NEWS
24/02/2020 9:08 AM AEDT | Updated 24/02/2020 9:36 AM AEDT

Coronavirus Latest: Here’s What We Know About The Spread Of The Outbreak

Some Chinese students allowed to enter Australia as situation worsens in Italy and South Korea.

Two months after the new virus – named Covid-19 – was first identified in Wuhan it is still relatively poorly understood, with scientists working to identify a definitive source. 

Health authorities in Australia and worldwide have been working on the premise that the virus has an incubation period of 14 days, however this was thrown into doubt on Saturday when local government in China’s Hubei province reported the case of a man who had not shown symptoms until 27 days after he had been infected. 

Here’s the latest on coronavirus: 

What’s happening in Australia? 

A seventh passenger from the Diamond Princess has tested positive to COVID-19 at the Manigurr-ma Village quarantine facility in Darwin.

The 57-year-old Queensland woman has been transported back to her home state on a specialised medical retrieval plane. 

This brings the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia to 22.

The Australian government will allow the return of some Chinese high school students who have been blocked from entering the country due to restrictions, reopening the door to a market that is key for the economy.

Thousands of Chinese students were prevented from heading to Australia after the long summer break for the start of school and university terms this month when the government imposed a travel ban for most people travelling from China.

The targeted easing of the ban would allow about 760 Chinese high school students - none from Hubei province, which is the epicentre of the outbreak - to apply to return.

Although Prime Minister Scott Morrison plans to extend a ban on arrivals for other visitors from mainland China into a fourth week.

What’s the situation in the UK? 

Danny Lawson - PA Images via Getty Images
Diamond Princess passengers arrive in the UK. 

On Sunday, more than a hundred people who had been flown out of Wuhan were released from quarantine in a Milton Keynes conference centre after being held for 14 days. 

One man said it was a “fantastic” feeling to be released from Kents Hill Park training and conference centre.

Some 118 people were being released, with guests holding backpacks and suitcases pictured getting taxis.

The group, who were brought back to Britain earlier this month on a repatriation flight from Wuhan, included around 10 children and a family of four.

It comes as dozens of evacuees from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship spent their first night quarantined at Arrowe Park hospital on the Wirral.

Thirty-two people, who spent more than two weeks trapped on the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan, arrived in Merseyside on Saturday evening.

Some of the group – reportedly made up of 30 Britons and two Irish nationals – made gestures from their coaches as they arrived at the Merseyside facility on Saturday evening – one forming a heart symbol with her hands and another an OK signal.

All of those who arrived at Arrowe Park tested negative to having Covid-19 before flying back to the UK.

It is understood some British nationals who are part of the Diamond Princess crew opted to remain. Since being kept on board the cruise liner in the port of Yokohama, more than 600 passengers and crew have been infected.

British couple David and Sally Abel, from Northamptonshire, who were were on the cruise for their 50th wedding anniversary, have both been diagnosed with pneumonia and relatives complained they had been moved to a “prison-like” hospital in Japan.

In a bid to help stop the spread of the virus in the UK, the health service is piloting home testing where NHS staff, including nurses and paramedics, will visit people in their own homes.

Slight fall in new Chinese coronavirus deaths

Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images
Members of a medical team attend a ceremony before leaving for Hubei Province at the Guiyang Longdongbao International Airport.

 

The death toll in mainland China has risen by 97 to 2,442, Chinese health authorities have said – marking a slight fall in the number of new deaths in the 24 hours to Sunday morning, compared to the previous day.

Officials also announced 648 new infections, representing a spike compared to the downward trend of recent days.

The total number of cases in China is 76,510, most of which are in Hubei, the province where Covid-19 originated.

Prior to the spike in daily infections, China’s leadership sounded a cautious note about the country’s progress in halting the spread of the virus, after several days of upbeat messages.

The Politburo, made up of the senior officials of the ruling Communist Party, said the situation in Hubei and its capital Wuhan remains grave.

“We should clearly see that the turning point of the development of the epidemic across the country hasn’t arrived yet,” the Politburo said at a meeting led by President Xi Jinping and reported by state broadcaster CCTV.

Two deaths in Italy 

MIGUEL MEDINA via Getty Images
Residents wearing respiratory mask wait to be given access to shop in a supermarket in small groups of forty people in the small Italian town of Casalpusterlengo.

It was announced on Saturday that two elderly people had died from the virus in Italy, and on Sunday the total number of cases in the country surpassed 100. 

Italy’s government have passed a series of emergency measures in a bid to limit the spread of the outbreak in what is now Europe’s worst-affected country. 

The governor of Italy’s northern Lombardy region Attilio Fontana said certified cases of the illness in his area had risen to 89 from 54 a day earlier, bringing the total number in the country to more than 100.

In an emergency decree approved late on Saturday, the government adopted special powers to be able to stop people leaving or entering the worst impacted zones.

A spokesman for the governor of the northern region Veneto said on Sunday the number of cases there had risen to 19, seven more than on Saturday.

Lombardy is home to Italy’s financial capital Milan which has a population of 1.4m. The city’s mayor Giuseppe Sala has announced that all Milan schools will be closed from Monday, while universities in both Lombardy and Veneto have also been shuttered until early March.

Sporting events have also been cancelled in the affected regions, including three Serie A football matches.

Fashion designer Giorgio Armani has said his fashion show scheduled to take place in Milan on Sunday would go ahead in an empty theatre without any press or buyers present.

‘Unprecedented’ steps taken in South Korea 

JUNG YEON-JE via Getty Images
A man wearing a face mask walks in front of the Daegu branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the southeastern city of Daegu.

South Korea has been put on its highest possible alert for infectious diseases, and officials have been told to take “unprecedented, powerful” steps to fight the viral outbreak.

President Moon Jae-in said the Covid-19 outbreak has reached a “crucial watershed” and that the “next few days will be a very important critical moment”.

The number of cases rose by 123 to 556 on Sunday, with five deaths officially recorded. 

The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has said that 113 of the 123 new cases came from the country’s fourth-largest city of Daegu and surrounding areas.

Centres chief Jeong Eun-kyeong told reporters that 309 of the country’s 556 patients have been confirmed to have links to a branch of the local Shincheonji church in Daegu, which has become the biggest cluster of viral infections.

She said 534 of the 556 patients have been placed under isolation and that tests were under way on 6,039 other people.

Daegu’s first case on February 18 was a church member with no recent record of overseas travel. Officials said she attended church services and visited other places before being diagnosed with the disease, but they still believe it unlikely that the woman set off the chain of infections.

Daegu mayor Kwon Yong-jin said there are concerns that the number of those infected in the city could see yet another massive increase because authorities were launching intensive examinations of church members with virus-related symptoms.

Central Daegu has been left mostly deserted with shelves at some supermarkets and stores empty.

What’s the latest from the World Health Organisation (WHO)? 

The WHO on Saturday stressed that the number of cases outside of China was still relatively few, but it was worried by the detection of infections without a clear link to China.

More than 30 countries have now officially reported cases of the virus, Al Jazeera reports, with the overwhelming majority recorded in China. 

In a WHO briefing on Thursday, director-general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said data continues to show a decline in new cases “but this is no time for complacency”.