U.S. officials learned cruise ship evacuees were infected at the last minute.
A day before 328 Americans were to be whisked away from a contaminated cruise ship in Japan, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo told passengers that no one infected with the new coronavirus would be allowed to board charter flights to the United States.
But those plans were hastily changed after the test results for 14 passengers came back positive — just as they were being loaded onto buses and dispatched to the airport, where two reconfigured cargo jets were waiting to fly them to military bases in California and Texas.
After consultations with health experts, the U.S. government decided to let the infected evacuees, who were not yet exhibiting symptoms, board the flights.
Apple cuts sales forecast as the outbreak slows both production and demand.
Apple said on Monday that it was cutting its sales forecast because of the coronavirus, in a sign of how the outbreak is taking a toll on manufacturing, even at one of the world’s most valuable companies.
The announcement came hours before China announced new figures for the outbreak. The number of cases was put at 72,436 — up from 70,548 the day before — and the death toll now stands at 1,868, up from 1,770, the authorities said.
None of the factories that make iPhones are in Hubei Province, the center of the outbreak, but travel restrictions have hindered other parts of the country as well. Production was taking longer than hoped to get back on track after the facilities reopened following the Lunar New Year, the company said.
Apple said it was also cutting its sales forecast because demand for its products was being hurt in China. China has been one of the Silicon Valley company’s fastest-growing and largest markets.
Apple’s warning is significant because it is a bellwether of global demand and supply of products. The company said it was “fundamentally strong, and this disruption to our business is only temporary.”
Cambodia’s leader is famously complacent about the coronavirus. That may exact a global toll.
When Cambodia’s prime minister greeted passengers on a cruise ship amid a coronavirus scare on Valentine’s Day, embraces were the order of the day. Protective masks were not.
Not only did Prime Minister Hun Sen not wear one, assured that the ship was virus-free, his bodyguards ordered people who had donned masks to take them off. The next day, the American ambassador to Cambodia, W. Patrick Murphy, who brought his own family to greet the passengers streaming off the ship, also went maskless.
“We are very, very grateful that Cambodia has opened literally its ports and doors to people in need,” Mr. Murphy said. Five other ports had said no.
But after hundreds of passengers had disembarked, one later tested positive for the coronavirus.
Now, health officials worry that what Cambodia opened its doors to was the outbreak, and that the world may pay a price as passengers from the cruse ship Westerdam stream home.
Officials are testing those passengers still on the ship, but health authorities may be hard put to trace all the those who have headed back to their home countries.
The coronavirus epidemic has been a blow to tourist-dependent businesses around the world, with China blocking tour groups from going abroad and many countries restricting entry to people from China.
As China has become wealthier in recent decades, its tourists have become mainstays of shops, hotels, airlines, restaurants, museums and tour companies on multiple continents. Chinese tourists spent $277 billion abroad in 2018, up from $10 billion in 2000, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
The sudden drop in their numbers is readily apparent, whether on the Champs-Élysées, at the Colosseum or on the beaches of Bali. Italy’s government has weighed whether to provide financial support for tour group operators.
Fear of the virus and travel restrictions have led to cancellation of thousands of flights and hotel bookings, and a handful of cultural and business events. Travel companies have also reported a drop in tourism by non-Chinese people who want to avoid crowded spaces.
China signaled a delay in a big government gathering.
China signaled on Monday that it would postpone the annual session of its Communist Party-dominated legislature because of the epidemic, a symbolic blow for a government that typically runs with regimented discipline.
Each March, nearly 3,000 delegates gather in the Great Hall of the People, next to Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
The annual full meeting of the legislature, called the National People’s Congress, is a major event in China’s political cycle. President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and other leaders were expected to lay out their agenda for the year, issue the annual budget and pass major legislation.
But delay is now virtually certain, judging by an announcement from the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, which oversees the legislature. It said the committee would consider voting on Monday on whether to delay the congress.
It would be extremely unlikely that the proposal would be up for formal approval unless Mr. Xi had agreed it was necessary.
It would be the first time in recent memory that the annual legislative session has been delayed. Even in 2003, when China was battling SARS, the congress went ahead as usual.
A Russian court ordered a quarantine escapee to return to the hospital.
A Russian court ruled on Monday that a woman who had escaped coronavirus quarantine must be forcibly isolated in a hospital, sending a clear message to all potential escapees and dodgers.
To prevent the virus from taking hold in Russia, the country has closed its roughly 2,600-mile border with China and ordered the quarantine of hundreds of Russian citizens who recently returned from China.
But at least five people have escaped, citing poor conditions at hospitals and frustration over their status.
Alla Ilyina, the woman ordered into isolation on Monday, made headlines in Russia by carrying out an elaborate plan to escape the 14-day quarantine. On Feb. 7, she broke an electromagnetic lock in her room and fled the hospital while doctors attended to an incoming patient.
Mrs. Ilyina tested negative for coronavirus upon her arrival from China. The court ruled that she would have to stay in a hospital for at least two days and get two negative coronavirus tests before she could return home. After the ruling was issued, she was taken by ambulance to the Botkin infectious diseases hospital in St. Petersburg.
The only Russian citizen to test positive for the virus so far is aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.
China Inc. slowly rumbles back to life.
The world’s second-largest economy practically shut down three weeks ago as the coronavirus outbreak sickened tens of thousands of people, unexpectedly lengthening a Chinese holiday.
Now, as some factories rumble back into action, the monumental task of restarting China is becoming clear. China’s efforts to contain the virus are clashing with its push to get the country back to work, requiring the country’s leaders to strike a balance between keeping people safe and getting vital industries back on track.
Quarantines, blocked roads and checkpoints are stopping millions of workers from returning to their jobs. Supply lines have been severed.
The reopening of businesses means trying to bring together again much of China’s 700 million-strong labor force after what had become a nearly three-week national holiday. China’s containment efforts have effectively carved up the country. At least 760 million people — slightly over half the country’s population — are under various kinds of lockdown.
Chinese lawmakers consider controlling the trade in wildlife.
The coronavirus epidemic has prompted China to reconsider its trade and consumption of wildlife, which has been identified as a probable source of the outbreak.
The practice is driven by desire to flaunt wealth and beliefs about health benefits from products made from certain animals.
Officials drafted legislation to introduce controls and plan to present it at the next preparatory session for the annual National People’s Congress. The details of the proposal are not yet clear, but the goal is to end “the pernicious habit of eating wildlife,” according to a statement released on Monday by the Standing Committee of the congress.
Although the exact origin of the coronavirus is still under investigation, health officials and scientists say it spread outward from a wholesale market in Wuhan where vendors legally sold live animals from crowded stalls in close quarters with meats and vegetables.
The epidemic has inflamed public sentiment that the consumption of animals like reptiles, civets and hedgehogs is fundamentally unsafe.
The trafficking of endangered or threatened wildlife is prohibited in China, but Wang Ruihe, an official with the National People’s Congress, said last week that enforcement was lax.
Australia will evacuate citizens stuck on a cruise ship, but another quarantine awaits.
Australia will evacuate more than 200 of its citizens who have been trapped on the cruise ship in Japan, and quarantine them for two more weeks at a mining camp in the northern city of Darwin, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday.
The passengers, many of them elderly, will take a Qantas flight to Australia on Wednesday, he said. New Zealanders on the Diamond Princess will be able to join the flight and will be subject to quarantine in Darwin.
The passengers flying out on Wednesday will join more than 200 evacuees from Wuhan, China, the center of the epidemic, who have been housed at the mining camp since last week.
Australia airlifted 242 other people from Wuhan to Christmas Island, where they have been staying for two weeks.
Mr. Morrison acknowledged that some of the cruise ship passengers would be frustrated by the additional two weeks in isolation. But he said that the spread of infections on the ship had forced health officials to take extra precautions.
The Tokyo Marathon is limiting the 2020 race to elite athletes.
Organizers of the Tokyo Marathon, citing the confirmation of a coronavirus case in Tokyo, are limiting the race this year to elite runners, including wheelchair elites, the event announced on its website Monday.
A statement posted on the site said that all registered runners could defer their entry to the 2021 event, but that runners who defer would have to pay again and would not receive refunds for this year’s race. About 38,000 participants had signed up for the race scheduled for March 1. Of that number, 245 are elite runners and 30 are elite wheelchair athletes.
The Hong Kong Marathon, scheduled for Feb. 9, was canceled as coronavirus cases in the semiautonomous Chinese city increased. Hong Kong now has 57 confirmed coronavirus cases.
Japan’s Imperial Household Agency also canceled birthday celebrations for the emperor, an event within the Imperial Palace that normally draws large crowds in Tokyo. Emperor Naruhito turns 60 on Feb. 23. This would be his first birthday since he became emperor.
A heist at knifepoint and a manhunt in Hong Kong, all over toilet paper.
Three masked robbers appeared at dawn on Monday outside a Hong Kong supermarket. There, they held a deliveryman at knifepoint and made off with over $100 worth of one of the most sought after commodities in this city of seven million: toilet paper.
Toilet paper has been sold out across the city for weeks after a run on the product was prompted by rumors that manufacturers in mainland China would cease production or that the border would be sealed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
Retailers have dispelled the rumor, saying there is no genuine shortage. But bulk packs of toilet paper are snatched off supermarket shelves almost as soon as they are restocked, and city blocks are crowded with residents lined up at shops just to buy the product.
So short is the supply that lovers exchanged individual rolls on Valentine’s Day as a sort of pragmatic joke. Online, users have offered to barter surgical masks, which actually are in short supply, for a few rolls of toilet paper. And one hoarder was shamed on social media when neighbors spotted an apartment whose windows were crowded by a wall of toilet paper rolls.
The toilet paper stolen in Monday’s heist was later discovered stashed at a hotel, local news outlets reported, but the perpetrators remain at large.
A U.S. senator repeated an unsubstantiated claim about the coronavirus origins.
Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, has repeated an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that has spread from small-town China to the right-wing news media in the United States: The new coronavirus originated in a high-security biochemical lab in Wuhan.
In a television interview on Fox News on Sunday, Mr. Cotton suggested that a dearth of information about the origins of the virus raised more questions than answers.
“We don’t know where it originated, and we have to get to the bottom of that,” Mr. Cotton said on the program Sunday Morning Futures. He then raised the possibility that the virus originated in a “biosafety level-4 super laboratory.” Such laboratories are used for research into potentially deadly infectious diseases.
“Now, we don’t have evidence that this disease originated there but because of China’s duplicity and dishonesty from the beginning we need to at least ask the question to see what the evidence says, and China right now is not giving evidence on that question at all,” he added.
After receiving criticism for lending credence to what has been largely considered a fringe theory, the senator took to Twitter to say he did not necessarily think the virus was an “engineered bioweapon.”
Research and reporting was contributed by Russell Goldman, Austin Ramzy, Ivan Nechepurenko, Steven Lee Myers, Claire Fu, Tiffany May, Richard C. Paddock, Sui-Lee Wee, Alexandra Stevenson, Roni Caryn Rabin, Ben Dooley and Keith Bradsher.