Fears for Australians trapped on contaminated prison ship_1


Australians trapped on a 'contaminated prison' ship off Japan fear for their lives as the infection rate tripled, making it the most coronavirus cases outside China.

Seven Australians are among 61 on board confirmed with the potentially deadly illness and forced into lockdown for potentially two more weeks.

At least three cruise ships in Asia have had their travel plans disrupted over outbreak fears, with the Westerdam in the East China Sea unable to find a port to accept it, leaving thousands of people thousands of people trapped in limbo at sea.

An Australian woman on board the Diamond Princess off Japan, who asked not to be named, told the ABC she had been infected but she feared more that her husband aged in his 70s might contract it.

"He is very anxious and very upset and he will need assistance. He can't come with me as there isn't room, and obviously it would be dangerous," she said.

"He was tested negative but … he's asked to be retested because obviously he's been in close contact with me. My concern is if he has the virus it will go to his chest … he is quite old."

"I feel fine. A bit stressed as you could imagine and quite anxious. Pretty much the same as you would if you were fighting a low-grade infection, I guess.

"But nothing major. No temperatures, no headaches. Nothing, really."

The next group of coronavirus evacuees expected from Wuhan will be quarantined at an old mining camp near Darwin.

Passengers on the second flight to extract Australians from China will be sent to the Manigurr-ma Village at Howard Springs, 30km from Darwin, with Christmas Island unable to house another couple of hundred evacuees.

A government media release on Friday said they would be screened before boarding the plane in China and continuously monitored by medical staff during the flight.

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age reported the flight, originally scheduled to leave on Friday night, was delayed after it did not receive official clearance to land in Wuhan.

Anyone found to be unwell on arrival at Darwin will be taken directly to hospital where they will be quarantined, according to the joint statement from Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, Health Minister Greg Hunt and Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy.

Australia has so far had 15 confirmed coronavirus cases: five in Queensland, four each in NSW and Victoria and two in South Australia.

Doctor's death sparks anger and grief

China's online platforms erupted in what has been described as unprecedented anger and grief over the death of Li Wenliang, the whistleblower doctor who first sounded the alarm over coronavirus.

Dr Wenliang was diagnosed just a week ago and his passing on Friday was reported, denied and finally confirmed, sparking outrage over the double death.

The hashtags "Wuhan government owes Dr Li Wenliang an apology" and "We want freedom of speech" were reportedly trending on Chinese social media, with around 1.5 billion views but were quickly censored.

Social media users have decried the way Dr Wenliang was detained and harassed by authorities when he originally tried to warn colleagues of the mystery illness.

Some experts claim China's secrecy could be masking the true figures, with fears the true infection level could be ten times higher.
Coronavirus delicacy

Chinese researchers believe they have pinpointed the source of the virus transmitting to humans as the illegal delicacy the pangolin.

Scientists claim the outbreak could have spread from bats to the world's only scaly mammal which is prized in Asia for food and medicine.

Pangolins are among Asia's most trafficked mammals, although protected by international law, because its meat is considered a delicacy in countries such as China and its scales are used in traditional medicine, the World Wildlife Fund says.

"This latest discovery will be of great significance for the prevention and control of the origin (of the virus)," South China Agricultural University, which led the research, said in a statement on its website.

The genome sequence of the novel coronavirus strain separated from pangolins in the study was 99 per cent identical to that from infected people, China's official Xinhua news agency reported, adding the research found pangolins to be "the most likely intermediate host".

But Dirk Pfeiffer, professor of veterinary medicine at Hong Kong's City University, cautioned the study was still a long way from proving pangolins had transmitted the virus.

"You can only draw more definitive conclusions if you compare prevalence (of the coronavirus) between different species based on representative samples, which these almost certainly are not," he said.

Even then, a link to humans via food markets, such as the Wuhan market fingered as ground zero, still needed to be established, Pfeiffer said.

-with AAP