Two passengers from the cruise ship, the Diamond Princess in quarantine in Japan died Thursday 20th February 2020. China has seen a dramatic decline in the number of new cases.
China announced Thursday, 20th February 2020, a dramatic drop in new coronavirus contaminations but the situation is complicated in Japan with the death of two ex-cruise lines from the Diamond Princess ship in quarantine.
The National Commission (Ministry) of Health reported an additional 114 deaths in China in 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths nationwide (excluding Hong Kong and Macao) to 2,118.
But it especially announced a number of new contaminations (394) in sharp decline: it is only the quarter of the figure announced the day before and the weakest increase for almost a month.
Two dead in the Middle East
In total, more than 74,500 people have now been infected in the country. Elsewhere in the world, some 25 countries are affected, including Iran which announced two deaths – the first recorded in the Middle East.
In Japan, a man and a woman who were on a cruise on the Diamond Princess have died, local media reported on Thursday. Octogenarians are the first fatal cases among the more than 600 confirmed carriers of the virus on the ship, placed in quarantine near Tokyo.
In neighbouring South Korea, a 61-year-old woman is suspected of contaminating 38 people alone, including 37 members of the same church in Daegu (southeast).
In China, however, the authorities believe that the drastic measures taken in recent weeks, including the de facto quarantine of the central province of Hubei, at the epicentre of the epidemic, are starting to pay off.
16,000 patients recovered
“After very hard efforts, the situation is changing,” said Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday, according to the agency.
Hubei and its capital Wuhan (11 million inhabitants), where the virus appeared in December on a market, remain “very affected”, said Wang Yi during a meeting in Laos with counterparts from countries of ‘South East Asia.
“But the situation is starting to be brought under control and comforting news is coming to us” from other regions of the country, he said.
The number of new cases in China has been falling for four consecutive days. And more than 16,000 ex-patients are now recovered, according to official figures.
New repatriation to France
If the World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday that it was “too early” to speak of containment of the virus, it welcomed the “enormous progress” made in managing the epidemic.
Since the end of January, any entry or exit from the city of Wuhan and most of Hubei is prohibited – with the exception of basic necessities.
A situation which pushed many countries to evacuate their nationals. France also sent a new plane to Wuhan on Wednesday evening to repatriate French and European citizens.
Japan highly criticized for the Diamond Princess
The aircraft carries 17 tonnes of equipment (medical protective suits, masks, gloves and disinfectant products) for Chinese healthcare personnel.
But if Beijing is optimistic about the containment of the Coronavirus Covid-19 epidemic, Japan faces increasing criticism of the quarantine imposed on the Diamond Princess.
The huge ocean liner moored in Yokohama (east) is the scene of the greatest concentration of positive cases outside of China: more than 600 have been recorded among cruise passengers and cabin crew.
On Wednesday, 443 people were able to disembark after being tested negative and having undergone a quarantine of 14 days.
Those authorized to go out received a certificate stating that they posed “no risk of infection”. But some are concerned that passengers are scattered in the wild.
While direct criticism is rare in Japan in official circles, an infectious disease specialist from the University of Kobe told AFP that the quarantine was “a major failure, a mistake”.
In a video that has since been deleted, he also said that he was “scared” and described what he saw on the Diamond Princess as “chaotic”.
The Japanese Ministry of Health defended itself, stressing that it had carried out with experts “consultations on the appropriate manner of controlling the infection on board the ship” and taken a whole series of measures.