Ten killed in China as COVID quarantine hotel collapses

At least 10 people were killed in the collapse of a hotel used as a coronavirus quarantine facility in eastern China, the Ministry of Emergency Management said Sunday.

COVID'S CURSE.  At least 10 were killed and 70 people were trapped after the Xinjia Hotel in Quanzhou, Fujian province, used as a quarantine facility, collapsed on March 7 evening, officials said. AFP
Rescuers retrieved 43 people from the rubble, of whom 37 are still alive, the ministry said on its firefighting department’s social media account.

The coastal city of Quanzhou has recorded 47 cases of the COVID-19 infection and the hotel had been repurposed to house people who had been in recent contact with confirmed patients, the People’s Daily state newspaper reported.

Video posted by the firefighting department showed rescuers putting a surgical mask on children as they were pulled from the rubble of the six-story Xinjia hotel, including a 12-year-old boy and another much younger child.

READ: U.S. sanitizes dollar bills from China

Rescuers were also shown spraying disinfectant on each other as part of “strict decontamination” between shifts.

Footage published by local media, purportedly from security cameras across the street, showed the hotel collapsing in seconds.

Other videos circulating on the Twitter-like Weibo platform showed rescue workers combing through the rubble of the hotel in the dark as they reassured a woman trapped under heavy debris and carried injured people to ambulances.

The building’s facade appeared to have crumbled to the ground, exposing the structure’s steel frame.

Nine people escaped from the hotel on their own at the time of the collapse, the Ministry of Emergency Management said.

The building’s first floor has been undergoing renovation since before the Lunar New Year, and construction workers called the hotel’s owner minutes before the collapse to report a deformed pillar, the ministry said.

The building’s owner has been summoned by police, and local authorities are still determining whether it was the renovation or an original structural issue that caused the collapse, according to the ministry.

At the time of the collapse, 58 people who had recently been in regions hard-hit by COVID-19 were being quarantined in the hotel, and all had tested negative for the virus, local newspaper Quanzhou Evening News reported Sunday.

More than 800 commanders and 750 medical staff have been deployed in rescue efforts, along with 20 ambulances, the ministry said.

China’s National Health Commission also said it was sending 18 medical experts from the nearby cities of Fuzhou and Xiamen to Quanzhou.

The search and rescue yielded results, with a boy and a man plucked out of the rubble (below). Rescue operations for survivors continue. AFP
Meanwhile, a US cruise ship hit by COVID-19 was given permission late Saturday to dock, while New York announced a state of emergency as confirmed cases across the United States surged past 400.

The fast-spreading virus has already spread to 30 US states, killing at least 19 people, while the American capital announced its first case Saturday and citizens were coming to terms with public events being canceled across the country.

The Grand Princess cruise ship has recorded 21 COVID-19 infections on board—19 crew and two American passengers—out of 45 people tested.

Authorities ordered the vessel to remain at sea off the coast of San Francisco, where it was due to dock Saturday following a 14-day trip to Hawaii, after it emerged that a passenger on a previous voyage had contracted the virus and later died.

The vessel will instead go to nearby Oakland on Monday and begin disembarking passengers in need of “acute medical treatment,” vessel owner Princess Cruises said in a statement.

The ship’s crew will be quarantined and treated aboard the ship, the company added.

Around half of the vessel’s 1,100 crew hail from the Philippines and several are among those diagnosed with the virus, according to Princes Cruises.

Vice President Mike Pence, who is managing the US government’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, said earlier that all 3,533 passengers and crew would be tested for coronavirus and quarantined if necessary.

Further south in Los Angeles, passengers aboard another cruise ship were told they must remain on the vessel overnight.

The order came after a woman was taken off the Carnival Panorama cruise ship to be tested for the virus, the Long Beach Post reported. 

Nationwide, more than 400 people have contracted the virus so far, with dozens of new cases emerging daily.

New York became the latest state to declare an emergency as the number of patients there rose to 89, including a driver who apparently worked for ride-sharing company Uber.

The announcement came as the first US service member stationed at home tested positive.

Maryland officials also reported that two people who were at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference attended by Pence and President Donald Trump had tested positive for the virus.

Starbucks reported that one of its employees in downtown Seattle had tested positive, and the store shut for cleaning.

Asked whether he was worried about the virus getting closer to the White House, Trump said he was “not concerned at all.”

He also said he did not plan to cut his public engagements.

“We’ll hold tremendous rallies,” said Trump before hosting a dinner in Florida for the president of Brazil.

Public events have been canceled across the US in an effort to contain the epidemic.

Casualties include Texas-based South by Southwest festival, a Mariah Carey concert, the Facebook F8 Developers Conference, Miami’s Ultra Music Festival and several university sports events.

The fate of the Grand Princess is reminiscent of the Diamond Princess, a sister vessel that suffered its own coronavirus outbreak while moored off the coast of Japan.

Carolyn Wright, 63, a passenger on the Grand Princess said that there had been growing concern and frustration aboard the vessel.

“I’m really happy there’s finally a plan, I just wish we knew more as to what’s going to happen to us,” she said.

Fellow passenger Kari Kolstoe, 60, told CNN she had stage 4 cancer and was worried she wouldn’t make it home in time to start chemotherapy treatment on Monday.

“I’m in extremely delicate health right now,” Kolstoe, who is traveling with her husband, told the outlet.

“If I don’t have the coronavirus, I need to get that found out sooner rather than later.”

The number of worldwide coronavirus cases exceeds 100,000 and the overall death toll is more than 3,500 across 95 nations and territories, according to the latest count by AFP.

A quarter of the Italian population was locked down Sunday as the government takes drastic steps to stop the spread of the deadly new coronavirus that is sweeping the globe, with Latin America recording its first fatality.

Italy has seen the most deaths from the COVID-19 disease of any country outside China, where the outbreak that has now killed more than 3,500 people and infected over 100,000 worldwide began in December.

The measures in place until April 3 bar people from entering or leaving vast areas of northern Italy without good reason, according to a decree signed by the prime minister and published online.

The quarantine zones are home to more than 15 million people and include the regions around Venice and financial capital Milan, while cinemas, theaters and museums will be closed nationwide.

It comes as Argentina on Saturday became the first Latin American country to report a fatality from the virus that has affected 95 nations and territories.

The World Health Organization described worldwide virus cases passing the 100,000-mark as a “somber moment.”

However in China, the number of new cases reported Sunday nationwide was the lowest in weeks, with nearly all 44 of them in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and epicenter of the outbreak.

The government has hinted it may soon lift the quarantine imposed on Hubei, where some 56 million people have been effectively housebound since late January.

The only infections in China beyond Hubei were imported from abroad, including arrivals from Italy and Spain in Beijing.

The WHO said the efforts of China and other countries were “demonstrating that spread of the virus can be slowed” with the path of the disease even “reversed through the implementation of robust containment and control activities.”

As recorded deaths in Italy soared to 233 on Saturday, the Vatican announced Pope Francis’s Angelus prayer—normally delivered by the 83-year-old pontiff from his window—would be broadcast as a livestream.

Italy has the world’s second-oldest population after Japan, according to the World Bank, and elderly people appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill from the virus.

Retired doctors are being recruited to bolster the Italian health care system, while civil protection officials say Lombardy region is having trouble finding beds in hospitals.

Colombia, Costa Rica, Malta, the Maldives, Bulgaria and Paraguay have also announced their first cases.

The number of infections in South Korea passed 7,000 on Saturday—the highest in the world outside China.

NEWBORN. A hospital staff  shows a  newborn whose  mother was infected by the COVID-19 coronavirus, after a caesarean section at a gynaecology and obstetrics isolation ward for expectant mothers infected by the virus in Xiehe hospital in Wuhan in China's central Hubei.  China on March 8 reported its lowest number of new coronavirus infections since January, with nearly all the 44 new cases in the outbreak epicentre Wuhan. AFP
Iran’s 21 new deaths from the epidemic and 1,076 fresh cases reported Saturday brought the overall tolls there to 145 dead and 5,823 infected.

The virus has hit international business, tourism, and sports events, with almost 300 million students sent home worldwide as schools and universities close.

The Scotland-France women’s rugby match scheduled for Saturday in Glasgow was postponed after a Scottish player tested positive for the coronavirus, Scottish Rugby said.

Organizers of the Barcelona marathon on Saturday postponed the event, which had been scheduled for March 15, until Oct. 25.

And in Canada, the International Ice Hockey Federation called off the Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships, which had been set to run from March 31 to April 10.

Saudi Arabia reopened an area in Mecca’s Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site, after suspending the year-long umra pilgrimage during which worshippers circle the Kaaba seven times.

However, access to the Kaaba is still blocked and the Grand Mosque is being sterilized.

The coronavirus cases were detected in central China in December last year and had spread to South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Vietnam, the Philippines, New Zealand, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Bhutan, Algeria, Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon, South Africa, Togo, US, Canada, Ecuador, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Germany, France, Italy, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Netherlands, Austria, Iceland, Israel, Croatia, Russian Federation, Belarus, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, San Marino, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Czechia, Slovenia, Romania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Estonia, Ireland, Portugal, Andorra, Armenia, Belarus, Holy See, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Serbia, Slovakia, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Poland, Hungary Ukraine, Sweden, Iran, Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Egypt. AFP, PNA

READ: WHO chides countries for not taking COVID seriously enough

READ: COVID-19 shutters schools: 300 million affected

Topics: Ministry of Emergency Management , China , COVID-19 , People’s Daily , Ministry of Emergency Management , World Ice Hockey Championships
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