Xi, Trump discuss new virus outbreak in phone call

(AP) – China's official news agency says President Xi Jinping has urged the U.S. to “respond reasonably" to the virus outbreak in a phone call with President Donald Trump.

In this Feb. 2, 2020 file photo, a military officer wearing a protective suit gives instructions to evacuees from Wuhan, China, as they travel to a hospital after their arrival at a military base in Wroclaw, Poland. (AP Photo/Arek Rataj, File)

China's foreign ministry has previously complained that the U.S. was flying its citizens out of the worst-hit city of Wuhan but not providing any assistance to China.

More generally, China has said other countries, many of whom have imposed travel bans or quarantines on travelers from China, should follow WHO recommendations on reacting proportionately to the threat.
The White House says Trump “expressed confidence in China’s strength and resilience in confronting the challenge" of the outbreak in his conversation with Xi.

Communist Party newspaper Global Times says Xi told Trump China has “full confidence and capability to overcome" the outbreak and that the “long-term positive trend of the Chinese economy remains unchanged."

Japan finds 41 more cases of new virus on ship

Japan says 41 new cases of a virus have been found on a cruise ship that’s been quarantined in Yokohama harbor. That brings the total of cases to 61.

The death toll in mainland China’s new virus outbreak has risen to 636, including a doctor who got in trouble with authorities in the communist country for sounding an early warning about the disease threat.

Two docked cruise ships with thousands of passengers and crew members remained under 14-day quarantines in Hong Kong and Japan.

Before Friday’s 41 confirmed cases, 20 passengers who were found to have the virus were escorted off the Diamond Princess at Yokohama near Tokyo. About 3,700 people are confined aboard the ship.

China builds new hospital

China has finished building a second new hospital to isolate and treat patients of the virus.

Testing of a new antiviral drug, meanwhile, is set to begin on a first group of patients.

The number of people infected globally has risen to more than 28,200. There have been 12 confirmed cases of the virus in the United States.

The health care system in Wuhan, where the outbreak was first detected, has been overwhelmed with the thousands of ill patients.

A new, 1,500-bed hospital specially built for virus patients opened days after a 1,000-bed hospital with prefabricated wards and isolation rooms began taking patients.

China has moved people with milder symptoms into makeshift hospitals at sports centers, exhibition halls and other public spaces.

Experts scramble, but new virus vaccine may not come in time

The flu-like virus that exploded from China has researchers worldwide once again scrambling to find a vaccine against a surprise health threat, with no guarantee one will arrive in time.

Among the fastest efforts, the U.S. National Institutes of Health is creating a vaccine using a piece of the new coronavirus’ genetic code.

Other teams are pursuing different types of vaccines. But rather than chasing outbreaks, specialists say it’s time to develop prototype vaccine designs that could sit on the shelf, ready to be custom-matched to the next virus that pops up.

‘A floating prison’: Cruise of Asia ends in virus quarantine

David Abel’s 50th wedding anniversary luxury cruise began with him eating his fill and enjoying the sights of East Asia.

It’s ending with him quarantined on the ship for two extra weeks, eating a “lettuce sandwich with some chicken inside.”

Twenty people were escorted off the ship, heading for hospitals for treatment of a new virus. The hundreds of passengers on two cruise ships in Japan and Hong Kong are caught in the drama and fear about the little-understood virus.

Tests are still pending on some passengers and crew. Abel said, “It’s not going to be a luxury cruise; it’s going to be like a floating prison."

5,000 from earlier cruises possibly exposed

Hong Kong authorities say more than 5,000 people may have been exposed to a virus during previous voyages on a cruise ship now in quarantine.

Center for Health Protection official Chuang Shuk-kwan said Thursday that eight people tested positive for the new coronavirus after they traveled on the World Dream cruise from Jan. 19-24.

The ship sailed four voyages after that date. It was placed in quarantine Monday with its 3,600 passengers and crew being screened for the virus.

Chuang said the three other cruises involved more than 5,000 passengers who had returned to Hong Kong.

Cheung said 206 were Hong Kong residents on the same trip as the eight mainland Chinese who were infected.

But she urged anyone who had joined World Dream cruises since then to contact health officials immediately.

Universities cancel study-abroad programs amid virus fears

Universities are scrambling to assess the risks to their programs from China’s virus outbreak.

Some are canceling study-abroad opportunities and prohibiting travel affecting hundreds of thousands of students.

In the U.S., the cancellations add to the tension between two governments whose relations were already sour.

The scare also threatens to cause lasting damage to growing academic exchange programs that reached new heights over the last decade and a half.

China sends far more students to the U.S. than any other country, more than 369,000 in the last academic year. The U.S. sends over 11,000 students to China annually.

Global tourism takes major hit as virus halts Chinese travel

This should have been a good year for global tourism, with trade tensions gradually easing, certain economies growing and banner events like the Summer Olympics taking place in Tokyo.

But the viral outbreak in China has thrown the travel industry into chaos, threatening billions in losses and keeping millions of would-be travelers at home.

Thirty airlines have suspended service to China. Cruise lines have cancelled more than a dozen Chinese cruises. And hotel rooms in China are largely empty.

Before the outbreak, the United Nations World Tourism Organization was forecasting growth of 3-4% in global tourism this year, up from 1.5 billion tourist arrivals in 2019.

WHO to meet on promising drugs for new virus

The World Health Organization is convening a research conference next week to identify promising drug and vaccine candidates to be fast-tracked for development against the new virus that emerged from China.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters Thursday the U.N. health agency will be inviting scientists to identify research priorities and coordinate the effort to find effective drugs and vaccines.

The meeting will be held Tuesday and Wednesday in Geneva and will include some “virtual” attendees. WHO said it would include Chinese scientists but didn't say if the “virtual” attendees were those who could not travel due to bans, quarantines or other reasons.

“To put it bluntly, we’re shadow boxing,” Tedros said, explaining there are many unknowns about the virus, including its transmissibility and severity. “We need to bring this shadow out into the light so that we can attack it properly,” he said.

Tedros compared the effort to the accelerated efforts to develop vaccines and therapeutics during the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Still, he warned that finding any effective drugs and vaccines for the new virus would take significant time.

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