The quarantined ship Diamond Princess is pictured through barbed wire at Yokohama port. Picture: AP
The quarantined ship Diamond Princess is pictured through barbed wire at Yokohama port. Picture: AP

Two passengers from cruise die as Aussies land on home soil

TWO passengers from the coronavirus-infected cruise ship in Tokyo, Japan, have died.

The country's public broadcaster NHK reported the deceased passengers of the Diamond Princess were a man and woman in their 80s.

The deaths come as a Qantas plane carrying about 170 Australians evacuated from the ship landed in Darwin.

It also comes as the global death toll rises to 2118 - up 114.

The plane arrived just after 8am local time (9.30am AEDT) after departing from Tokyo in the early hours of the morning.

But there was heartbreak for one Australian family who were forced to withdraw from the evacuation just before passengers were about to disembark the ship.

Melbourne mother Aun Na Tan said her family had packed their bags ready to depart when they were informed their daughter, Kaitlyn, had tested positive to the virus.

"We we're pushing our bags out when the call came with our test results from Monday's sampling," Ms Tan wrote on social media.

The family was then given the option for one adult to stay with their daughter and the rest travel to Darwin, but they declined.

"We will not be taking the flight … Our family will stay together," she said.

Those who have arrived in Darwin will face further testing before they are placed in quarantine at the Inpex Workers' Village at Howard Springs, about 30km from the Darwin CBD.

They will be separated from 266 people who arrived at the facility 11 days ago after flying in from Wuhan - the coronavirus epicentre on the Chinese mainland.

Medical teams will take extra precautions when treating the people arriving from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

They will wear full personal protective equipment when conducting daily health checks, and discard their clothes for washing before exiting the facility.

The people arriving from the Diamond Princess are considered a greater risk of carrying the coronavirus than those who were flown in from Wuhan.

More than 600 of the 3700 passengers who were aboard the ship have now contracted the virus.

 

Australian couple Ellis and Kimberly Vincent says passengers were allowed to mingle for a day and a half before lockdown.
Australian couple Ellis and Kimberly Vincent says passengers were allowed to mingle for a day and a half before lockdown.

 

 

There are reports from Japan that 70 per cent of those infected were showing no symptoms when they tested positive.

Ms Tan said her daughter had appeared well when her positive test came through.

"It wasn't a pretty picture when we first found out but I think we've looked at everything, we've had lots of wonderful messages come to us, a flood of them from family," she told Nine Network's Today show.

"It will be good. She'll be right."

If anyone at the Darwin quarantine facility tests positive to coronavirus they will be placed in a special ambulance and taken to Royal Darwin Hospital.

There they will be isolated and treated before being given the option to take a special flight to their home city.

The 266 evacuees who arrived from Wuhan are due to return home on Sunday.

Qantas said it would offer the evacuees free flights home from Darwin.


CHINA FINDS TRAVEL BAN LOOPHOLE
Chinese students enrolled in Australian universities but stuck on mainland China may still have the chance to attend class this year, despite the federal government's coronavirus travel ban.

Travel agents in China have been marketing third-country transit destination packages as a loophole around the ban, where non-Australian citizens and non-permanent ­residents from mainland China have to stop over in countries including Thailand, Malasya and Cambodia before travelling to Australia.

The fourteen-day, thirteen-night packages - being micro-targeted on Chinese social media - are selling for as little as $2700 each, The Australian reports.

Ideas around the travel ban - preventing travellers from mainland China from entering Australia for 14 days - come just weeks after it was imposed by Scott Morrison on February 1.

It was at a time when about two-thirds of the 109,000 Chinese students enrolled in Australia were in China for the Lunar New Year break.

Nick Coyle, Beijing-based executive director of business lobby AustCham China, told The Australian: "Chinese people, as we know, are very entrepreneurial, so it doesn't surprise me an industry has popped up to work around the current regulations."

The national security committee of cabinet is due to discuss the extension of Australia's travel ban Thursday. It will be based on advice from Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy.

 

 

FEARS OUTBREAK COULD ESCALATE IN JAPAN
As the Australians stuck on board the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan prepared to be evacuated, University of New South Wales infectious disease specialist Professor Raina Macintyre warned that increases the risk of a local outbreak.

"Given the increasing number of infections on the ship, we should assume there was ongoing exposure to the virus," she said, highlighting a finding that 70 per cent of positive tests from those on board come from people without symptoms.

Foreign governments are stepping in after the failure of a quarantine order that was placed on the ship by Japan.

About 621 of 3711 passengers and crew have contracted coronavirus so far, representing an infection rate of about 16.7 per cent.

People who tested positive, including 37 Australians, are being treated at hospitals onshore.

The United States evacuated 328 of its Diamond Princess passengers on Monday and a South Korean charter flight took a small group yesterday. Canada, Italy, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Taiwan and Israel are also sending planes.

About 180 Australians who agreed to the evacuation were visited in their cabins yesterday for pre-flight screening.

"They confirmed our name and age, took our temperature and put a paper bracelet on our right wrist with a colour that determines when we leave," said New South Wales retiree Kimberly Vincent.

"They put another purple bracelet on our right wrist to indicate we have medical conditions and showed us a photo of the plane stairs and asked if we could climb them okay."

Mrs Vincent, 73, said she and her husband Ellis, 77, received a third wristband that has a tracking barcode.

The Japanese government is under fire for mishandling the situation on board, with claims the quarantine it enforced from February 5 was inadequate and chaotic.

An infectious diseases expert from Kobe University Hospital, Professor Kentaro Iwata, made a YouTube video that slams the operation.

He has placed himself in a self-imposed quarantine from his family after spending just one day on board with the Japanese disaster management team.

 

The quarantined ship Diamond Princess is pictured through barbed wire at Yokohama port. Picture: AP
The quarantined ship Diamond Princess is pictured through barbed wire at Yokohama port. Picture: AP

 

Professor Iwata says he was kicked off after making suggestions to better control the spread of infection. "The bureaucrats were in charge of everything," he says.

A statement from the US Centers for Disease Control and Protection also casts doubt on the effectiveness of the on-board quarantine.

"It may not have been sufficient to prevent transmission," the statement reads.

It goes on to explain that the 100 Americans remaining on board will be placed on travel restrictions preventing them from returning to the US for at last two weeks after disembarking.

The Diamond Princess represents the largest outbreak cluster outside China.

The number of cases in Japan, separate to the ship, is about 70 and increasing daily.

Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he understood the frustration of people who had been stuck on the ship.

"We want to get them home to their families as soon as possible," he said.

Australia's chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said the older evacuees would have continuous access to medical assistance.

"I can be absolutely confident that they will be very well looked after here, in much better facilities than being in a tiny cabin on a cruise ship," he said.

Many Australians are worried about being exposed in transit, especially after American passengers fell ill or were diagnosed during the operation early this week that took more than 300 people back to the United States.

It became increasingly apparent on Tuesday that quarantine measures on board had failed, something that led to the intervention of foreign governments.

 

 

Canada, Hong Kong, Italy and South Korea are also sending planes to bring citizens home.

The Japanese government placed the luxury liner under a quarantine order when people on board began falling ill at the start of the month. The isolation period ends on Wednesday.

NED-1211-Diamond Princess evacuation stats infographic - 0
One of the reasons that Mr Morrison has given for the airlift is that expert medical advice suggests it remains unknown how the virus is spreading.

The United States' top infectious diseases official Dr Anthony Fauci told USA Today that the on-board quarantine has not worked.

"I'd like to sugar-coat it and try to be diplomatic about it, but it failed. Something went awry in the process of the quarantining of that ship. I don't know what it was, but a lot of people got infected on that ship," he said.

Aside from the Diamond Princess, Japan is dealing with about 60 confirmed cases of coronavirus including one fatality.

Authorities are scrambling to contain the outbreak, encouraging people to work from home and to avoid crowds.


TOP AUSSIE UNIS FACE $1.2B HIT
Exclusive analysis by The Australian of the Group of Eight universities - plus the University of Technology Sydney and RMIT - has revealed that more than 60 per cent of an estimated 109,000 Chinese students ­enrolled in first-semester courses are still in China.

The Centre for independent Studies, a free-market think tank, has conducted an analysis showing the fallout from the epidemic could wipe as much as $12bn from the nation's export earnings.

The report's author, Salvatore Babones, singled out the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency for "massive failure" of oversight and warned it was ­"inherently risky" to build a ­business around education ­exports to citizens of "a totalitarian police state".

The study concluded that more than 40 per cent of education ­exports to China - worth $12.1bn last year - could evaporate, even if the coronavirus epidemic is contained by June.

Meanwhile, the Australian National University - which has about 4000 of its estimated 5000 Chinese students stuck in China - is the first Australian university to offer free online courses for those unable to make it to campus by the end of March, The Australian reports.


TRAVEL DEALS TO HELP CHINESE STUDENTS GET TO AUSTRALIA
On Chinese social media, travel agents have been marketing bespoke "14 day, 13 night" packages to transit destinations to help Chinese students enrolled at Australian universities get around the federal government's coronavirus ban.

Around 65,000 Chinese students have been affected by Australia's coronavirus ban, and these packages, priced at around $2700 each, provide an enticing loophole.

The packages ensure that travellers from mainland China stay in their transit destination for the necessary two weeks before they are able to enter Australia.

The current ban prevents travellers from entering Australia for 14 days after leaving mainland China.

"Thailand and Malaysia are the top two choices. Next is Cambodia," an education agent in Beijing told The Australian.

Universities stand to lose up to $2 billion in deferred fees from Chinese students currently unable to enter the country.

The federal government told The Australian that the travel ban was likely to be extended for another week, though a final decision had not been made.

CHINA EXPELS AUSTRALIAN JOURNALIST
China has revoked the press credentials of three Wall Street Journal reporters over a headline the Chinese government has called "racist." The headline of an opinion column referred to China as the "Real Sick Man Of Asia", condemning the country's response to the coronavirus.

The op-ed, published February 3rd by American professor at Bard College, Walter Russel Mead, "smears the efforts of the Chinese government and people on fighting (the virus) epidemic," said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

"The editors used such a racially discriminatory title, triggering indignation and condemnation among the Chinese people and the international community," he said in a statement.

The Journal identified the three expelled journalists as Deputy Bureau Chief Josh Chin, reporter Chao Deng - both U.S. citizens - and reporter Philip Wen, an Australian.

They have been given five days to leave the country, according to Jonathan Cheng, the Journal's China bureau chief.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China issued a statement expressing "deep concern and strong condemnation" of the Chinese move. It pointed out that none of the three reporters had any involvement with the opinion piece or its headline.

"The action taken against The Journal correspondents is an extreme and obvious attempt by the Chinese authorities to intimidate foreign news organisations by taking retribution against their China-based correspondents," the statement said.

It said the expulsions are the latest case of growing "harassment, surveillance and intimidation from authorities."

China has in recent years refused to issue or renew credentials for foreign journalists, but this is the first time in decades that it has actually revoked their documents, effectively expelling them from the country.

That reflects a new hard line in foreign affairs in which China has sought to exact economic and diplomatic costs from companies and countries that don't follow its policies over Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, human rights and other sensitive issues.

CORONAVIRUS HITS IRAN AS RUSSIA CLARIFIES TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS
Iranian authorities have confirmed two cases of the new coronavirus, the first in the country, according to local news reports.

An official in the country's health ministry, Kiyanoush Jahanpour, was reported as saying that "since last two days, some suspected cases of the new coronavirus were found." Jahanpour did not say how many people were suspected of having the virus, which causes the illness that the World Health Organisation recently named COVID-19. Jahanpour said the two confirmed cases were detected in the central Iranian province of Qom.

Meanwhile, Russia will still issue official, business, humanitarian and transit visas to Chinese nationals, the country's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday, clarifying the conditions of a sweeping entry ban for Chinese citizens announced the day before.

The ban goes into effect on Thursday at midnight Moscow time.

"We reiterate our willingness to continue close co-operation with China in order to efficiently eradicate this common threat," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

while Egypt's Health Ministry confirmed its first case last Friday, also the first case to hit the African continent. The infected person was said to be carrying the virus but not showing any serious symptoms. The victim has been hospitalised and is currently in isolation.

 


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