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China sees drop in new virus cases, two Japan cruise passengers die

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China reported a big drop in new coronavirus cases on Thursday, fuelling hopes the epidemic is nearing its peak, but Japan faced a growing crisis as two passengers from a quarantined cruise ship died.

The death toll rose in China hit 2,118 as 114 more people died, but health officials reported the lowest number of new cases there in nearly a month, including in the hardest-hit province, Hubei.

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More than 74,000 people have been infected in China and hundreds more in some 25 countries, with Iran reporting two deaths, the first fatalities in the Middle East.

n Japan, a man and a woman in their 80s who had been aboard the Diamond Princess have died, local media reported, citing a government source.

A World Health Organization official noted the progress in China but warned it had not reached a turning point just yet.

Chinese officials said this week that their drastic containment efforts, including quarantining tens of millions of people in Hubei and restricting movements in other cities nationwide, have started to pay off.

“After arduous efforts, the situation is changing for the better,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a meeting with Southeast Asian counterparts in Laos late Wednesday, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

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Hubei and its capital Wuhan — where the virus is believed to have emerged in December — are still “severely affected” by the epidemic, Wang said.

“But the situation is under effective control, while other regions are embracing comforting news,” he said.

– ‘Not turning point’ –

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More than 600 new infections were reported in Wuhan — the lowest daily tally since late January, and well down from the 1,749 new cases the day before.

The national figure has now fallen for three days in a row.

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Chinese authorities placed Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, under quarantine on January 23 and quickly locked down the rest of Hubei in the days that followed.

Cities far from the epicentre have limited the number of people who can leave their houses for groceries, while villages have sealed themselves off from outsiders.

Richard Brennan, regional emergency director at the World Health Organization, said China was making “tremendous progress in a short period of time” but cautioned that it was not over just yet.

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“Trends are very encouraging but we are not at a turning point yet,” Brennan told a press conference in Cairo.

– ‘Chaotic’ cruise quarantine –

While China touts progress in its fight against the COVID-19 epidemic, Japan’s government faces criticism over quarantine measures on the Diamond Prince cruise ship.

The huge vessel moored in Yokohama is easily the biggest coronavirus cluster outside the Chinese epicentre, with 621 positive cases confirmed among the passengers and crew — one sixth of the total.

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On Wednesday, 443 passengers disembarked from the ship after testing negative for the COVID-19 virus and not showing symptoms during a 14-day quarantine period. The complete removal of the passengers was expected to last at least three days.

More passengers left the ship on Thursday, packing into yellow buses and leaving for stations and airports.

But questions are increasingly being asked as to the wisdom of allowing former Diamond Princess passengers to roam freely around Japan’s crowded cities, even if they have tested negative.

The death of the two elderly passengers is likely to add to the criticism.

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A specialist in infectious diseases at Kobe University slammed “completely chaotic” quarantine procedures onboard, in rare criticism from a Japanese official.

“The cruise ship was completely inadequate in terms of infection control,” said Kentaro Iwata in videos he has since deleted.

Japan’s health ministry insisted it had conducted “consultations on appropriate infection control in the ship” with experts and taken a range of measures.

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BUSTED: Cops fired for framing Stormy Daniels reportedly arrested on federal corruption charges

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On Tuesday, the Scioto Valley Guardian reported that two former Columbus police officers for the vice unit have been arrested on a number of federal charges.

Ex-Officers Steven Rosser and Whitney Lancaster are the same officers who allegedly conspired to frame porn star Stormy Daniels, who became a national name after suing to get out of a nondisclosure agreement negotiated by President Donald Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen to bury the story of Trump's sexual affair with her.

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Authorities searching for spring breakers who flew from Cabo on private plane with 28 COVID-19 victims

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Texas authorities are on the lookout for a group of spring breakers who returned from Cabo San Lucas testing positive for the coronavirus.

According to Alyssa Goard at KXAN News, public health officials announced Tuesday that about a week and a half ago, about 70 students in their 20's flew back to the United States on a chartered plane while others used commercial flights. There are 28 youth from the trip who have tested positive for COVID-19.

"Austin Public Health and UT Health Austin and University Health Services have made contact with every spring breaker onboard the plane using flight manifest from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The 28 confirmed cases are self-isolating at this time. Others are under quarantine while being monitored and tested. The Department of State Health Services has been notified.

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Trump’s schedule is empty because he’s spending his days chatting with titans of industry, world leaders, and celebrities

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President Donald Trump isn't jetting off aboard Air Force One every few days to preside over MAGA and KAG campaign rallies anymore, now that his pandemic is keeping much of the nation – including the president – at home. World leaders have stopped calling – at least in person – so his televised Oval Office diatribes have come to an end, at least temporarily.

Trump's calendar has been looking pretty empty these days (not a dramatic change from pre-pandemic days.)

Here's Trump's public schedule for tomorrow. (Public schedules don't include all of a president's activities.) pic.twitter.com/dst1Nybqbg

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