At least 2,009 people have now died from the novel coronavirus, the vast majority of them in mainland China. China’s Health Commission announced 136 new deaths since Monday, bringing the countrywide toll to 2,004.
Cases pass 1,000 outside China: More than 1,000 people have now been infected with the virus outside mainland China. Japan and Singapore are still seeing a steady rise in cases, with the Ministry of Health in Tokyo reporting seven new infections on Tuesday.
Cruise ship disembarks: After weeks under quarantine in Japan, the passengers of the Diamond Princess will begin to disembark today.
It will take days to get all those onboard off the ship, but it will be a relief for the cruise goers who have tested negative for the coronavirus. More than 500 of their fellow passengers have already been diagnosed with the virus.
But the US embassy in Tokyo said in a statement Wednesday that there was still a “high risk” of exposure and so no one was allowed to return to the US from the ship for a further 14 days.
Canada evacuation: A chartered airplane that will evacuate Canadian citizens from the Diamond Princess is on its way, according to Global Affairs Canada. The flight is expected to depart Tokyo Haneda Airport on Thursday.
Westerdam waits: Meanwhile, test results are pending for 1,000 crew and passengers waiting aboard the Westerdam cruise ship in Cambodia. One passenger is said to have tested positive for the virus by Malaysian authorities after she was transiting through the country. Passengers from the ship disembarked in Cambodia on Friday after being refused entry at several ports.
Positive spin: Chinese state-run media is pushing the message that the worst of the crisis is over. In a phone call with the UK prime minister Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said there was “visible progress.” According to state news agency Xinhua, Xi said that the epidemic had now reached a “crucial time.”
US calls for transparency: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that the US is “hopeful” that China will increase its transparency in sharing information about the virus. “We hope that every country that has information, this includes China, will be completely open and transparent. It took us too long to get the medical experts into country,” Pompeo said at a joint news briefing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Vaccine in the works: A vaccine for the novel coronavirus could take 12 to 18 months, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday during a news briefing. But a vaccine is preparing for “the worst situation,” he said, and for now, long-term preparation needs to be balanced with immediate public health solutions that contain the virus and keep the fatality rate low.