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Coronavirus Updates: Virus Is Said to Spread Thorough Apartment Building’s Pipes – The New York Times

By February 11, 2020 Entertainment News

Hong Kong officials evacuated and quarantined dozens of residents of an apartment building after two people living on different floors were found to be infected with the coronavirus, the authorities said on Tuesday.

The two cases appeared to suggest that the virus had spread through the building, perhaps through a pipe, raising new fears about the virus’s ability to spread.

Officials from the city’s Center for Health Protection said the decision to partially evacuate the building was made after the discovery of a unsealed bathroom pipe in the apartment of a newly confirmed patient, a 62-year-old woman. She lives 10 ten floors below a resident who was earlier found to be infected.

In addition to the infected residents, four other people living in three different units displayed symptoms of the coronavirus, according to Sophia Chan, Hong Kong’s health secretary.

In all, quarantines were ordered for the residents of 23 units of the Hong Mei House, a building on the Cheung Hong Estate, a public housing block in the New Territories section of the city.

The local outbreak prompted comparisons to an incident in 2003 when 329 residents of a housing estate in Hong Kong became infected with SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. The virus was later found to have spread through defective piping. Forty-two of the infected residents died.

“Our initial understanding is that the relevant household may have done some self-remodeling work,” Frank Chan, Hong Kong’s secretary for transport and housing, said of the outbreak on Tuesday.

Mr. Chan denied that the recent cases were comparable to the 2003 outbreak because of the location of the pipes. In the earlier case, the pipes were outside the building and the SARS virus was spread through the air.

At a government-organized news briefing on Tuesday, Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong, said the situation this time appeared to be different. But he said the authorities were not ruling out the possibility of airborne transmission of the virus.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, said determining what happened at the housing complex was of “great importance” and ordered an investigation.

The death toll from the coronavirus epidemic is continuing to climb, Chinese officials said Tuesday.

The government put the nationwide figure at 1,016. That was up 108 from the day before, when it was 908.

  • Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

The number of cases of infection also grew, to over 42,638. The figure for the day before was put at 40,171.

Deaths in Hubei Province, the heart of the outbreak, drove the increase — there were 103 — though the number of infections reported there actually declined somewhat.

One of the people evacuated to the United States from Wuhan last week is infected with the coronavirus, U.C. San Diego Health said in a statement. The Centers for Disease Control shared the diagnosis on Monday morning, the hospital said; the patient had previously been discharged after testing negative.

The patient, one of 167 passengers on a State Department-arranged flight from China that mostly carried American citizens, has since returned to the hospital near Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego.

It is the 13th confirmed case in the United States, and the seventh in California.

Other government-arranged evacuation planes from China have taken passengers — more than 500 in all — to Nebraska, Texas and other bases in California in the last two weeks.

Those evacuated are expected to be quarantined for 14 days, with frequent checks from medical personnel to determine whether they have developed fevers, coughs and other early signs of the virus.

A Holland America cruise ship with more than 2,200 people aboard was denied entry to Thailand on Tuesday over fears that passengers may be carrying the dangerous coronavirus, bringing the total number of ports from which it has been turned away to at least five.

The ship, the Westerdam, which departed from Hong Kong on Feb. 1, has already been turned away at ports in at least five countries, including the United States territory of Guam, the Philippines and Japan.

Thailand, which has reported more than 30 cases of the virus, had earlier agreed to let the ship dock in Bangkok on Thursday.

But the public health minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, posted a cryptic message on Facebook on Tuesday saying, “I have issued orders. Permission to dock refused” with a cruise ship emoji.

Holland America has said that no one on board has come down with the virus.

“The ship is not in quarantine and we have no reason to believe there are any cases of coronavirus on board despite media reports,” Holland America said in a statement issued Monday.

The ship, said to have 1,445 passengers and 802 crew on board, was originally bound for Yokohama, Japan.

It was unclear where the ship is headed next. A country may be more willing to accept the ship once it has been afloat for the standard 14-day quarantine period and has no reported cases of the virus.

The company said that all passengers would receive a 100 percent refund and a 100 percent credit for a future trip. The ship was providing free internet and phone access to passengers, the company said.

A different ship, the Diamond Princess, has been docked for more than a week in Yokohama, Japan, where it was put under quarantine after cases of infection were confirmed.

Sixty-five more infections were confirmed on Monday, that ship’s captain told passengers, raising the total number of cases on board to 135.

At least 20 of the infected passengers are from the United States, according to a Princess Cruises spokeswoman. In all, 416 American passengers boarded the vessel, the Diamond Princess, at the start of the voyage according to the spokeswoman.

The Royal Caribbean cruise company on Monday rescinded its ban on Chinese passport holders onboard its ships.

But the company’s reversal is little comfort to one passenger, Xiao Liu.

Ms. Liu, a 34-year-old scientist at Princeton University, arrived at Port Canaveral, Fla., on Friday with her husband and 3-year-old daughter to board a cruise ship called Mariner of the Seas. A health care worker checked their temperatures and asked whether they had been in contact with anybody from mainland China recently. Though they answered no, the worker did not allow Ms. Liu on the cruise because she carries a Chinese passport.

“This is clearly racial discrimination,” said Ms. Liu, who moved to the United States 11 years ago. “What makes me different from other passengers? My Chinese passport!”

The company’s ban comes as a ship docked in Japan has been quarantined after an coronavirus outbreak was discovered onboard.

In its statement, Royal Caribbean said it banned passengers holding passports from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau because governments around the world were enacting similar limits. “Now, governmental policies have been clarified, so we have changed this policy,” it said on Twitter.

As the coronavirus has spread — including hitting other cruise ships — Chinese people around the world have faced instances of xenophobia.

Reporting and research was contributed by Russell Goldman, Elaine Yu, Richard C. Paddock, Ben Dooley, Motoko Rich, Amber Wang, Zoe Mou, Albee Zhang, Yiwei Wang, Claire Fu, Amy Qin.

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