Coronavirus: ‘recovered’ patient dies as China reports discharged cases falling ill again

Gigi Choy

A 36-year-old man has died of respiratory failure in Wuhan, five days after being discharged from one of the makeshift hospitals built to contain the outbreak, according to a report by Shanghai-based news portal The Paper.

The report, which was later removed, said Li Liang had been admitted to the hospital – built to treat patients with mild and moderate symptoms – on February 12, according to his wife, surnamed Mei. He was discharged two weeks later with instructions to stay in a quarantine hotel for 14 days.

Mei said her husband was not feeling well two days after leaving the hospital, with a dry mouth and gaseous stomach. On March 2, Li said he felt sick and was sent to a hospital, where he was certified dead that afternoon.

The death certificate of Li Liang, the “recovered” Covid-19 patient who has died in Wuhan. Photo: Handout

The death certificate issued by the Wuhan health commission said the direct cause was Covid-19, and listed respiratory blockage and failure as the symptoms which could have led to his death.

The Paper also reported that Fangcang Hospital – one of Wuhan’s makeshift facilities – issued an emergency notice on Wednesday that said more discharged patients had been readmitted after falling ill again. The hospital will begin conducting antibody tests on all patients before discharge from Thursday, to ensure they are fully recovered.

Japan orders quarantine for China, South Korea arrivals

Japan will quarantine all passengers arriving from China and South Korea from next week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday.

“We will strengthen immigration quarantines on people from the two countries,” Abe told a cabinet-level task force meeting on the virus.

“We will ask them to stay in designated areas for two weeks and not to use public transport,” Abe added, saying the measures would come into force from March 9.

Minimise use of paper money, Iran says

Iran’s health minister encouraged the public to reduce its use of paper money because it was helping the spread of the new coronavirus.

Saeed Namak also said authorities would begin manning checkpoints to limit travel between major cities in the Islamic Republic.

He said that schools and universities would remain closed through Nowruz, the Persian New Year, on March 20.

People should stay in their vehicles at petrol stations and allow attendants to fill their petrol tanks to avoid the spread of the virus.

Xi Jinping’s state visit to Japan postponed

In the first official confirmation that the coronavirus outbreak will disrupt China's diplomatic agenda, Tokyo said Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Japan – planned for early April – had been postponed.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the delay would not affect relations between the Asian neighbours. Both countries had agreed to prioritise the fight against the coronavirus and a new itinerary would be arranged, he said.

Special clinic for recovered patients

A rehabilitation clinic for recovered Covid-19 patients opened on Thursday at the Hubei Provincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Wuhan.

The clinic will provide specific services to patients who are in isolation after their discharge from hospital. At present, recovered patients can consult doctors via the internet with delivery services for their medicines.

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The clinic will mainly prescribe Chinese herbal medicines and also follow up with discharged patients and provide face-to-face consultation in the future. Zhang Qing, from the Hubei Provincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said patients highly recognised the effectiveness of herbal medicines.

Strict measures continue in Wuhan

Wuhan party chief Chen Yixin said on Wednesday the battle of Wuhan had entered a “critical” stage and ordered an inspection of people from other parts of the country still stranded in the city. Strict measures should remain in place, he said.

“The situation facing epidemic control in Wuhan is still complicated. We will not be able to contain the spread if we do not impose unified strict measures,” Chen said, according to the social media account of the Communist Party politics and law commission.

China reports 139 new infections

Mainland China reported 139 new cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, on Thursday, up from 119 a day earlier, as well as 31 new deaths.

The National Health Commission said 134 of the new infections were in Hubei, epicentre of the outbreak, with 131 in its provincial capital Wuhan. All of the latest deaths also occurred in the province.

As of Wednesday, 80,409 people had been infected on the mainland, and 3,012 have died. Some 52,045 patients had recovered from the disease. The commission also said there had been 20 imported cases – a worrying development for China which has prompted some cities to introduce quarantine measures.

China recognises whistle-blower doctor

China has included the whistle-blower doctor Li Wenliang, who died of Covid-19, among a group of people recognised for their help in the fight against the epidemic.

Li, a 34-year-old ophthalmologist, warned a group of medical school classmates on December 30 about an outbreak at his hospital in Wuhan of a mysterious viral pneumonia resembling severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), which infected more than 8,000 people and killed 813 worldwide.

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Li, who died on February 7, was among 506 health care and response workers recognised by the National Health Commission on its website on Thursday.

Singapore research highlights need for disinfectant

New research from Singapore indicates patients with the deadly coronavirus extensively contaminate their bedrooms and bathrooms, underscoring the need to routinely clean high-touch surfaces, basins and toilet bowls.

The virus, however, was killed by twice-a-day cleaning of surfaces and daily cleaning of floors with a commonly used disinfectant – suggesting current decontamination measures were sufficient as long as people adhered to them.

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The research letter was published on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association following cases in China where the pathogen spread extensively through hospitals, infecting dozens of health care workers and other patients.

California declares emergency after first death

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday declared a statewide emergency after its first fatality from the new coronavirus – the first death to occur in the US outside Washington state.

The 71-year-old man, who had underlying health conditions, died at a hospital in Roseville, near Sacramento, health officials said.

He is believed to have been exposed to the virus during a cruise on board the Grand Princess – a sister ship to the Diamond Princess, where more than 700 passengers tested positive for Covid-19 – which travelled from San Francisco to Mexico from February 11-21.

Health authorities are looking for other passengers from the cruise who may have had close contact with the man, as well as a previous patient from the Bay Area linked to the same ship.

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The emergency declaration was intended to help procure supplies quickly, Newsom said, adding that California currently had 53 reported cases.

Nationwide, nearly 130 people, including repatriated citizens, have so far been reported to be infected, with the virus detected in more than a dozen states, according to the latest CDC figures published on Wednesday.

Switzerland reports first coronavirus death

A woman in western Switzerland has died after contracting the new coronavirus, the country’s first death from the rapidly spreading disease outbreak, regional police said on Thursday.

The woman, 74, had been hospitalised in the canton of Vaud since Tuesday, police said. She was a high-risk patient suffering from chronic disease, authorities added.

UAE tells residents not to travel over virus

The United Arab Emirates on Thursday warned its citizens and its foreign residents not to travel anywhere abroad amid the ongoing worldwide coronavirus outbreak, a stark warning for a country home to two major long-haul airlines.

The warning from the country’s Health and Community Protection Ministry comes as its capital, Abu Dhabi, sent 215 foreigners it evacuated from hard-hit Hubei province in China to a quarantine set up in its Emirates Humanitarian City. They include citizens of Egypt, Sudan and Yemen.

Health officials warned that those travelling abroad could face quarantine themselves at the discretion of authorities. The UAE is home to some 9 million people, with only about 1 million estimated to be Emirati citizens.

The UAE is home to Emirates, the government-owned airline based at Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel. Abu Dhabi also is home to Etihad, the country’s national carrier. Both airlines have encouraged staff to take time off as international travel has dropped due to the virus.

School’s out for 290 million students

Almost 300 million students worldwide face weeks at home, with Italy the latest country to shut schools over the deadly new coronavirus.

Unesco said 290.5 million children in 13 countries were affected, while a further nine nations have implemented localised closures. “The global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled and, if prolonged, could threaten the right to education,” Unesco chief Audrey Azoulay said.

Italy on Wednesday ordered schools and universities closed until March 15, ramping up its response as the national death toll rose to 107, the deadliest outbreak outside China. South Korea – the country with the largest number of cases outside China with nearly 6,000 – has postponed the start of the current term until March 23.

In Hong Kong schools are closed until at least April 20, while in Japan nearly all schools are closed after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for classes to be cancelled through March and spring break, slated for late March through early April.

Some 120 schools closed in France this week in areas with the largest numbers of infections. In Germany, the health minister said the outbreak was now a “global pandemic” – a term the World Health Organisation has stopped short of using – meaning the virus is spreading in several regions through local transmission.

Kim Jong-un sends message to South Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has expressed hope that neighbouring South Korea will overcome the coronavirus outbreak, in a letter sent to President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday.

Kim also voiced concern over his South Korean counterpart’s health, and discussed his view of the situation on the Korean peninsula, Yoon Do-han, Moon’s senior press secretary, said on Thursday.

South Korea, which has the biggest coronavirus epidemic outside China, with 6,088 confirmed cases and 40 deaths.

Around 60 per cent of confirmed cases have been linked to a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu, South Korea’s fourth largest city, according to Yonhap News Agency.

Coronavirus: South Korean cases reach 5,766 and death toll hits 35

“Every day is sad and tough like a war. But our Daegu citizens are showing surprising wisdom and courage,” Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin told reporters on Thursday.

The South Korean government also declared a “special care zone” around Gyeongsan, a city of about 275,000 people 250km (155 miles) southeast of Seoul, promising extra resources such as face masks and warning people from travelling there.

Gyeongsan has recorded a spike in new cases, including at a nursing home. Similar zones have been declared around neighbouring Daegu city and Cheongdo County.

Two more cases at US base in South Korea

US Forces Korea (USFK) has reported two new cases, bringing its total to six among soldiers, employees or people related to the roughly 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea. Despite the new cases, USFK has resumed sending troops to bases in Daegu and surrounding areas, according to military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

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Commanders believed the bases were protected from the outside population, and that troop rotations were needed to maintain readiness in the face of continued threats from nuclear-armed North Korea, the newspaper reported.

First local transmission death in Australia

Australia has recorded its second death from the coronavirus – the first from a “local transmission” – and warned on Thursday the crisis would subtract at least half a percentage point from its economic growth in the current quarter.

The death of a 95-year-old woman, who contracted the disease from a worker at her aged care home in Sydney, takes the number of infections in Australia to 52. The majority contracted the disease aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship and were evacuated back to Australia for treatment. The country's first fatality was a 78-year-old Perth man who contracted the virus on the ship and died in Australia.

Concerns are growing in Australia that the illness may spread more rapidly as people in at least five of the confirmed cases contracted the virus locally.

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy said it was too early to determine the long-term economic toll of the outbreak, but it would have an immediate and significant impact. “At this stage we expect the virus to detract at last half a percentage point from growth in the March quarter 2020,” he said.

First human transmission in New Zealand

New Zealand confirmed a third case of Covid-19, and what is believed to be its first case of human-to-human transmission on Thursday. The patient is an Auckland man in his 40s with close family members, also New Zealand residents, who recently returned home after visiting Iran.

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“There is what appears to be a clear link with travel to Iran by a close family member. Our view remains that with continued vigilance the chance of widespread community outbreak remains low,” the country's ministry of health said.

The latest patient is in self-isolation at home. Other family members had previously been unwell but had now fully recovered and were self-isolating, the health ministry said.

Singapore turns Turkish Airlines plane around

Singapore authorities ordered a Turkish Airlines aircraft to fly back to Istanbul without any passengers on Thursday, after a passenger who arrived on board the plane on Tuesday tested positive for coronavirus.

Singapore’s aviation regulator said the three pilots and 11 other crew of flight TK54 were on the return flight to Istanbul, where they would be placed in quarantine. Meanwhile, authorities in Singapore have begun tracing passengers on the flight who may have had contact with the infected person.

Singapore has 112 confirmed cases of coronavirus but about 70 per cent of patients have recovered.

Australia bans South Korea arrivals

Australia will ban the arrival of foreigners from South Korea and conduct enhanced screenings of travellers from Italy to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday.

Australia extends ban to South Korea, reports second coronavirus death

Morrison said Australia would also extend its travel ban on foreigners arriving from mainland China and Iran. “It affords the best protection and enables us to slow down the rate of transmission,” he said.

Second flight from Iran arrives in Gansu

A second chartered flight carrying 163 Chinese citizens from Iran arrived in Lanzhou in northwest China’s Gansu province on Thursday afternoon, the official Gansu Daily reported.

The passengers were transferred to the quarantine centre in the city for medical observation for at least 14 days. Their arrival came a day after 146 Chinese citizens flew in on another chartered flight from Tehran to Lanzhou.

As of Wednesday, Gansu province had reported 91 coronavirus cases and two deaths.

Additional reporting by Reuters, Associated Press and Agence France-Presse

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