Tom Phillips, our Latin America correspondent, reports that two Brazilian air force jets are on their way to China to rescue a group of about 34 Brazilian citizens from the city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak. Brazil’s state-run news agency, Agencia Brasil, says the planes are currently in Poland waiting for clearance from Chinese authorities to continue their flight to Wuhan. The delay is reportedly the result of the high number of international repatriation missions trying to fly into the Chinese city.
Once back in Brazil those being evacuated from Wuhan will be placed in quarantine for 18 days at a military base in the city of Anápolis, in Brazil’s midwest. According to the Estado de São Paulo newspaper, Argentina has asked Brazil for help in evacuating 15 of its citizens.
My colleague Mario Koran in Oakland reports that four of the 167 passengers aboard a quarantine flight from Wuhan to a Marine Corps air station near San Diego were sent to local hospitals shortly after their plane touched down yesterday morning.
The San Diego Union-Tribune said that none of the American citizens returning to the US showed any symptoms when they boarded the flight, but medical screenings done after their arrival revealed that four people (three adults and one child) showed symptoms that may have been caused by the coronavirus that has caused 25,000 people worldwide to fall ill and killed nearly 500 in China.
So far there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus infection among the passengers; the most recent tally of confirmed cases includes six in California and 11 nationwide.
The San Diego air station is one of three military bases in California being used as a quarantine site. Three additional bases outside California are also designated quarantine locations.
While the common flu remains a more significant threat to public health in the United States, the novel nature of the coronavirus has fuelled global attention, writes the Union-Tribune.
Earlier this week, the Guardian reported that experts are warning the travel restrictions issued by the Trump administration and quarantine of roughly 200 people in California — the first mass quarantine in the US in more than 50 years — may backfire.
A quarantine can be counterproductive if it appears to be overly strict and broad and diminishes the public’s trust in authorities, one expert told Sam Levin, adding that the government should use the “least restrictive” options available and not “limit people’s rights and liberty to a greater extent than is necessary”.
“We should do the utmost to protect public health. But we have to make sure the measures we’re implementing aren’t worse than the virus itself,” Jennifer Nuzzo, the senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Levin.
Good evening all. Hannah Mays here signing on.
We have now updated our piece on Li Wenliang, the Chinese doctor who tried to raise the alarm about coronavirus and later contracted the disease. State media said earlier today that he had died, before backtracking on those reports.
Travellers who have returned to the UK from a series of Asian countries in the last two weeks and are showing coronavirus symptoms should self-isolate and seek medical advice over the phone, the country’s chief medical officer has warned in updated advice.
People who have returned from locations including mainland China, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia or Macau and are experiencing a cough, shortness of breath or fever are being advised to stay indoors and contact NHS 111.
The Government advice says: “The UK chief medical officers are advising anyone who has travelled to the UK from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau in the last 14 days and is experiencing cough or fever or shortness of breath, to stay indoors and call NHS 111, even if symptoms are mild.
“These countries have been identified because of the volume of air travel from affected areas, understanding of other travel routes and number of reported cases. This list will be kept under review.”
The circumstances of how or where the British national caught coronavirus in Singapore remain unknown.
However, it does follow concerns being raised about at least three Asian businessmen catching the disease after attending a meeting of more than 100 international delegates at a hotel in the country. Other attendees are also showing symptoms of the disease, according to Reuters.
First British national tests positive for coronavirus
The first British national has tested positive for coronavirus after travelling back to the UK from Singapore, according to government sources.
It emerged earlier that a third case of the disease had been confirmed in the UK but England’s chief medical officer refused to disclose the patient’s nationality or specify which country in Asia they caught the disease.
But the Guardian understands that the individual is British and contracted the coronavirus in Singapore. It comes after Downing Street indicated the patient was British, with a spokesman saying earlier they “believed they are, yes”.
It follows an unnamed Chinese student from York University and his mother being diagnosed with the disease this week. The pair are being treated in Newcastle.
There is now confusion surrounding earlier reports that Li Wenliang, the Chinese doctor who tried to raise the alarm about the coronavirus outbreak, had died.
A Communist party-controlled newspaper, the Global Times, reported that Li had died earlier today – prompting outrage among many Chinese citizens. But the state-run newspaper subsequently deleted the report from its official Twitter account and has now claimed Li is still alive.
“Li Wenliang is currently in critical condition,” the Global Times claimed in the early hours of Friday, local time.
“His heart reportedly stopped beating at around 21:30. He was then given treatment with ECMO [extracorporeal membrane oxygenation],” it added.
A post on the official Weibo account of the hospital where Li was reportedly being treated also said he was “currently in critical condition”.
The Department of Health and Social Care is yet to release its list of Asian countries where it is now advising people who have travelled to and developed symptoms on their return to the UK to immediately self-isolate and call NHS 111 for advice. Asked by the Guardian, the department says it is aiming to do so this evening.
The list could include Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Philippines, Thailand, Nepal and Sri Lanka, where cases of coronavirus have been confirmed.
According to the latest World Health Organzation figures, Japan, Thailand and Singapore all have the most number of cases in Asia outside China.
Asked by the Guardian earlier whether the third confirmed case of coronavirus in the UK related to a British national, England’s chief medical officer remained tight-lipped.
“Basically, we’re all doctors, we have a pretty strong view on this and we’re not going to do anything that’s in any way going to identify people … once you start, you don’t stop,” Prof Chris Whitty said.
He was also challenged by another journalist who argued it was in the public interest to name the country in Asia where the patient had contracted the disease.
Whitty replied: “What’s in the public interest is obviously for us to release the list of countries where we think there is actually potentially slightly greater risk than the rest of the world. And that’s what we’ll be doing later today.”
It’s Simon Murphy here taking over the live blog after hot-footing it back from the Department of Health and Social Care’s press conference, at which England’s chief medical officer revealed that the third person to be diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK caught the disease outside of China.
Prof Chris Whitty also said the government was now advising people who had travelled to a number of as yet unspecified Asian countries and had returned to the UK and developed symptoms to immediately self-isolate and call NHS 111 for advice. Anyone displaying symptoms will be tested for the disease. The advice previously only related to those returning from Wuhan.
Whitty said: “We knew this ratchet-up might well happen and this is the moment where we feel it’s prudent, getting ahead of the epidemiology, to make this shift.”
What we have got is a situation where very high risk remains in Wuhan and Hubei, a high risk in the rest of China, but much lower than in Wuhan and Hubei and then a much smaller risk in a number of countries, and unsurprisingly countries where the greatest risk is in terms of new cases are the ones which have the greatest international traffic with China, and that is exactly as you would expect.”
The WHO director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and Dr Mike Ryan, the executive director of WHO’s health emergencies programme, answered some questions from the press.
When asked to comment on the doctors and nurses striking in Hong Kong to protest the government’s decision not to close its borders with mainland China, Ghebreyesus said: “This is a time of solidarity. There is a common enemy now. A very unknown virus. And I advise all of us to focus on the virus – the common enemy.
“I can understand the pressure on health workers and that’s why Mike said they’re the heroes. I fully agree and I want them to continue being like that.”
When asked if the world was nearing the peak of the outbreak, Ghebreyesus said: “It’s too early right now to make predictions on numbers, although we are pleased it is the first day in which the overall numbers of new confirmed cases reported in China have dropped.”
He added: “We are still in the middle of an intense outbreak and we need to be very careful on making any predictions.”