/Thousands stuck on cruise ship amid coronavirus fear

Thousands stuck on cruise ship amid coronavirus fear

The Costa Smeralda cruis ship, seen at port in CivitavecchiaImage copyright

Image caption

The Costa Smeralda cruise ship, carrying 6,000 people, is stuck at port near Rome

Six thousand people on board a cruise ship in Italy have been barred from disembarking, after a Chinese passenger developed symptoms of coronavirus.

The 54-year-old and her travelling companion are being held in isolation on the ship while tests are carried out.

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has risen to 170.

Cases have been diagnosed in at least 15 countries and many have implemented quarantine plans.

In China, where the virus originated, health authorities said there were 7,711 confirmed cases in the country as of 29 January.

What is happening on the ship?

The Costa Smeralda cruise ship has docked in the port of Civitavecchia, north of Rome.

The woman who is receiving treatment had reportedly flown from Hong Kong to join the cruise, and broke out in a fever while on board.

The ship has taken on medical experts from Rome’s Spallanzani hospital, which specialises in infectious diseases.

Initial tests have come back negative, according to Italian news agency Ansa.

How is the virus spreading?

The World Health Organization (WHO) will meet on Thursday to consider again whether the virus constitutes a global health emergency.

“In the last few days the progress of the virus, especially in some countries, especially human-to-human transmission, worries us,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.

He named Germany, Vietnam and Japan, where there have been cases of people catching the virus from others who have been to China.

“Although the numbers outside China are still relatively small, they hold the potential for a much larger outbreak,” the WHO chief said.

More people have now been infected in China than during the Sars outbreak in the early 2000s, but the death toll remains far lower. Sars, also a coronavirus, caused acute respiratory illness.

Researchers are racing to develop a vaccine to protect people from the new virus. One lab in California has plans for a potential vaccine to enter human trials by June or July.

What’s the latest on evacuations?

Hundreds of foreign nationals who want to leave Wuhan and return to their countries are being evacuated by air.

The UK, Australia, South Korea, Singapore and New Zealand are expected to quarantine all evacuees for two weeks, to monitor them for symptoms and avoid any contagion.

Australia plans to quarantine its evacuees on Christmas Island, 2,000km (1,200 miles) from the mainland in a detention centre that has been used to house asylum seekers.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionInside the US laboratory developing a coronavirus vaccine

Singapore is setting up a quarantine facility on Pulau Ubin, an island north-east of the city-state’s mainland.

In other developments:

  • Russia has closed its 4,300km (2,670-mile) far-eastern border with China
  • Flights to take British and South Korean citizens out of Wuhan have both been delayed after relevant permissions from the Chinese authorities did not come through
  • Two flights to Japan have already landed in Tokyo. Three passengers have so far tested positive for the virus, Japanese media report
  • Around 200 US citizens have been flown out of Wuhan and are being isolated at a military base in California for at least 72 hours
  • Two aircraft are due to fly EU citizens home with 250 French nationals leaving on the first flight
  • India has confirmed its first case of the virus – a student in the southern state of Kerala who was studying in Wuhan

Image copyright

Image caption

Japan’s first flight with evacuees arrived on Wednesday

How is China handling the outbreak?

Although questions have been raised about transparency, the WHO has praised China’s handling of the outbreak. President Xi Jinping has vowed to defeat what he called a “devil” virus.

The central province of Hubei, where nearly all deaths have occurred, is in a state of lockdown. The province of 60 million people is home to Wuhan, the heart of the outbreak.

The city has effectively been sealed off and China has put numerous transport restrictions in place to curb the spread of the virus.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

The WHO warns the virus holds the potential for a much larger outbreak

The virus is affecting China’s economy, the world’s second-largest, with a growing number of countries advising their citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to the country.

Several international airlines have stopped or scaled back their routes to China, and companies including Google, Ikea, Starbucks and Tesla have closed their shops or stopped operations.

There have been reports of food shortages in some places. State media said authorities are “stepping up efforts to ensure continuous supply and stable prices”.

The Chinese Football Association has announced the postponement of all games in the 2020 season.

Who has been affected?

Although there have been nearly 8,000 infections, there has been little detailed information released on the profiles of patients and how the disease affects them.

Most of the confirmed cases involve people either from Wuhan or who had close contact with someone who had been there.

A new study published by The Lancet medical journal gives a snapshot of 99 cases of the new coronavirus observed at Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital from 1-20 January. It reveals:

  • Of the 99, 49 had been exposed to the seafood and animal market believed to be at the centre of the outbreak
  • The average age was 55.5 years and most (67) were men
  • Fever and a cough were the most common symptoms
  • Seventeen patients developed acute respiratory distress syndrome and 11 of them died of multiple organ failure; 31 of the 99 had been released from hospital by 25 January
  • The researchers said the infection appeared to be “more likely to affect older males” with additional medical conditions
  • Of the 99, 51 suffered from a chronic condition (mostly cardiovascular or cerebrovascular)

Learn more about the new virus

Image copyright

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionWhat are viruses? And how do they spread?

Have you been affected by any of the issues raised? You can share your experience by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

Original Source