Saturday, February 29, 2020

Coronavirus ruined your travel plans? Here's how to fight for your money back

  • You need to ensure your travel insurance will cover you if you don't want to travel
  • Also if you are scheduled to go somewhere where coronavirus has taken grip 
  • Here is some crucial advice to help you protect your money 
If you were planning a relaxing gondola ride around the canals of Venice or a luxury cruise in the next few months, it is safe to say that your dream holiday is looking a lot less idylic now.
With the coronavirus on the brink of escalating into a full-blown pandemic, many people are probably anxious to avoid bustling city centres, busy airports, packed train stations and crowded cruise ships.
Even if you consider the risk to yourself is low and decide to go ahead with your holiday anyway, your trip could be cancelled or severely curtailed now that the raging infection has swept into about 50 countries.
Face of fear: A tourist in Venice wears a protective mask as well as the usual covering for the carnival which had to be cut short because of the coronavirus threat
Face of fear: A tourist in Venice wears a protective mask as well as the usual covering for the carnival which had to be cut short because of the coronavirus threat
Wherever you want to go your plans could be wrecked, whether it is a sporting event being postponed, such as the Six Nations rugby match in Dublin between Ireland and Italy, or attractions being closed, such as museums, theatres and churches in Milan.Either way, you need to ensure your travel insurance will cover you if you do not want to travel or you are scheduled to go somewhere where coronavirus has taken grip – and do not allow yourself to be short-changed.
Remember, companies have a legal duty of care to their customers. So demand hard cash if your trip is cancelled or disrupted.
Here is some crucial advice to help you protect your money, and not just your health.
I'm supposed to be travelling overseas in the near future. Am I covered if I cancel?
First check the Government website for advice on whether your chosen destination is one that you really should stay away from. If you find there are no restrictions in place and you do not already have travel insurance, you will be covered if you buy some now – even if the travel guidelines covering your destination are subsequently changed.
However, if you insist on travelling to a country or region against Government advice – areas such as Hubei Province in China or certain villages in Northern Italy that are now in lockdown – then you risk invalidating your travel insurance. But it depends on the individual provider, so you might still have a chance to claim money back in some circumstances.
If you insist on travelling to a country or region against Government advice ¿ areas such as Hubei Province in China or certain villages in Northern Italy that are now in lockdown ¿ then you risk invalidating your travel insurance
If you insist on travelling to a country or region against Government advice – areas such as Hubei Province in China or certain villages in Northern Italy that are now in lockdown – then you risk invalidating your travel insurance
Some travel policies include cancellation if the Foreign Office advises against 'all but essential travel' to the destination, while a few will cover for cancellation due to any cause beyond your reasonable control or for 'travel disruption'.
This is usually an add-on to a basic policy which would cover you if Foreign Office advice changed while you were travelling.
There must be no travel restrictions in place at the time the policy was purchased.
Contact your tour operator or airline to reschedule or seek a refund for your trip. Airlines such as Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have suspended flights to mainland China and passengers are entitled to a full refund.
Virgin advises contacting your travel agent to discuss rebooking and refund options if you booked through them, or send a text message to Virgin's customer care team if you booked directly, on 07481 339184.
British Airways says you can refund your ticket online using its 'Manage My Booking' system, or call 0800 727 800. The airline promises: 'We'll do everything we can to help customers,' so take them at their word.
I don't want to travel now. Can I cancel my cruise, flight or package holiday even if it's not in a coronavirus affected area?
The majority of travel insurance policies provide cancellation cover – but be warned, this is only for a list of limited reasons.
They include death, injury or illness of you, a travelling companion or a relative not travelling with you. But while most will cover you if you are called for jury service or made redundant, for example, the cover does not include stopping a trip due to the fear of an epidemic or pandemic. Bizarrely, this is dismissed as a 'disinclination to travel'.
The only exception would be those with underlying health problems who have a letter from their doctor confirming they are advised not to travel to an area due to their condition.
The Guinness Six Nations match between Ireland and Italy, scheduled for March 7 in Dublin, has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak
The Guinness Six Nations match between Ireland and Italy, scheduled for March 7 in Dublin, has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak
I'm worried about my upcoming cruise holiday. What are my options?
Many cruise ship operators are amending their itineraries to avoid coronavirus affected areas or cancelling some routes altogether. They are also refusing to take passengers on board from affected areas and are stepping up deep-cleaning. Contact your cruise company to see how your holiday will be affected. Many are offering full refunds or cruise credits for cancellations and changes close to the departure date.
I was going to the Six Nations rugby match in Dublin. How does its postponement affect my flight plans?
Contact the airline to see if you can get a refund or reschedule the flight – and check to see if you are covered for any costs through your travel insurance provider. But if there is no Foreign Office advice against travel, the airline might refuse a refund – or could charge you for the rescheduling of flights.
If I'm quarantined on holiday, am I covered for any missed excursions already booked?
Some travel insurance providers, but not all, will provide you with cover for any pre-booked and paid-for missed excursions, up to a pre-determined limit on the policy.
Can I claim on my travel insurance if my holiday is cut short?
If you are quarantined on holiday, you generally cannot claim for curtailment as even though your trip may be ruined, technically you have not cut it short. But there is some small comfort. On a small number of policies, a daily benefit might be payable if you are admitted to hospital or confined to your holiday accommodation on medical advice.
Always check your insurance policy wording for the exact level of cover. Unsurprisingly, the more expensive the insurance, the more cover you are likely to have.
The majority of travel insurance policies provide cancellation cover ¿ but be warned, this is only for a list of limited reasons
The majority of travel insurance policies provide cancellation cover – but be warned, this is only for a list of limited reasons
I'm quarantined in my hotel and can't go home when I was supposed to. Am I still insured?
Contact your travel insurance provider and tell them about your situation. Some insurers will extend the cover free of charge while others might charge an additional premium depending on the length of the extension.
If I am quarantined on holiday and then again for another 14 days on my return, can I claim for loss of earnings?
Unfortunately not. This is known as 'consequential loss' and there is no cover for this under a travel insurance policy. Government advice is that employers should treat cases of self-isolation as sick leave, so you should be paid as usual and then get statutory sick pay if you go over the company's sick leave limit.
What happens if I'm travelling through an area I think is risky, such as Italy, even if I'm not staying there?
If you are concerned about passing through an area – flying to Rome, for example, to board a cruise ship in Civitavecchia – you have no right to a refund or replacement flight unless you have bought a flexible ticket which allows changes or cancellation.
Some airlines, such as Virgin Atlantic, are offering customers the chance to reroute flights if they are concerned.
What if I'm supposed to be flying via a restricted area and my flight is cancelled?
If, for example, you have a flight booked from Heathrow to Sydney, changing planes at Shanghai and the flight from Heathrow is cancelled, the airline is obliged to get you to Sydney via another route or provide a refund.
If you have booked two separate flights to make the same journey and the first leg is cancelled, then the airline has no responsibility for the onward journey so you will get a refund for the first flight but will miss the second and not be entitled to a refund.
What steps do I need to take right now?
If you did not buy travel insurance when you booked, then buy some right now, checking the level of cover provided. It will not cover you for travel restrictions already in place. But it could protect you against any new restrictions.
Ask about adding 'travel disruption' cover. If you already have insurance, then check your travel insurer's website to see if they have provided any key details about coronavirus – or contact them directly. Also, see if you can add 'travel disruption' cover.
It is worth remembering that you should also contact your travel agent, tour operator, airline, holiday accommodation provider and anyone else involved in the chain to see what costs (if any) you can recover.
Columbus Direct's Stuart Lloyd says many companies, especially where the holiday is sold under an ATOL Licence, have a duty of care to the customer – refunding costs or rescheduling or rerouting trips.
If holidaymakers decide to go ahead with their trips, as long as these are to areas the Foreign Office has not advised against travelling to, any medical costs will be covered and assistance provided if they are then diagnosed with the virus while abro

Friday, February 28, 2020


China coronavirus outbreak: All the latest updates

A woman arrived from the Iranian holy city of Qom where several infections and deaths were reported this week.

Thousands arriving from China and Europe at U.S. airports have faced no coronavirus screeningIn the weeks before President Donald Trump spoke from the Oval Office this week to announce restrictions on travelers from more than two dozen countries in Europe, thousands of people from the region already had stepped off planes at U.S. airports, and an untold number of them may have carried the coronavirus.

The same can be said of flights from China in the weeks before the U.S. clamped down on those. Thousands who visited the country where the illness began had entered the United States without any kind of health review.
Such sobering realities highlight just one element of the federal government’s shortcomings in getting ahead of the virus and halting its spread from overseas travelers.
A day-by-day review of the spread of an unfamiliar virus from its earliest days shows U.S. officials have often been slow to respond or steps behind, with critical gaps in containment measures such as travel restrictions and airport screenings that allowed the crisis to grow to more than 2,100 infections and 51 deaths.
“There have been gaps in the way the U.S. has approached its response, which has not been comprehensive enough to contain the virus at the early stages of the epidemic,” said Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy with the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington.
That was evident from the very beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. On Jan. 15, a 35-year-old man returned home to Washington state through the Seattle airport after traveling to Wuhan, China, where the virus was already spreading. He would become the nation’s first known case. Shortly before, on Jan. 13, a woman in her 60s arrived home through the Chicago airport after traveling to Wuhan. She would be Chicago’s first known case.

Trump in the Oval Office.

Both of those travelers came to U.S. days before the federal government began screenings for passengers who traveled through Wuhan at three U.S. international airports, New York’s Kennedy, San Francisco and Los Angeles. That list was expanded on Jan. 21 to include hubs in Chicago and Atlanta. Seattle-Tacoma wouldn’t be added to the list until Jan. 28.
Also, there’s no guarantee those screenings — which involved passengers filling out health forms and having their temperatures taken — would have caught those early patients, who didn’t report symptoms until later. U.S. researchers say screenings may miss half of COVID-19 infected people, since they may not develop symptoms for several days.
By Jan. 24, both the Chicago woman and Washington state man had sought medical care after feeling sick, and tests confirmed they had the virus. Learning of the two early cases, public health workers scrambled to reach hundreds of people who may have been exposed to them on flights and on the ground, knowing they wouldn’t be able to find them all with certainty.
With infections in Wuhan multiplying at an alarming rate, the White House announced on Jan. 31 that non-residents who had recently been to mainland China would no longer be allowed entry.Americans returning from the Wuhan region would be subject to a mandatory two-week quarantine. In Boston, a man who would become the city’s first case had returned after traveling to Wuhan just days earlier.
By mid-February, cases in China had pushed past 44,000. But the threat still seemed low in the U.S. and the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at its highest point ever amid investor optimism the trade wars initiated by Trump were being resolved.
Then on Feb. 24, a teenager at Jackson High School in Mill Creek, Washington, stayed home with fever, body aches and a headache. He was tested for flu at a clinic that week, but the test came back negative. Feeling better, he went to school on Feb. 28. Arriving on campus, he got a call to come home immediately. It was COVID-19.
The next day, Trevor Bedford, a Seattle scientist, tweeted about the “enormous implications” of finding genetic fingerprint similarities between the teenager’s virus and the Washington man who became the first known U.S. case. “This strongly suggests that there has been cryptic transmission in Washington State for the past 6 weeks,” he wrote on Twitter.To some, containment still seemed like a possibility in the United States, which as recently as about two weeks ago had no deaths and just 60 known cases, mostly people who were under federal quarantine after being evacuated from China or a cruise ship in Japan.
“It may get a little bigger; it may not get bigger at all,” Trump said in a national TV address at the time.
With cases rising above 1,000 in Italy and 3,000 in South Korea, the White House announced on March 1 that U.S.-bound passengers would undergo screenings before leaving those countries. But travelers from Italy who would eventually test positive were already on their way.
On March 4, California health officials announced that three of its six new cases were people who had visited northern Italy. A day later, Illinois announced its fifth confirmed case — a man who had recently returned from Italy. A day after that, Oklahoma announced its first case — a man who had returned from Italy about two weeks earlier. And a few days later, the state announced its second case had also traveled to Italy.
By the time Trump announced the European travel ban Thursday, cases in the region including Italy, Spain and France had mushroomed to more than 17,000. When a similar ban was announced on people traveling from China, that country had around 11,000 cases. Iran had about 600 confirmed cases when the U.S. banned travelers who had recently been there.“The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hotspots,” Trump said. “As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe.”
Saturday, Trump closed some glaring exceptions to his European travel ban, adding the United Kingdom and Ireland to the list and considering imposing travel restrictions within the U.S. as well. His decision came as deaths in Britain doubled from the day before to 21, and infections rose from 800 to over 1,100.
Some experts question the effectiveness of any kind of travel restrictions given the heavy volume of global travel. Last year, for example, 4.2 million passengers arrived in the U.S. on flights from China and 2.2 million from Italy.
Holes in the containment net may sound alarming to the general public, but experts in controlling outbreaks assume the net will let some slip through. The point is to slow down or “flatten” rates of infection to keep the number of severely sick patients from overwhelming hospitals, which aren’t big enough to accommodate a surge.
“We are essentially spreading this spread over a longer period of time to allow health systems time to adapt and respond,” said Dr. Sandro Galea, an epidemiologist at Boston University.The benefit of stopping a portion of new infections from entering also depends on how aggressively officials are simultaneously controlling infections already within their borders, said Benjamin Cowling, an epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong.
But nearly two months after the first U.S. case was confirmed, the persisting lack of testing capacity has left experts uncertain about how many more infected people aren’t being identified. Some researchers say the true count of infections in the U.S. may be upwards of 14,000..
“It is a failing, let’s admit it,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health on Thursday of the testing limitations.
Most people who get infected with the virus experience moderate symptoms. and the vast majority of people recover. Others, including older adults and people with existing health issues, can become severely sick.
Patricia Herrick, the daughter of an 89-year-old woman who died last week in the Seattle-area nursing home that has become ground zero of the U.S. outbreak with at least 25 deaths linked to it, said testing should have started much earlier so the sick could be separated from the well.
“We let this thing advance so far. We didn’t take this seriously enough,” said Herrick, whose mother was never tested for COVID-19. “I don’t know that she would still be living. ... It’s tragic.”
Kaiser’s Michaud acknowledged government health officials may have been “flying blind at first” but the inability to test and identify cases has put them behind.
“We’re trying to catch up. But we can’t catch up at this point.”

Mainland China has reported 118 new deaths from the coronavirus outbreak , pushing the number of deaths nationwide to at least 2,236.
Beijing also reported 1,109 new confirmed cases of the disease during the same period, sharply up from 349 cases the previous day, reversing three days of decline.


At least 631 of the new cases were from the epicentre of the epidemic in Hubei, including 220 cases from the province's prison system. Most of the latest deaths were also from the province. 
The latest number of infections nationwide has now reached 75,685.
Here are the latest updates:

Friday, February 21

First Italian patient dies of coronavirus 

A patient in the northern city of Padua has died after being infected with the coronavirus, becoming the first Italian victim of the disease, Ansa news agency reported. 
The dead man was aged 78, it said. 
A police car is seen in the village of Codogno after officials told residents to stay home and suspend public activities as 14 cases of coronavirus are confirmed in northern Italy
A police car is seen in the village of Codogno after officials told residents to stay home and suspend public activities as 14 cases of coronavirus are confirmed in northern Italy in the province of Lodi, Italy, February 21, 2020 [Reuters]

Kuwait stops all flights to and from Iran

Kuwait's civil aviation authority has decided to stop all flights to and from Iran amid fears from coronavirus outbreak, the state news agency said, citing an official statement.
Kuwaiti nationals arriving from Iran will be subjected to quarantine, it said, adding that residents or those with entry permission who were in Iran during the past two weeks will be barred. 
Moreover, any foreign travellers coming from Iran will also be denied entry. 

Zelenskyy criticises people that attacked Ukrainians evacuated from Wuhan

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had harsh words for an angry mob who smashed windows on buses carrying dozens of Ukrainians evacuated from China over the novel coronavirus outbreak.
"We keep saying that Ukraine is Europe. But yesterday it seemed like we were Europe in the Middle Ages," Zelenskyy said in Kyiv.
Fearing the passengers would bring the first deadly case of the novel coronavirus to Ukraine, hundreds of people - some armed with metal rods and rocks - turned out to protest their return on Thursday.

Public spaces closed in 10 Italian towns over coronavirus fears

Authorities in northern Italy ordered the closure of schools, bars and other public spaces in 10 towns following a flurry of new coronavirus cases.

Five doctors and nine other people tested positive for the virus in Lombardy, after apparently frequenting the same bar and group of friends, with two other cases in Veneto, authorities said at a press conference.

Over 50,000 people have been asked to stay at home in the areas concerned, while all public activities such as carnival celebrations, church masses and sporting events have been banned for up to a week.

Drug testing to resume in China after coronavirus outbreak

The China Anti-Doping Agency (CHINADA) will resume drug testing following a temporary suspension due to the coronavirus, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said.
Drug testing programs on mainland China were halted on February 3 following the outbreak of the virus which has killed more than 2,000 people in China and infected thousands globally.
WADA said drug testing would resume this week on a "phased basis" with priority given to testing elite level athletes from higher-risk categories and sports.

Iraq, Kuwait brace for coronavirus

Iraq and Kuwait, which share borders with Iran, were on high alert for a potential outbreak after banning travel to and from the Islamic Republic although they have not confirmed any cases domestically.
The outbreak in Iran has raised concerns, especially since many of the coronavirus cases involved residents of Qom, a popular destination for Kuwaiti and Iraqi Shiites.
Iraq's top Shia leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged authorities to be ready to stem any outbreak.
"The scale of preparations should match that of the threat," he said in comments delivered by a representative. "We call on relevant authorities to be up to the level of responsibility."

Only three US states can test for coronavirus - public lab group

California, Nebraska and Illinois are the only US states that can currently test for coronavirus, the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) told Reuters News Agency.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week said some of the testing kits sent to US states and at least 30 countries produced "inconclusive" results due to a flawed component and the CDC planned to send replacement materials to make the kits work

Sixteen cases in Northern Italy reported in one day

An outbreak of coronavirus in northern Italy worsened, with officials announcing 14 confirmed cases in the wealthy region of Lombardy, while two cases were reported in the adjacent region of Veneto.
Just hours after revealing that six people had come down with the virus in the first known cases of local transmission in Italy, officials said a further eight had tested positive for the disease, including five health workers.

Qatar Airways depart to China carrying medical supplies: QNA

Five Qatar Airways Cargo freighters departed to China today carrying approximately 300 tonnes of medical supplies donated by the airline to support coronavirus relief efforts, QNA news agency reported.
The five flights departed one after the other bound for Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou as part of Qatar Airways's voluntary offer of free air cargo transportation for medical relief aid organised by Chinese embassies and consulates worldwide to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

Coronavirus to drag oil below $60 this year, weighing on Gulf exporters - IIF

The coronavirus outbreak may curb demand for oil in China and other Asian countries, depressing oil prices further to as low as $57 a barrel and clouding growth prospects across the Middle East, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) said.
"Before the coronavirus, we were assuming that oil prices would average $60 a barrel this year, compared to $64 last year," said Garbis Iradian, chief economist for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) at the finance industry body.

UAE records two new coronavirus cases, total number reaches 11

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) said it registered two new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of people diagnosed with the virus in the Gulf Arab state to 11.
The new cases in the UAE were detected in a 34-year-old Filipino national and a 39-year-old Bangladeshi national who had contact with a Chinese national who had been diagnosed with the virus, the health ministry said in a statement.
It said the two were in stable condition.

Ukrainian health minister joins coronavirus evacuees in quarantine

Ukraine's health minister joined evacuees from China in quarantine in a sanatorium on Friday in a show of solidarity after fears over the possible spread of the coronavirus led to clashes between protesters and police.
Posting a selfie on her Facebook page, Zoryana Skaletska said she would spend two weeks in a room there and would carry out her government duties by phone and Skype.
Everyone inside the sanatorium was feeling well and showed no signs of infection, she said.

World must act fast to contain coronavirus, says WHO's Tedros

The window of opportunity to contain the wider international spread of the epidemic of the new coronavirus disease is closing, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Friday, and countries must act fast if they are to control it.
Asked whether the outbreak is at a "tipping point" after new cases and deaths from COVID-19 were reported in Iran and Lebanon, the WHO's director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said he still believed the virus could be contained, but added: "The window of opportunity is narrowing, so we need to act quickly before it closes completely."

China's Hubei province revises Feb 19 new cases tally to 775, from 349 previously

China's Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, on Friday revised the number of new cases it reported on February 19 to 775, from 349 previously.
Earlier in the day, provincial authorities said they would add back some cases to their tally of the disease, after they adjusted their methodology to count only cases that were detected with genetic tests, rather than with CT scans. Officials later concluded on Friday that it was a mistake to have removed cases that were already counted. 
Hubei Party secretary Ying Yong on Friday ordered the cases to be added back to the tally and said that whoever removed them would be held responsible, Tu Yuanchao, a senior official at Hubei's health commission said.

WHO chief concerned about cases outside China

WHO chief Ghebreyesus in Geneva said he was concerned about cases outside China with 'no epidemiological link'.
"Although the total number of COVID-19 cases outside of China remains relatively small, we are concerned about the number of cases with no clear epidemiological link, such as travel history to China or contact with a confirmed case," he told reporters during a media briefing.
The WHO chief said he was concerned about the potential for COVID-19 to spread in countries with "weaker health systems".

"Outside , there are now 1152 cases in 26 countries & 8 deaths"-@DrTedros
"Although the total number of cases outside 🇨🇳 remains relatively small, we are concerned about the number of cases with no clear epidemiological link, such as travel history to 🇨🇳 or contact with a confirmed case"-@DrTedros

Six coronavirus cases discovered in north Italy, hundreds to be tested

Six people have tested positive in Italy for coronavirus, the northern Lombardy region said, in the first known cases of local transmission of the potentially deadly illness in the country.
Officials told residents from three small towns some 60km (40 miles) southeast of Italy's financial capital Milan, to stay at home as doctors tested hundreds of people who might have come into contact with the six coronavirus sufferers.
None of the six was believed to have visited China.

First case of coronavirus confirmed in Lebanon

The first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Lebanon after a woman arriving from Iran was found to be positive. There were also two other suspected cases.
"We confirmed the first case today," Lebanese Health Minister Hassan Hamad said at a news conference in Beirut.
The woman arrived in Lebanon from the Iranian holy city of Qom, where several infections and deaths were reported this week.
Coronavirus: China uses facial recognition and infrared scanners

Japan gov't faces questions over coronavirus handling

Japan faced growing questions about whether it was doing enough to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
More than 400 Japanese and foreign passengers were set to disembark from the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship near Tokyo after weeks aboard in quarantine, despite reports of new cases coming in from around Japan.
The growing number of cases across the country - particularly the high rate of infection on the cruise liner - have stoked concerns about Japan's quarantine practices.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga faced questions about why one of the passengers who died - an 84-year-old woman - was not tested or transferred to a hospital until a week after she developed a fever.
"The woman was removed from the ship on the 12th after the fever continued for days," he said. "A decision was made not to wait for the test results before moving her to hospital to protect the health of those remaining on the ship," he said. 

After clashes, Ukraine blames disinformation for spreading virus panic

Ukraine's Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk blamed an "information war" being waged on the country for spreading panic and mistrust over the coronavirus, a day after the arrival of evacuees from China sparked clashes outside a sanatorium.
Speaking to Parliament, Honcharuk said misinformation was being spread from within and outside Ukraine but did not elaborate.
The authorities are trying to find the source of bogus emails sent this week on behalf of the health ministry erroneously declaring there had been confirmed coronavirus cases in Ukraine, when so far there have been none.
In another example, Honcharuk cited an incident of Russian officials asking a wagon-load of passengers travelling on a train from Kyiv to Moscow to disembark after a Chinese woman with fever was found to be on board.
Police arrested 24 people in clashes with the residents of a town in central Ukraine on Thursday, who feared they would be infected by Ukrainians who had been evacuated from China's Hubei province.

Premier Li urges increased mask production amid outbreak

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged businesses to increase the output of protective products, especially masks, to support the nationwide campaign against the coronavirus.
Li visited a private medical products manufacturer in Beijing that is producing 300,000 masks a day, China's Central Television (CCTV) reported.
The government said mask factories all over the country are working at full capacity and are making nearly 20 million masks a day, CCTV said.
Output will sharply increase with more businesses investing in production lines, authorities said.

Iran reports two new deaths, 13 new cases

Iran's health ministry reported two more deaths among 13 new cases of coronavirus in the Islamic Republic, bringing the total number of deaths to four and infections to 18.
"Thirteen new cases have been confirmed," ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said on Twitter. "Unfortunately two of them have lost their lives."

Israel confirms first case of new coronavirus

An Israeli woman who returned to Israel from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship near Tokyo tested positive upon return to her home country, Israel's health ministry confirmed.
A health ministry statement said: "In the course of testing conducted by the Health Ministry's central laboratory, one of the passengers who returned from the ship in Japan was found to be positive.
"The laboratory is pursuing confirmation of the finding. The remaining returning passengers tested negative today. The patient is in quarantine and under supervision and this is not an infection that took place in Israel."

China to retally virus count to clear 'doubt' around data

China said it would reinsert previously removed cases from its coronavirus tally in the province at the centre of the epidemic after an earlier revision created "doubt" around the data.
The decision is the latest in a string of changes to the counting method used in Hubei over the past nine days - revisions that have further complicated efforts to track the spread of the illness.
Last week, Chinese health officials said patients from the central province who had been diagnosed via clinical methods including lung imaging would be added to the count, on top of those confirmed by lab tests.

Plane lands with Canadians evacuated from Japan virus ship

A chartered plane carrying more than 200 Canadians evacuated from the coronavirus-quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship landed at a military base in Ontario province.
All the passengers who arrived at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, 200km (120 miles) southwest of Ottawa, had tested negative for COVID-19, CBC reported.
They will, however, be quarantined for a further 14 days at the Nav Centre in Cornwall, Ontario, a hotel and conference centre which has previously been used by the government as an emergency shelter, the national broadcaster said.

Two more Italian residents test positive for coronavirus

Two more Italian residents tested positive for coronavirus, Lombardy region said, shortly after the first case of local transmission of the potentially deadly illness was confirmed in Italy.
The wife and a close friend of the initial patient had the virus and were now in quarantine, Giulio Gallera, a member of the local government, said in a statement.
The initial patient fell ill after meeting a friend who had recently returned from China.

N Korea to cancel April marathon over coronavirus fears

North Korea called off its Pyongyang Marathon scheduled for April after imposing a border lockdown and travel curbs to prevent a coronavirus outbreak, a Western tour company said.
In an online statement, Young Pioneer Tours said: "We have received confirmation from our travel partners in North Korea that the Pyongyang Marathon held in April has been cancelled due to the current borders of the DPRK being closed."
But Pyongyang's Autumn Marathon set for September is still scheduled to go ahead, added the company, which is one of several foreign operators that run tours to North Korea.

Kyrgyzstan halts issuance of new visas to Chinese nationals

Kyrgyzstan suspended the issuance of new visas to Chinese nationals because of the coronavirus outbreak in the neighbouring country, Kyrgyz news agency Akipress quoted deputy foreign minister Nurlan Abdrakhmanov as saying.
Chinese nationals who already have Kyrgyz visas are still allowed to enter the country, Abdrakhmanov said.

Young Chinese doctor dies of coronavirus

A 29-year-old doctor at the epicentre of China's new coronavirus outbreak died from the disease, one of the youngest known fatalities of the epidemic and the latest among medical workers.
Peng Yinhua died on Thursday after becoming infected while working at Wuhan's Jiangxia district People's No 1 Hospital, official news agency Xinhua reported.

Ukraine minister joins China evacuees in quarantine after clashes

Ukraine's health minister said she will spend two weeks in quarantine with evacuees from coronavirus-hit China after protesters clashed with police and threw stones at returnees over infection fears.
Kyiv's efforts to treat 45 nationals and 27 foreigners, mostly from Latin America, in the central Poltava region sparked unrest on Thursday as residents blocked roads and hurled stones at buses carrying the evacuees.
"I will spend the next 14 days with them, in the same premises, under the same conditions," Health Minister Zoryana Skaletska said late on Thursday in a statement addressed to the residents of Novi Sanzhary.
Read about the clashes here.

China fires officials over spead of coronavirus in prisons

China fired nearly a dozen prison and justice department officials across three provinces due to the emergence of coronavirus infections in prisons, state media reported.
Shandong, Zhejiang and Hubei provinces, the latter of which is the epicentre of the ongoing outbreak, reported a total of 447 infections in prisons, according to the state-run tabloid Global Times.
The paper described the infections as "blind zones" in China's fight against the coronavirus.

South Korea's confirmed cases rise to 204

South Korea reported another 48 new cases of the virus, raising its total to 204.
Passengers Disembark Diamond Princess Cruise Ship After Quarantine Ends
Workers wearing protective suits check the temperature of passengers before they ride a bus near the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship at the Daikoku Pier on February 21 in Yokohama, Japan [Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images]

Italy's Lombardy region confirms new coronavirus case

An Italian national tested positive for the new coronavirus, a statement of the Lombardy region said.
The 38-year old man was admitted to hospital in the northern town of Codogno and further medical tests are still under way, the region said.
It would be the fourth case confirmed in Italy after two Chinese tourists and another Italian tested positive.

China police handle 274 cases of price gouging, hoarding

China's police handled 274 cases of illegal commercial practices such as price gouging and hoarding during the coronavirus outbreak, said an official with China's public security bureau.
Li Jingsheng, the director of the public security administration at the Ministry of Public Security, also said they have dealt with a total of 1,787 cases of illegal wildlife trafficking during the outbreak.
China has temporarily banned all wild animal trade, as the coronavirus is believed to have originated in a seafood market in Wuhan.

Qatar accuses Saudis of hampering access to Gulf meet on coronavirus

Qatar accused Saudi Arabia of allowing a protracted dispute to hinder Gulf Arab coordination over the coronavirus outbreak by denying the Qatari health minister timely access to a meeting of regional health ministers in Riyadh.
Qatar's foreign ministry said in a post on its official Twitter account that Saudi Arabia had only granted an entry permit to Public Health Minister Hanan al-Kuwari after the meeting at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) General Secretariat on Wednesday had already started.
"We are surprised to see that Saudi is politicising a humanitarian sector, that requires close collaboration and coordination due to the urgency of the situation," the English-language statement issued on Thursday said.
China coronavirus
A security officer measures the temperature of a delivery worker at a residential compound in Beijing [Stringer/Reuters]

Japan to let off last healthy cruise travellers, isolate rest

Japan's health minister said the last cruise ship passengers who tested negative for a new virus will leave the Diamond Princess on Friday after a much-criticised quarantine of the vessel ended.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told a news conference the mass disembarkation into Japan of passengers from the ship is set to end on Friday, while dozens of foreign passengers are flying back to their home countries on flights chartered by their governments.
Most crew members and other passengers who have not completed their 14-day quarantines because they had more recent contact with infected people are staying on the ship for now, but they will be transported to a government facility to be quarantined in isolation.

Tokyo criticises suggestion that London could host 2020 Olympics

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said it was inappropriate for candidates in London's mayoral election to propose their city host the 2020 Olympic Games if the coronavirus outbreak forces organisers to look for an alternative site.
Shaun Bailey, the Conservative Party candidate for mayor of the British capital, said London would be ready to host the event if needed.
The International Olympic Committee said the World Health Organization advised it that there was no case for contingency plans to cancel or relocate the Games from Tokyo.

South Korea's K-League football team postpones matches

South Korea's top professional football league said it had postponed next week's opening home matches for Daegu FC and Pohang Steelers due to a surge of coronavirus cases in the southeastern region.
After a meeting of league executives and representatives from the 12 clubs, the K-League said Daegu's season opener against Gangwon FC on February 29 and Pohang's meeting with Busan IPark on March 1 would be played later in March or in June.
"We all recognise the gravity of the situation regarding COVID-19," K-League Secretary-General Han Woong-soo was quoted as saying by Yonhap.

Iraq temporarily closes border with Iran

Iraq banned border crossings by Iranian nationals for three days from Thursday amid fears of the coronavirus, Iraq's state news agency said on Thursday.
The decision came after Iraqi Airways suspended flights to Iran.
Two Iranians who tested positive on Wednesday for the disease have died, while three tested positive on Thursday, taking the total number of confirmed cases in Iran to five, the Iranian health ministry said.

China: Earliest vaccine to be submitted for trials in late April

The earliest vaccine for the coronavirus that has killed more than 2,000 in China alone will be submitted for clinical trials around late April, China's Vice Science and Technology Minister Xu Nanping said on Friday.
Xu made the remarks during a press briefing.
Zhou Qi, deputy secretary-general of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, also told reporters companies which have resumed operations should ensure proper ventilation and maintain a safe distance among workers.

South Korea reports 52 new cases; Seoul bans rallies 

South Korean capital Seoul banned rallies in major downtown areas in efforts to fight the viral outbreak.
The news comes as the country reports 52 new cases of infections, raising its total to 156, after declaring the southern city of Daegu a special zone following an explosion of infections.

South Korea declares Daegu city as 'special management zone' 

South Korea declared Daegu city as a "special management zone" following an explosion in new virus infections.
On Thursday, Daegu reported 23 new cases which were traced to a church that a 61-year-old coronavirus patient had attended.
South Korea currently has at least 82 cases of the infection.
South Korea - coronavirus
Health officials in Daegu spray disinfectant in front of a church [Daegu Metropolitan City Namgu/AFP]

Australia reports two coronavirus cases from Diamond Princess

Two evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan tested positive for coronavirus in Australia, according to authorities.
Australia on Thursday evacuated 170 citizens from the cruise ship owned by Carnival Corp, who had been confined to their cabins since February 3, when the vessel was quarantined at Yokohama, south of the capital, Tokyo.
After arriving in Australia's tropical north all passengers were screened and those complaining of being unwell were tested for coronavirus. They will spend the next 14 days in quarantine.

Virus may end 'by end of March': Chinese diplomat

China's Consulate General in Karachi, Pakistan said experts in China believe the "peak of the epidemic (had) already arrived" and it could be over by the end of March.
"I have seen that according to the experts in China, they are saying the peak of the epidemic has already arrived and it will come down no matter from the epicentre and across the whole of China," Li Bijian said.
"This will [be] coming down this week and next week and the epidemic maybe go over by the end of March," he added.

Ukraine protesters clash with police over China evacuees

Dozens of people clashed with police outside a hospital in central Ukraine over government plans to quarantine evacuees from coronavirus-hit China in the facility.
Six buses with the evacuees arrived at the medical centre, accompanied by law enforcement officers, a video published by Ukrainian media showed.
The policemen had to disperse the protesters to unblock a road that leads to the hospital and to create a cordon for the vehicles.

WHO says 'no time for complacency' as China virus cases fall

A continued decline in the number of new cases of coronavirus infections in China is encouraging, the World Health Organization said but it is too early to know if this trend will continue.
"We are encouraged by this trend but this is no time for complacency," the WHO's Ghebreyesus told a briefing in Geneva.
He noted that the number of coronavirus cases in the rest of world was very low compared inside China, but added: "That may not stay the same for very long".

China backs Pakistan decision not to evacuate students

A Chinese diplomat backed Pakistan's decision not to evacuate Pakistani students from the province at the centre of China's coronavirus outbreak, a day after parents confronted government ministers demanding their children be brought home.
Pakistan ruled out bringing back more than 1,000 students in Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, where three-quarters of the more than 2,000 deaths from the outbreak have been recorded.
"If such a large number of students come back, this will cost huge health operations for the Pakistani government. If the isolation facilities are not ready, this can cause another outbreak of this virus in Pakistan," Li Bijian, Consul General of China in Karachi, told reporters.

China sees drop in new virus cases: 'Control efforts working'

China touted a big drop in new cases of the coronavirus as a sign it has contained the epidemic, but fears grew abroad after two former passengers of a quarantined cruise ship died in Japan and a cluster of infections increased in South Korea.
Chinese officials said this week their drastic containment efforts including quarantining tens of millions of people in Hubei and restricting movements in cities nationwide have started to pay off.
"Results show that our control efforts are working," Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a special meeting on the virus with Southeast Asian counterparts in Laos.
"China's forceful action has contained the spread of the virus inside China and also the spread of the virus to other parts of the world," Wang said, adding the country "has the capacity and determination to overcome this outbreak at an early date".
CARD: Coronavirus timeline

Read the updates from Thursday, February 20 here.

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