Over 550 people have died in China after contacting a new strain of coronavirus which has infected about 28,000 people in about two dozen countries.
The efforts to find the best way to treat the disease as well as contain its rapid spread are continuing apace in China and beyond, with the world's leading experts on the coronavirus set to meet in Geneva next week.
The gathering on Tuesday and Wednesday announced by the World Health Organization (WHO) will discuss treatments and vaccines as well as looking at the possible source of the pathogen and how it spreads.
In Italy, two seriously ill Chinese coronavirus patients are being subjected to an ‘experimental anti-viral therapy.’ The couple has been given lopinavir/ritonavir, a drug normally used against HIV infections, and remdesivir, which has been used against Ebola, the Spallanzani hospital treating them said.
‘These medicines have been recommended by the World Health Organization as the most promising on the basis of available data,’ the hospital said.
The Chinese couple, from Wuhan, were taken ill while on a tour of Italy. They have been under intensive care since Tuesday and their condition was described as serious but ‘stable.’ ‘The pathogen is much more infectious than initially assumed,’ said Lars Schaade, vice president of the Robert Koch Institute, the German government's research agency for disease control and prevention.
Much attention meanwhile is still focussing on two cruise ships effectively quarantined due to coronavirus feats.
Ten more people on a cruise ship in Japan tested positive for the new coronavirus, after the first 10 infections were detected on Wednesday, the Japanese Health Ministry said, bringing the total number of infections in Japan up to 45.
About 3,700 passengers and crew members on the Diamond Princess ship were being quarantined off Yokohama, south of Tokyo. A previous passenger from Hong Kong was confirmed to have the virus on Saturday after disembarking from the ship in the city.
Hundreds also remained quarantined on a cruise ship in Hong Kong for a second day, after officials in China informed the cruise operator that three previous passengers had tested positive for the coronavirus. The ship arrived in Hong Kong on Wednesday morning after officials in Taiwan refused it entry.
Hong Kong authorities said 33 employees of the World Dream cruise showed symptoms. Three crew members who had developed fever tested positive for influenza type B and were receiving treatment at hospital.
Taiwan announced on Thursday that it is prohibiting the docking of all international cruise ships, effective immediately. Authorities reported two additional coronavirus cases, bringing the number of infections on the self-ruled island to 13.
Taipei also widened its travel restrictions on Chinese nationals from the mainland on Thursday, announcing that it would stop issuing entry permits to Chinese nationals living in both Hong Kong and Macau.
The Hong Kong government, under pressure to close all borders with the mainland, said Shenzhen Bay Port and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge crossings will cut bus, minibus and coach services on Saturday.
Along with the Philippines, Hong Kong is the only place outside mainland China to confirm a fatality from the coronavirus.
The official death toll from the virus on mainland China reached 563 across the country with 28,018 people confirmed infected. Seventy-three people had died over a 24-hour period, China's National Health Commission said.
Countries around the world have been flying their citizens out of the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the disease. Saudi Arabia on Thursday banned any citizens and non-Saudi residents from travelling to China.
The coronavirus broke out at a seafood market in Wuhan that reportedly sold exotic animals for consumption, similar to the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002 to 2003 that killed 800 worldwide.