The Latest: HK extends school closure till mid-March

14-Feb-2020 Intellasia | AP | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The Latest on a new virus that originated in China (all times local):

12:55 p.m.

Hong Kong has extended the closure of schools because of a viral outbreak to March 16.

The city’s Education Secretary Kelvin Yeung says the decision to delay the reopening of schools after the Lunar New Year holiday took into account the advice of health experts, readiness of schools and the supply of epidemic preventive materials.

Students were supposed to return to classes on February 17, then were told it’s been delayed to March 2.

Yeung says “social distancing and avoiding the mass movement of people” are key to preventing and controlling the outbreak.

Hong Kong has confirmed 50 cases and one death.

12:25 p.m.

China’s UN ambassador says the government “is confident that it is capable of winning the fight” against the new virus, saying its efforts “are achieving positive results.”

Zhang Jun told a UN meeting Wednesday evening in New York that China’s confidence has been further boosted by the decline of new confirmed cases in regions beyond the epicenter in Hubei province for eight consecutive days, and the significant rise in cured cases to more than 5,000.

He called on the international community to maintain solidarity, increase sharing of information, experience and technology, “and work with the Chinese government and people to jointly meet the challenges.”

Zhang also called on the international community “to remain rational,” base actions on evidence, respect the World Health Organization’s guidance, “evaluate the epidemic objectively and impartially, and take proper measures to avoid overreaction that would cause greater negative effects.”

The Chinese ambassador stressed the need for mutual trust, saying people everywhere must “oppose politicisation of health issues and leave no breeding ground or space for any racist comments, discrimination or stigma.”

He says: “Led by President Xi Jinping, China has mobilised itself and adopted the most comprehensive and rigorous preventive and control measures, which have fully demonstrated the power and advantages of our system whereby all resources are pooled together to cope with major challenges.”

12:15 p.m.

Tokyo Olympic organisers have reiterated their message at the start of two days of meetings with the International Olympic Committee: the Summer Games will not be waylaid by the virus spreading from neighbouring China.

Yoshiro Mori, the president of the organising committee, says “we are not considering a cancellation or postponement of the games. Let me make that clear.”

The Olympics open in just over five months, and the torch relay begins next month in Japan a clear signal the games are almost here.

Although there have been no deaths in Japan attributed to the virus, Tokyo and IOC officials are clearly jittery. Sitting among the officials in Tokyo was Dr Richard Budgett, the IOC’s medical and scientific director.

Last week Toshiro Muto, the CEO of the Tokyo organising committee, said he was “seriously worried that the spread of the infectious disease could throw cold water on the momentum toward the games.” He backed down a day later and said he was confident the games would go forward.

The virus on Wednesday forced the cancellation of a popular Formula One race set for April in Shanghai, which draws more than 100,000 over a race weekend.

12 p.m.

A Singapore official says the number of infections in the city-state is likely to rise after 50 people have been confirmed ill.

Lawrence Wong, a co-chair of Singapore’s task force fighting the outbreak, says the virus is clearly circulating within the population and it’s too early to tell how things will unfold.

He says, “We really cannot say whether it will get better, whether it will get worse, what sort of situation is going to unfold.”

He says “we don’t know how successful we will be in all of these containment measures that we have put in place.”

Wong says additional measures may involve “social distancing in order to try and reduce the chance of the virus spreading further.”

Among the 50 cases confirmed so far, 15 had fully recovered while eight are in critical condition. A bank employee, a 62-year-old man, was the most recent case. The city has found several clusters of cases, including a church, a traditional Chinese medicine store, a business meeting held last month and a construction site.

11:45 a.m.

North Korea has announced it will impose a monthlong quarantine for all foreign visitors and others suspected to have a new virus.

The official Korean Central News Agency says the decision to extend the quarantine period to 30 days was based on researches suggesting that the incubation period of the virus could be as long as 24 days.

The report didn’t confirm the country’s previous quarantine period, but the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang said in a Facebook post earlier this month that North Korea was putting foreign visitors under a 15-day quarantine.

KCNA says: “All the institutions and fields of the state and foreigners staying in the DPRK should obey it unconditionally.”

North Korea has yet to report a case of the virus, but state media reports have hinted that an uncertain number of people have been quarantined after showing symptoms. Experts say an epidemic in North Korea could be dire because of its chronic lack of medical supplies and poor health care infrastructure.


Category: Hong Kong

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