China removes party chief of virus epicenter province

BEIJING, China (AFP) — China has sacked the top political leader of virus-stricken Hubei province, the epicenter of an epidemic that has killed 1,355, state media reported Thursday. Jiang Chaoliang, Hubei’s party secretary, will be replaced by Shanghai mayor Ying Yong, according to the official Xinhua news agency, which gave no additional details. Jiang’s removal comes after Hubei’s two most senior health officials were sacked Monday amid growing criticism of how local officials have handled […]

44 more COVID-19 cases on Japan ship: health minister

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — Another 44 people onboard a cruise ship moored off Japan’s coast have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the country’s health minister said Thursday. Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said the 44 new cases were from another 221 new tests. They raise the number of infections detected on the Diamond Princess to 218, in addition to a quarantine officer who also tested positive for the virus. Kato said authorities now want to […]

Virus death toll surges as China changes way it counts cases

by Helen Roxburgh and Laurent Thomet BEIJING, China (AFP) –The number of deaths and new cases from China’s coronavirus outbreak spiked dramatically on Thursday after authorities changed the way they count infections in a move that will likely fuel speculation that the severity of the outbreak has been under-reported. The hard-hit central province of Hubei reported 242 deaths in just one day and 14,840 new patients — by far its biggest one-day tally since the […]

World’s oldest man crowned in Japan aged 112

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — A 112-year-old Japanese man has been crowned the world’s oldest male, claiming that smiling is the key to longevity. Chitetsu Watanabe, who was born on March 5, 1907, in Niigata, north of Tokyo, was officially given the title at his nursing home in the city, Guinness World Records said Wednesday. The previous record-holder, Masazo Nonaka, also Japanese, died last month at 112 years and 266 days. Watanabe, who is married with […]

WHO says, ‘way too early’ to predict end of novel coronavirus

GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — The UN health agency on Wednesday cautioned it was “way too early” to say whether COVID-19 might have peaked or when it might end, following a drop in new cases. “I think it’s way too early to try to predict the beginning, the middle or the end of this epidemic right now,” Michael Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergency program, said at the agency’s daily news conference. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom […]

China virus death toll tops 1,100; but new cases fall for 2nd straight day

  by Laurent THOMET Agence France Presse BEIJING, China (AFP) — The death toll from China’s new coronavirus epidemic climbed past 1,100 on Wednesday but the number of new cases fell for a second straight day, as the World Health Organization urged global unity to combat the “grave threat”. As Beijing scrambles to contain the virus, the number of people infected on a cruise ship off Japan’s coast rose to 174 — the biggest cluster […]

‘Exhausted’: Doctors at China’s virus epicenter overworked and unprotected

by Eva Xiao and Ludovic Ehret BEIJING, China (AFP) — Doctors on the frontline of China’s new coronavirus epidemic are facing a daunting task: treat an ever-growing number of infected patients and risk getting infected themselves due to a drastic shortage of masks and other protective equipment. Tired and understaffed, medical workers have had to deal with thousands of new cases per week in Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the outbreak that first […]

Severely disabled lawmakers in Japan fight ‘invisibility’

by Miwa SUZUKI TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — Japanese lawmaker Yasuhiko Funago has a neurological disease that means he cannot speak and communicates by blinking to his carer or operating a computer system with his mouth. But he is demanding to be heard as he fights to improve the lives of people with disabilities in Japan, where many in the community complain of feeling “invisible”. “I was a corporate soldier before I had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis […]

Beloved communal hotpot falls victim to Hong Kong virus fears

by Su Xinqi HONG KONG, China (AFP) — Hotpot has become the latest casualty of the coronavirus outbreak after ten members of a family in Hong Kong became infected after sharing the dish, a much-loved favorite during winter. Comprised of a vat of soup at the center of a table, hotpot is a deeply communal dish. Those enjoying it dip a variety of meats, seafood, and vegetables into the bubbling broth which becomes more intense […]

UPDATED: Japan cruise ship coronavirus cases climb to 174

by Kyoko HASEGAWA TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — An additional 39 people on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the Japan coast have tested positive for the new coronavirus, authorities said Wednesday, as thousands more steel themselves for a second week in quarantine. The ship that originally had 3,700 passengers and crew onboard has become the largest single cluster of the newly named COVID-19 disease outside its origin in China, where it has killed more […]

China virus death toll reaches 1,110: govt

BEIJING, China (AFP) — The number of fatalities from China’s new coronavirus epidemic jumped to 1,110 nationwide on Wednesday after hard-hit Hubei province reported 94 new deaths. In its daily update, Hubei’s health commission also confirmed another 1,638 new cases in the central province, where the outbreak emerged in December. © Agence France-Presse

Ultra-rare snowfall carpets Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AFP) — Residents of Baghdad rushed to have snowball fights or take photographs Tuesday as the Iraqi capital woke carpeted in white by only its second snowfall in a century. The last recorded snowfall in the city was in 2008, but it was a quick and mostly slushy affair — and prior to that, it had been a century since Baghdad saw any flakes. Iraqis young and old said it was the first […]