A Perth grandfather is the latest Australian to be diagnosed with coronavirus after contracting it on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama, Japan.
The 80-year-old will be taken to a hospital on the mainland to receive treatment.
The total number of confirmed cases on board has now risen to 219, which includes 15 Australians.
Health officials allowed 11 elderly passengers to leave the ship yesterday after they tested negative for the virus.
They are the first group of dozens of older passengers expected to get off the vessel before their 14-day quarantine period ends on February 19 to reduce risks of their health deteriorating.
Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato on Thursday said passengers age 80 or older with chronic health issues or in cabins without windows that can open will be able to leave the ship if they pass the virus test.
Coronavirus infecting health workers
More than 1700 Chinese medical workers have been infected by the virus, officially labelled COVID-19 , that has killed nearly 1400 people and spread to other parts of Asia and as far as the US and Europe, a senior Chinese official announced.
Six of the workers have died, Zeng Yixin, vice director of the National Health Commission, said at a news conference.
The health commission is “highly concerned about this issue” and has issued guidelines for the prevention and control of infection within medical institutions, he said.
Medical workers account for about 3.8 per cent of confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of three days ago, Mr Zeng said.
The commission also reported another sizable rise in the number of infections as a result of a new way of counting adopted by Hubei province, the hardest-hit area.
Confirmed cases in mainland China rose to 63,851 by the end of Thursday, up 5090 from the previous day. The death toll rose 121 to 1380.
Hubei province is now including cases based on a physician’s diagnosis before they have been confirmed by lab tests. Of the 5090 new cases, 3095 fell into that category.
The acceleration in the number of cases does not necessarily represent a sudden surge in new infections of the virus that causes COVID-19 as much as the revised methodology.
The health commission has said that the change was aimed at identifying suspected cases so they can be treated more quickly, though experts also saw it as a reflection of the crush of people seeking treatment and the struggle to keep up with a backlog of untested samples in Hubei and its capital, Wuhan, where the disease first surfaced in December.
In Taiwan, about 100 family members of people stuck in Hubei province protested outside Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council headquarters in the capital, Taipei.
About 1000 Taiwanese hoping to fly home on charter flights have sparked a dispute between their government and China.
One flight brought 247 people back on February 4. Three were not on a passenger list that Taiwan gave to Chinese authorities and one tested positive for the virus, Taiwan’s Central News Agency has reported.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council wants China to step up quarantine work and reach agreements with Taiwan on the names of people on priority lists for flights.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office accused Taiwan on Wednesday of “using all kinds of excuses to obstruct and delay” flights. China sees self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory rather than an independent state.
“We don’t want to politicise it, we want charter flights,” said protester Chung Chin-ming, chairman of the Chinese Cross-Strait Marriage Coordination Association in Taipei.
Travel bans extended
In Australia, lobby groups have hit back at the federal government’s decision to extend the coronavirus travel ban, in fear of the rising economic impacts on the country.
From Friday, foreign nationals who have been in mainland China will not be allowed to enter Australia for 14 days from the time they left.
The Chinese embassy says the ban is “extreme” and should be lifted, given the World Health Organisation has not recommended travel or trade restrictions on China.
“We express our deep regret and dissatisfaction over the Australian government’s announcement,” a spokesman said in a statement.
Australia’s deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly admits the move was a big decision.
“It’s something that wasn’t taken lightly. We think it is the most appropriate thing to do,” he told Sky News.
Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive Magy Osmond says the ban is another blow to the tourism industry with the Chinese inbound market worth some $700 million to Australia each week.
“We need to support our China relationships and be willing and flexible enough to act as soon as the ban has been lifted to attract Chinese visitors back to Australia,” Ms Osmond said in a statement.
The National Union of Students called out the ban, saying it discriminates against international students.
NUS national president Molly Millmott says up to 56 per cent of enrolled Chinese international students remain stranded overseas waiting to return to Australia.
“NUS maintains that this ban is predicated on racial division that discriminates against international students, but also fails to account for many of the consequences that this will likely precipitate upon the Australian higher education space and the welfare of the student body,” Ms Willmott said in a statement on Friday.
No quarantined Australians at Christmas Island and Darwin have tested positive for the virus, with the first group of evacuees due to return home on Monday.
Australian Border Force issued a statement on Friday night.
“The ABF is currently making arrangements to transfer those who have been quarantined on Christmas Island once they have been medically cleared,” an ABF spokesman told AAP.
“The government will continue to provide routine updates when appropriate.”
How the virus is spreading outside China
More than 580 cases have been confirmed outside mainland China and three deaths, one each in the Philippines and Hong Kong and now a Japanese woman in her 80s. Health officials are investigating how she got infected.
In an unprecedented attempt to contain the disease, the Chinese government has placed the hardest-hit cities – home to more than 60 million – under lockdown.
People are restricted from entering or leaving the cities, and in many places can only leave their homes or residential complexes for shopping and other daily needs.
Of the 15 coronavirus cases in Australia, six have been cleared and the remaining nine are all stable.