Coronavirus Outbreak

Belgium confirms 1st case, Hong Kong 1st death


Belgium has reported its first case of a new virus in a person who was repatriated from the Chinese epicentre of the outbreak, report agencies.

The health ministry said Tuesday the person was in good health and does not show any symptoms of the disease. The individual was among nine Belgians repatriated from Wuhan, China, over the weekend. The infected person was taken to a special hospital for further care while the other returnees remain under observation.

More than 180 cases of the new type of coronavirus have been confirmed beyond mainland China, which has more than 20,000 cases. The Singapore Airshow will proceed next week despite the withdrawal of South Korea's air force team and 16 exhibitors because of a new virus.

Experia Events said Tuesday an aviation conference that is part of the airshow will be cancelled as the would-be participants instead focus on handling the outbreak. Experia said 10 exhibitors from China and six exhibitors from other countries couldn't participate in the Feb. 11-16 event due to Singapore's ban on all Chinese visitors and company bans on employee travel.

Experia said temperature screenings and other measures will be used at the exhibition center and a medical team will be on standby. The new type of coronavirus has infected more than 20,000 people, mostly in China. Several Asian countries have reported cases, including Singapore, which has 18.

More than 100 Malaysians have been quarantined after being evacuated from the Chinese city at the center of a viral outbreak. An AirAsia plane carrying 107 Malaysians and their non-Malaysians spouses and children from Wuhan landed at the Kuala Lumpur airport early Tuesday.

They immediately underwent medical screenings, and the National Disaster Management Agency said two people who didn't pass the screenings were immediately taken to the hospital. Its statement said the others were sent to a surveillance center in southern Negeri Sembilan state to be quarantined for 14 days.

Malaysia has recorded eight cases of the new type of coronavirus, all involving Chinese travelers. The leader of semi-autonomous Macao is asking the city's casinos shut for two seeks after a worker at one of them tested positive for the new virus sweeping China.

Ho Iat Seng made the request on Tuesday as the total number of cases in mainland China surged past 20,000. Macao's more than two dozen casinos account for about half of the local economy and are hugely popular with Chinese visitors, generating more than four times the revenue of those in Las Vegas. Macao has so far recorded 10 cases of the virus.

Ho told reporters he would meet with heads of the casinos to discuss details. Public transport and other services were also being cut back to the minimum needed to deal with emergencies, Ho said. He urged residents to stay home and leave only to buy necessities such as food.

With more than 20,000 cases reported, China has begun moving patients suffering from a new virus into rapidly built or adapted facilities, although the degree of medical isolation among them appears to vary widely.

The first 50 patients were moved Tuesday into Huoshenshan Hospital, a prefabricated structure on the outskirts of the city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Earlier footage appeared to show the 1,000-bed facility equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment, including negative-pressure isolation wards to prevent the virus from breaking the air seal. A second hospital, Leishenshan, is due to be ready soon and will add another 1,600 beds.

Elsewhere in Wuhan, authorities are converting a gymnasium, exhibition hall and cultural center into hospitals with a total of 3,400 beds to treat patients with mild symptoms of the virus. Television footage of those facilities showed beds placed in tight rows in large rooms without dividers between them.

Japanese health officials are conducting extensive medical checks on all 3,700 passengers and crew of a cruise ship that returned to the country after one passenger tested positive for the new coronavirus. Japanese officials say a number of people on board are ill, though no one else has yet tested positive for the fast-spreading virus that emerged in China last December.

The U.S.-operated Diamond Princess returned to a port in Yokohama, near Tokyo, late Monday, ending a 14-day tour during which it stopped at Hong Kong and several other Asian ports before returning to Japan. Japanese government and tour company officials say they were notified by Hong Kong that an 80-year-old male passenger who got off the boat on the island tested positive for the virus.

The ship's captain said Monday night that Hong Kong's health authorities notified the ship about the passenger's infection on Saturday, according to a recording of the announcement tweeted by a passenger. According to the announcement, the patient is recovering.