed them with roses.
Japan lets some elderly passengers off quarantined cruise ship
Japan on Friday began allowing elderly passengers who test negative for the new coronavirus to leave a quarantined cruise ship and finish their isolation in government-designated lodging.
Japan’s government has given passengers aged 80 or older in poor health or confined to windowless inner cabins on the Diamond Princess the chance to move from the ship to accommodation on land. But only those who test negative for the virus that has so far infected 218 people on board the ship have the option to move.
The first of them departed the massive cruise ship Friday afternoon, traveling in buses with blacked-out windows. Drivers could be seen dressed in head-to-toe white protective suits, complete with goggles and masks.
A government official said 11 people had left, but declined to say whether more would depart Friday or offer further details.