Coronavirus: EU health ministers meet as deaths mount — live updates

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  • EU health ministers are in Brussels for an emergency meeting on how to prevent the virus from spreading in Europe.
  • China's Hubei province has registered the highest-ever one-day total of infections and deaths from coronavirus, following a change in how it counts cases.
  • The World Health Organization has said it is "way too early" to predict when the outbreak will end.
  • The epidemic — officially named COVID-19 — has killed 1,367 people and infected nearly 60,000 worldwide

All updates in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC/GMT)

11:54 Japan has reported the first coronavirus death within its borders.

A woman in her 80s living in Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo has died, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato confirmed.

11:40 Outside of China, the largest cluster of coronavirus cases is on a cruise ship quarantined in a port off of Japan. 218 people on board have tested positive for the virus. Passengers and crew are likely to be held on board until February 19 at the earliest.

11:23 In other cruise ship news, the cruise ship MS Westerdam has docked in Cambodia after it was denied the right to dock in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Guam and the Philippines over fears that its nearly 1,500 passengers and 800 crew are carrying coronavirus. Thus far, no one on board has tested positive for the infection.

10:36 Experts were not surprised by China revising up the number of reported cases of coronavirus, virologist Professor Martin Stürmer of the IMD Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Medicine in Frankfurt has said in an interview with DW.

"We had already suspected their numbers to be too low," he said. "We had expected a higher number of cases based on our experience with other respiratory diseases. Of course now the higher number of cases in China suggests there may be higher numbers worldwide."

"We first thought it would peak around now," he said, when asked about when the outbreak would peak. "But we should now expect a peak at least two weeks from now."

10:31 German Health Minister Jens Spahn warned that the outbreak could lead to a shortage of medicine in Europe, where many of the chemicals used in pharmaceutical products are produced.

10:20 Organizers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have once again said they have no intention of cancelling or postponing the Olympic games.

"I would like to make it clear again that we are not considering a cancellation or postponement of the games. Let me make that clear," organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori said to top IOC officials gathered in Tokyo on Thursday.

The games are set to open in July, with the Olympic torch relay to begin in Tokyo next month.

10:15 The chief of the Communisty Party in Hubei province, where the outbreak started, has been stripped of his post. Jian Chaoliang is seemingly the highest-ranking official to have been ousted over the local government's reaction to the outbreak. He will be replaced by the former mayor of Shanghai, who is a protegé of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

10:03 German Health Minister Jens Spahn has said that it "doesn't make sense" for Germany to impose coronavirus-related travel restrictions. Speaking at an extraordinary meeting of EU health ministers in Brussels on Thursday, Spahn said that because of the EU's open-border policies, a national decision wouldn't be effective.

It is important that the bloc make such decisions together, he said.

10:01 The only direct flight between Berlin and Peking has been suspended until the end of March due to coronavirus.

9:51 The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that, at this point, it is too early to make predictions about how the outbreak will develop.

"I think it's way too early to try to predict the beginning, the middle or the end of this epidemic right now," said Michael Ryan, head of WHO's health emergencies program, on Wednesday.

9:47 In Europe this morning, EU health ministers have gathered in Brussels for an emergency meeting to discuss how to prevent the virus — known officially as COVID-19 — from spreading across Europe.

An EU official who asked to remain anonymous said the meeting is to discuss health questions. Issues such as travel bans or restrictions will likely be avoided, as such measures are up to each individual country to decide.

9:46 Here's a review of the latest numbers: a record 14,800 new cases of coronavirus were reported within 24 hours in China's Hubei province on Thursday. The death toll from the virus in Hubei province also jumped by a record 242 fatalities, more than doubling the previous record number of 103 deaths set on Monday, partly due to changes in how the deaths are tallied.

Health officials announced Thursday they had begun including people diagnosed using new clinical methods in official statistics.

9:45 Welcome to our live blog on world events connected with the coronavirus outbreak.

kp/rc (AP,AFP,dpa,Reuters)

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