Vietnamese news media say a community northwest of the capital Hanoi has been locked down due to a cluster of cases of COVID-19 confirmed there.
The village of Son Lai in Vinh Phuc province was quarantined after Vietnam's 16th case was confirmed in a 50-year-old man. According to the Health Ministry, the quarantine will last 20 days.
The online newspaper VN Express says the latest case has a daughter who was infected. She was part of a group of eight Vietnamese workers for a Japanese company who had been training in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.
The workers returned to Vietnam on Jan. 17, and six have so far tested positive for the virus.
Vinh Phuc province has 11 of the country's 16 cases, with the man bringing Son Lai's total to eight.
Provincial authorities have established mobile shops and provided food and free masks to over 10,600 people.
Authorities have also set up a field hospital with 300 beds and a 200-bed facility at a military school.
Hong Kong has extended the closure of schools because of a viral outbreak to March 16.
The city's Education Secretary Kelvin Yeung says the decision to delay the reopening of schools after the Lunar New Year holiday took into account the advice of health experts, readiness of schools and the supply of epidemic preventive materials.
Students were supposed to return to classes on Feb. 17, then were told it's been delayed to March 2.
Yeung says "social distancing and avoiding the mass movement of people" are key to preventing and controlling the outbreak.
Hong Kong has confirmed 50 cases and one death.
China's U.N. ambassador says the government "is confident that it is capable of winning the fight" against the new virus, saying its efforts "are achieving positive results."
Zhang Jun told a U.N. meeting Wednesday evening in New York that China's confidence has been further boosted by the decline of new confirmed cases in regions beyond the epicenter in Hubei province for eight consecutive days, and the significant rise in cured cases to more than 5,000.
He called on the international community to maintain solidarity, increase sharing of information, experience and technology, "and work with the Chinese government and people to jointly meet the challenges."
Zhang also called on the international community "to remain rational," base actions on evidence, respect the World Health Organization's guidance, "evaluate the epidemic objectively and impartially, and take proper measures to avoid overreaction that would cause greater negative effects."
The Chinese ambassador stressed the need for mutual trust, saying people everywhere must "oppose politicization of health issues and leave no breeding ground or space for any racist comments, discrimination or stigma."
He says: "Led by President Xi Jinping, China has mobilized itself and adopted the most comprehensive and rigorous preventive and control measures, which have fully demonstrated the power and advantages of our system whereby all resources are pooled together to cope with major challenges."
Tokyo Olympic organizers have reiterated their message at the start of two days of meetings with the International Olympic Committee: the Summer Games will not be waylaid by the virus spreading from neighboring China.
Yoshiro Mori, the president of the organizing committee, says "we are not considering a cancellation or postponement of the games. Let me make that clear."
The Olympics open in just over five months, and the torch relay begins next month in Japan — a clear signal the games are almost here.
Although there have been no deaths in Japan attributed to the virus, Tokyo and IOC officials are clearly jittery. Sitting among the officials in Tokyo was Dr. Richard Budgett, the IOC's medical and scientific director.
Last week Toshiro Muto, the CEO of the Tokyo organizing committee, said he was "seriously worried that the spread of the infectious disease could throw cold water on the momentum toward the games." He backed down a day later and said he was confident the games would go forward.
The virus on Wednesday forced the cancellation of a popular Formula One race set for April in Shanghai, which draws more than 100,000 over a race weekend.
A Singapore official says the number of infections in the city-state is likely to rise after 50 people have been confirmed ill.
Lawrence Wong, a co-chairman of Singapore's task force fighting the outbreak, says the virus is clearly circulating within the population and it's too early to tell how things will unfold.
He says, "We really cannot say whether it will get better, whether it will get worse, what sort of situation is going to unfold."
He says "we don't know how successful we will be in all of these containment measures that we have put in place."
Wong says additional measures may involve "social distancing in order to try and reduce the chance of the virus spreading further."
Among the 50 cases confirmed so far, 15 had fully recovered while eight are in critical condition. A bank employee, a 62-year-old man, was the most recent case. The city has found several clusters of cases, including a church, a traditional Chinese medicine store, a business meeting held last month and a construction site.
North Korea has announced it will impose a monthlong quarantine for all foreign visitors and others suspected to have a new virus.
The official Korean Central News Agency says the decision to extend the quarantine period to 30 days was based on researches suggesting that the incubation period of the virus could be as long as 24 days.
The report didn't confirm the country's previous quarantine period, but the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang said in a Facebook post earlier this month that North Korea was putting foreign visitors under a 15-day quarantine.
KCNA says: "All the institutions and fields of the state and foreigners staying in the DPRK should obey it unconditionally."
North Korea has yet to report a case of the virus, but state media reports have hinted that an uncertain number of people have been quarantined after showing symptoms. Experts say an epidemic in North Korea could be dire because of its chronic lack of medical supplies and poor health care infrastructure.
The Taliban have issued an ultimatum to Washington after weeks of talks with a U.S. peace envoy, demanding a reply on their offer of a seven-day reduction of violence in Afghanistan, or they would walk away from the negotiating table, two Taliban officials said Wednesday.
A reduction in violence deal for a very short period is sought by the Taliban because they don't want to commit to a formal cease-fire until other components of a final deal are in place. They have previously said a cease-fire could blunt their battlefield momentum if the U.S. or Kabul renege on their promises.
The development comes as Washington said late Tuesday that an agreement on the insurgents' "reduction of violence" offer was days away. Also, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani tweeted that he had received a phone call from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo telling him of "notable progress" in the talks with the Taliban.
The ultimatum came from the chief Taliban negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who met earlier this week with White House envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the Qatari foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, according to two Taliban officials familiar with the negotiations. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
There was no immediate response from Washington on the ultimatum, which appeared designed to focus the negotiations on Taliban demands. The Taliban maintain a political office in Doha, the capital of the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, where Khalilzad often meets their representatives in the talks that are seeking to find a resolution to Afghanistan's 18-year war, America's longest conflict.
President Donald Trump's national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, said Tuesday that he is cautiously optimistic there could be a U.S. agreement with the Taliban over the next days or weeks, but that a withdrawal of American forces is not "imminent."
The agreement, which Trump would still have to sign off on, calls for both Taliban and U.S. forces to pledge to adhere to a week's "reduction of violence" that would lead to an agreement signing between the United States and the Taliban. That would be followed, within 10 days, by all-Afghan negotiations to set the road map for the political future of a post-war Afghanistan.
The details emerging from Washington on the agreement are similar to details released weeks earlier by Taliban spokesman in Doha, Suhail Shaheen, and would appear to give the Taliban all they have asked for.
Another Taliban demand is that in any all-Afghan negotiations, representatives of Afghan President Ghani's government cannot come to the table in an official capacity but only as ordinary Afghan citizens. The Taliban do not recognize the Afghan government and have refused to negotiate directly with Ghani, effectively sidelining Kabul from the process.
Ghani, whose political future remains uncertain following last September's presidential election, which still has no official winner, has previously demanded that the Taliban negotiate with his government. His political opponents and his partner in the so-called Unity Government, Abdullah Abdullah, have sharply criticized Ghani's intransigence and accused him of trying to sideline their involvement in the peace process. Ghani has also blasted the "reduction of violence" offer, demanding a permanent cease-fire and a halt in the near-daily attacks by the Taliban.
The Taliban have refused, saying they first want agreements in place that would be guaranteed by international powers such as Gulf Arab states, Russia, China and the U.N., before agreeing to a permanent cease-fire.
The "reduction of violence" deal would call for the Taliban and U.S. to refrain from conducting attacks or combat operations for seven days, according to a person familiar with the ongoing discussions who was not authorized to discuss the proposal and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
Asked about whether Trump would sign off on such an agreement, O'Brien said there has been "significant progress" in the months-long on-again, off-again talks with the Taliban and that the U.S. is "cautiously optimistic that some good news could be forthcoming."
"The president had made it very clear that there will have to be a reduction in violence and there will have to be meaningful intra-Afghan talks for things to move forward," O'Brien also said, speaking at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington.
Other conditions in the deal would include a Taliban pledge not to associate with al-Qaida, the Islamic State group or other militant groups.
"We have contributed a tremendous amount of blood and treasure to Afghanistan, but it's time for America to come home," O'Brien also said. "We want to make sure that Afghanistan doesn't become a safe haven for terrorism again."
The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan with a harsh version of Islamic law from 1996 to 2001 and hosted al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden as he masterminded the 9/11 attacks, say they no longer seek a monopoly on power. But the militant group now controls or holds sway over roughly half of the country.
There are fears that a full withdrawal of some 20,000 NATO troops, including about 12,000 U.S. forces, would leave the Afghan government vulnerable, or unleash another round of fighting in a war that has killed tens of thousand of Afghans and also claimed the lives of 2,400 U.S. service men and women.
Afghan civilians have paid the heaviest price — the United Nations says that between 2009, when it first began documenting civilian casualties, and October 2019, a total of 34,677 Afghan civilians have been killed, either in insurgent attacks or being caught in the crossfire of battles between militants and Afghan security forces and their U.S.-led coalition allies.
The State Department declined to comment on negotiations beyond saying that the "U.S. talks with the Taliban in Doha continue around the specifics of a reduction in violence." Ghani, Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper will all be in Munich, Germany, this week for the annual Munich Security Conference, which is also expected to discuss Afghanistan.
Angry inmates set fire to an overcrowded prison on Indonesia's Sumatra island during a riot that erupted Wednesday, officials said.
Hundreds of police and soldiers were deployed to take control of Kabanjahe prison in North Sumatra province, which is designed to house 193 inmates but now has more than 400, said Sri Puguh Budi Utami, director general of corrections at the Justice and Human Rights Ministry. She said it was guarded by only eight offic.ry.
Utami said the cause of the riot is still being investigated. A preliminary investigation showed it began after prisoners protested against the guards' treatment of four inmates who were placed in isolation after being caught taking drugs into their cell, she said.
Other inmates, mostly arrested for drug offensives, joined the protest and it turned violent, but there were no reports of deaths, Utami said.
Television video showed prisoners in an open field under heavy guard by soldiers while police removed others from the prison compound. Black smoke billowed from a building, and burned office equipment and documents were scattered around the prison.
Local police chief Benny Hutajulu said eight fire trucks were mobilized to extinguish the fire and about 500 police and soldiers were deployed around the prison to prevent inmates from escaping.
Jailbreaks and riots are common in Indonesia, where overcrowding has become a problem in prisons that are struggling with poor funding and large numbers of people arrested in a war on illegal drugs.
The daily death toll in China from a new virus topped 100 for the first time, pushing the total fatalities above 1,000 Tuesday as the World Health Organization announced a new name for the disease caused by the virus.
Despite the official end of the extended Lunar New Year holiday, China remained mostly closed for business as many remained at home, with some 60 million people under virtual quarantine.
In Geneva, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced a new name for the disease caused by the virus — COVID-19 — saying officials wanted to avoid stigmatizing any geographic location, group of people or animal that might be linked to the disease and to make it clear it was a new coronavirus discovered in 2019.
"Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing. It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks," the WHO chief said, adding that the name was agreed upon by officials at WHO, the World Organization for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization.
A passenger wearing a full-body protective suit catches the eyes of others as they walk out from the Beijing railway station in Beijing, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Photo: AP
Provincial Health Officials Sacked
With the death toll reaching 1,016 in mainland China and no end in sight, heads are beginning to roll.
While no central government-level officials have lost their jobs, state media reported Tuesday that the top health officials in Hubei province, home to the epicenter of Wuhan, have been relieved of their duties.
No reasons were given, although the province's initial response was deemed slow and ineffective. Speculation that higher-level officials could be sacked has simmered, but doing so could spark political infighting and be a tacit admission that the Communist Party dropped the ball.
The virus outbreak has become the latest political challenge for the party and its leader, Xi Jinping, who despite accruing more political power than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, has struggled to handle crises on multiple fronts. These include a sharply slowing domestic economy, the trade war with the U.S. and push-back on China's increasingly aggressive foreign policies.
People wearing protective face masks, walk on a street in the Central, the business district of Hong Kong, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Photo: AP
A total of 42,638 virus infections have been recorded on the Chinese mainland.
Major Challenges Ahead
Zhong Nanshan, a leading Chinese epidemiologist, said that while the virus outbreak in China may peak this month, the situation at the center of the crisis remains more challenging.
"We still need more time of hard working in Wuhan," he said of the central Chinese city where the outbreak started.
Speaking by teleconference to doctors in Wuhan, Zhong said the priority is to separate the infected from the healthy in their city.
"We have to stop more people from being infected," he said. "The problem of human to human transmission has not yet been resolved."
Medical workers with protective suites walk away from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Photo: AP
Without enough facilities to handle the number of cases, Wuhan has been building prefab hospitals and converting a gym and other large spaces to house patients and try to isolate them from others.
Risks of Restarting Business
The crossing of more grim thresholds has dimmed optimism that the near-quarantine of some 60 million people and other disease-control measures are working.
The restart of business poses a risk of further spreading the virus, but China has little recourse, said Cong Liang, secretary general of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's main economic planning body.
"Without the reopening of businesses, in the short term, it will affect the supply of medical material and ... in the long run, it will affect the supply of all kinds of production and life materials and will make the control and prevention efforts on the front line unsustainable. The target of defeating the epidemic will not be reached," Cong said at a news conference.
In Hong Kong, authorities evacuated some residents of an apartment block after two cases among those living there raised suspicion that the virus may be spreading through the building's plumbing.
Residents wear masks on a street of Beijing, China Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Photo: AP
It was reminiscent of the SARS outbreak that killed hundreds in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. The biggest number of connected cases in that outbreak were in one apartment complex where the virus spread through sewage pipes.
Health officials called it a precautionary measure after a 62-year-old woman diagnosed with the virus Tuesday was found living 10 floors below a man who was earlier confirmed infected. The woman's son and daughter-in-law, who live with her, were among seven new cases reported last week in the city, where a total of 49 people have been infected.
The 34 households evacuated live above or below the woman and share the same sewage system. A modified toilet drainage pipe in her unit may have helped spread the virus and officials are checking if any other units have made such alterations while they disinfect the building.
Global Flow of Mail Disrupted
Postal operators in the United States, China, Singapore and elsewhere said the suspension of flights to slow the virus spread was having a major impact on the global flow of letters and parcels.
The United States Postal Service informed its counterparts around the world on Tuesday that it was "experiencing significant difficulties" in dispatching letters, parcels and express mail to China, including Hong Kong and Macau, because airlines have suspended flights to those destinations.
People wearing protective suits stand near the Cheung Hong Estate, a public housing estate, during evacuation of residents in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Photo: AP
It said the USPS said can no longer accept items destined for China "until sufficient transport capacity becomes available."
The Universal Postal Union, a U.N. agency for postal cooperation between its 192 member countries, said the flight suspensions would impact mail delivery "for the foreseeable future."
The Chinese mail service, China Post, said it was disinfecting postal offices, processing centers and vehicles to ensure the virus doesn't spread via the mail and to protect postal staff.
The virus does "not survive for long on objects. It is therefore safe to receive postal items from China," China Post said.
US Evacuees Set to Leave Quarantine
Nearly 200 evacuees prepared Tuesday to end their two-week quarantine at a Southern California military base where they have been staying since flying out of China.
Personnels wearing protective suits wait near an entrance at the Cheung Hong Estate, a public housing estate during evacuation of residents in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Photo: AP
None of those who flew into March Air Reserve Base has tested positive for the disease, health authorities said, although one evacuee at another base was found to have the virus and was in hospital isolation.
The group arrived from China on Jan. 29 aboard chartered flights from Wuhan.
There have been 13 confirmed cases in the United States, including seven in California.
More than 460 cases have been confirmed outside mainland China, including two deaths in Hong Kong and the Philippines. Of those, 135 are aboard a cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama, near Tokyo.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist party was given a stunning defeat by a regional party Tuesday in elections in the national capital that were seen as a referendum on his policies, including a new national citizenship law that excludes Muslims.
Saturday's New Delhi legislative elections pit Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party against the incumbent Aam Aadmi Party, or "common man's" party, whose pro-poor policies focused on fixing state-run schools and providing cheap electricity, free health care and bus transport for women during its five years in power.
Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah appealed to majority Hindus by focusing on national issues such as the citizenship law, which triggered widespread protests, at the expense of problems facing the capital's millions of residents.
At least 23 people were killed in clashes between police and protesters against the law in December.
With counting of votes almost complete, the Aam Aadmi Party, or AAP, had won 52 seats and was leading in another 10 of the 70 constituencies, while the BJP had won six seats and was leading in another two, the Election Commission said. The Congress party, led by Sonia Gandhi, was unlikely to win any seats.
Full results were expected later Tuesday.
The defeat was a setback to Modi's prestige, coming less than eight months after he led the BJP to a resounding victory in national elections. The party won all seven of the capital's parliamentary seats in those polls.
The victory was a major boost for AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal, the 51-year-old incumbent New Delhi chief minister and anti-corruption crusader.
Kejriwal joined hundreds of his supporters in celebrating the party's performance. In a brief speech. he said the election "has given birth to a new brand of politics — politics of development'' to meet people's basic needs.
Modi in a tweet congratulated Kejriwal for his party's victory. "Wishing them the very best in fulfilling the aspirations of the people of Delh," he saidi.
Local BJP leader Manoj Tewari denied the AAP accusation that his party had tried to create a Hindu-Muslim divide during the elections. Hindus comprise more than 80% of India's 1.3 billion people and Muslims about 14%.
Kejriwal launched his party in 2012 and campaigned to rid the political system and government of corruption and inefficiency.
The party's symbol — a broom— and its promise to sweep the administration of graft struck a chord with New Delhi nearly 20 million people.
In the 2015 elections, Kejriwal's party won 67 seats and the BJP three.
Modi and Home Minister Shah campaigned vigorously in an attempt to unseat the AAP and capture power in New Delhi. The BJP last ruled New Delhi in the 1990s.
The new citizenship law fast-tracks naturalization for non-Muslim migrants from neighboring Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who are living in the country illegally. The BJP also hoped to garner Hindu votes for ending the semi-autonomy of Muslim-majority Kashmir last summer and turning the disputed region into two federally governed territories.