Love in the time of coronavirus: A quiet Valentine's Day in China
dSix health workers have died from the new coronavirus in China and more than 1,700 have been infected, health officials said on Friday, underscoring the risks doctors and nurses have taken due to shortages of protective gear, reports AFP.
The figure comes a week after public anger erupted over the death of a whistleblowing doctor who had been reprimanded and silenced by police after raising the alarm about the virus in December.
China reported 121 new deaths on Friday, bringing the toll to 1,380. Another 5,090 new cases were confirmed, pushing up the number of infected patients to 63,851, reports Reuters.
Zeng Yixin, vice minister at the National Health Commission, said at a news conference that 1,716 health workers have been infected in the country as of Tuesday.
The majority, 1,102, have been diagnosed with the COVID-19 illness in Wuhan, the central city at the epicentre of the crisis, Zeng said. Another 400 were infected in other places in Hubei province.
Chinese authorities have scrambled to deploy protective equipment to Wuhan's hospitals, where doctors and nurses have been overwhelmed by an ever-growing number of patients.
Many doctors in Wuhan have had to see patients without proper masks or protective body suits, resorting to reusing the same equipment when they should be changed regularly.
One doctor at a community clinic in Wuhan told AFP he and at least 16 other colleagues were showing symptoms similar to the new virus, including lung infections and coughing.
The risks medical staff are facing was highlighted on February 7 when Li Wenliang, the whistleblowing doctor, succumbed to the disease in Wuhan.
His death unleashed an outpouring of grief and anger on Chinese social media, with 10 academics in Wuhan circulating an open letter calling for political reform and freedom of speech.
Japan confirmed its first death from the virus on Thursday. This is the third death outside mainland China — the Philippines and Hong Kong have reported a death each, reports Reuters.
A quiet Valentine's Day in China
Couples around China settled for a quiet Valentine's Day this year, with COVID-19 intruding as an unwelcome third-wheel in romantic celebrations, reports AFP.
Businesses around the country from florists to concert halls closed shop and axed events, leaving couples with no choice but to spend the night in.
The risk of infection, which has left most lovers house-bound, has battered Valentine's Day sales for businesses hoping to cash in on love.
Flower shop Xian Hua Ge in Beijing told AFP that sales plunged by up to 70% from last year – partly because many have not returned to the city to work.
UK MPs self quarantine
Two Labour MPs are self-isolating over coronavirus fears after going to a London bus conference attended by an infected patient.
It comes after an MP revealed on Saturday he is self-isolating going to a bus conference in Westminster attended by a coronavirus patient before they fell ill.
Alex Sobel, MP for Leeds NW, said he is one of 250 people at the summit - attended by MPs and transport chiefs - who may have come into contact with the bug.
Another Labour MP who went to the conference, Lillian Greenwood, on Saturday said she is cancelling all her public engagements and is at home to be "extra cautious".
Boris Johnson's Buses Minister, Baroness Vere of Norbiton, was star speaker at the UK Bus Summit in Westminster on February 6.
Public Health England is now said to be rushing to speak to people who may have had contact with the infected conference attendee.
Cruise industry shuns Asia
The plight of the cruise ship off Japan with more than 200 coronavirus infections and the shunning of another luxury liner by five ports despite no known cases has led to a sharp change in tack for an industry in shock: avoid Asia.
To that end, many cruises in the region are being cancelled while others currently sailing are being re-routed, skipping originally scheduled stops in China, Hong Kong and Singapore, reports Reuters.
Vietnam on Friday turned away two ships from docking, citing the need to prevent the virus from entering the country.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd cancelled 18 cruises in Southeast Asia on Thursday after calling off eight trips to China last week. It joined industry leader Carnival Corp in warning that full-year earnings would be hit by the epidemic.