Chinese cultural authorities have opened more online exhibitions for people trapped at home due to the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak.
The exhibitions cover cultural relics ranging from ancient to modern times. "Auspicious Rats Offering Propitious Treasures" showcases the charm of Chinese zodiac signs, "Embracing the Orient and the Occident" takes the audience on a journey from the Silk Road to the Renaissance period and "The Journey Back Home" shows Chinese artifacts retrieved from Italy.
The online exhibitions, arranged by the National Cultural Heritage Administration, can be accessed via the website http://virtual.vizen.cn/.
Chinese health authorities announced Wednesday that 5,974 confirmed cases of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus had been reported in 31 provincial-level regions by the end of Tuesday. A total of 132 people have died of the disease.
Museums are temporarily closed and the public is urged to avoid crowds and stay at home as the battle against the outbreak intensifies.
The first group of Japanese evacuees from a virus-hit Chinese city arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday, wearing masks but showing a sense of relief.
Four of the 206 evacuees had cough and fever and were taken to a designated Tokyo hospital specializing in treating infectious diseases, Tokyo's city government said, adding that they were still checking if any passengers were ill with the virus.
Japan's government sent a chartered flight to pick up the evacuees, most of whom resided close to the Wuhan seafood market linked to the first cases of the new virus that has infected thousands.
"We were feeling increasingly uneasy as the situation developed so rapidly when we were still in the city," Takeo Aoyama, an employee at Nippon Steel Corp.'s subsidiary in Wuhan, told reporters at Tokyo's Haneda airport while he waited for a bus to take him to a hospital for another health check.
"My uneasiness peaked when the number of patients started to spike," he said, wearing a mask that muffled his voice. "I fell asleep as soon as I sat down on my seat (on the plane)," he said. Other evacuees seated near him also seemed relieved but tired.
Japan has seven cases including what could be the first human-to-human infection in the country, a man in his 60s who worked as a tour bus driver and served two groups of Chinese tourists from Wuhan from Jan. 8-16.
He developed cough, joint ache and chills on Jan. 14, the Health Ministry said. Three days after developing initial symptoms, he visited a hospital but was tested negative for the new coronavirus and was not hospitalized until he returned Saturday with signs of pneumonia.
Officials said about 650 Japanese citizens and their families in Wuhan and elsewhere in Hebei province had sought to return home. Aoyama said there are more than 400 others still in Wuhan, including those working for a Japanese supermarket chain that has stayed open to serve customers who need food and other necessities and supplies.
He said it was important to step up preventive measures in Japan, but "I hope we can also provide support for the Chinese people, while we also help Japanese people who are still there."
Japan's government is preparing to send another chartered flight to evacuate the others later Wednesday, according to Kyodo News service.
Another evacuee, Takayuki Kato, said that all those wishing to leave Wuhan had submitted their health inquiry form and had their temperature taken before departure. While on board, a doctor came to each passenger to take temperature again and check their condition, he said.
Kato said he did not panic as he was able to monitor news online and via local media, but "I was shocked when all transportation systems were suspended. That's when the situation drastically changed."
Aoyama and Kato, along with the rest of the evacuees who were not showing immediate signs of infection, were expected to be taken to the National Center for Global Health and Medicine for further checks and a virus test.
Health officials said that evacuees will be sent home on chartered buses to keep them from using public transportation and stay home for about two weeks until their virus test results are out, though it's not legally binding. Others who need to travel long distance home are asked to stay at designated hotels.
Emboldened by a supportive White House, Israel appears to be barreling toward a showdown with the international community over its half-century-old settlement enterprise in the West Bank.
With the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court poised to launch a war crimes probe of Israel's settlement policies, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday announced plans to move ahead with the potentially explosive annexation of large parts of the occupied West Bank, including dozens of Jewish settlements. He spoke in Washington, D.C., as President Donald Trump unveiled a Mideast peace plan that matches Netanyahu 's nationalistic stance and undercuts Palestinian ambitions.
This confluence of forces could make 2020 the year that finally provides clarity on the status of Israeli settlements and the viability of a two-state solution.
"History is knocking at the door," Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, a patron of the settler movement, said as he urged Netanyahu to immediately annex all of Israel's settlements and snuff out any hopes for Palestinian independence.
"Now the campaign is moving from the White House to the Cabinet room in Jerusalem," he said. "Take everything now."
The Palestinians want the West Bank as the core of a future independent state and see the settlements there — home to nearly 500,000 Israelis — as obstacles to their dream of independence. The international community backs this view and overwhelmingly considers the settlements to be illegal.
Since capturing the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war, Israel has slowly and steadily expanded its settlements while stopping short of annexing the territory. The international community condemned the construction as illegal but has refrained from imposing sanctions or serious punishment.
This status quo began to change after Trump took office in early 2017. Surrounded by a team of advisers with close ties to the settlement movement, Trump took a more sympathetic line toward Israel and halted the automatic criticism of settlements of his predecessors. This resulted in a surge of Israeli construction plans that are just getting underway.
"Over the next year and certainly two years, we're going to see a sharp increase" in the settler population, said Baruch Gordon, director of West Bank Jewish Population Stats, a settler group. In its annual report, the group said the West Bank settler population grew last year to 463,353 people, in addition to some 300,000 settlers living in Israel-annexed east Jerusalem.
"We're here and we're not going anywhere," he said.
The major turning point for Israel was in November, when the U.S. declared that it did not consider settlements to be illegal. That landmark decision appears to have played a key role in Netanyahu's announcement that he plans to annex the Jordan Valley, a strategic area of the West Bank, and Israel's more than 100 settlements.
Ironically, this warm U.S. embrace could prove to be Netanyahu's undoing. Moving ahead with annexations is likely to trigger harsh international condemnations and possible legal action.
Last month, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, declared there is a "reasonable basis" to believe that settlement construction constitutes a war crime. Pending final approval from the court, she intends to open a formal investigation, a process that could cause deep embarrassment and discomfort for Israeli leaders.
Yuval Shany, an expert on international law at the Israel Democracy Institute, said annexation would "significantly" raise the risk of triggering prosecution at the ICC. Settlements are widely viewed as illegal based on the Geneva Convention principle that an occupying power is barred from transferring its population into war-won territories.
"That could be a relatively low hanging fruit for the prosecutor to identify a specific act that is either part of the transfer or significantly aids and abets that transfer," he said.
While Israel does not accept the court's authority, Netanyahu appears to be taking the threat of prosecution seriously. He has launched harsh attacks against Bensouda and the court, saying the case against Israel is "pure anti-Semitism." He also has tried, with limited success, to rally international opposition to the ICC.
The Palestinians joined the ICC in 2015 after they were accepted as a nonmember state at the United Nations. They then asked the court to look into alleged Israeli crimes in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, retroactive to 2014.
The date coincided with Israel's devastating war in the Gaza Strip. In her announcement last month, Bensouda said her probe would look at Israeli military practices as well as the actions of Hamas militants during the 2014 war, in addition to settlement activity.
Shany said Israel is much more vulnerable on the settlement issue than it is with regard to Gaza. Israel's military has mechanisms to investigate alleged wrongdoing by its troops, and despite criticism that this system is insufficient, it has a good chance of fending off the ICC. When it comes to settlements, however, Israel will have a difficult time defending its actions.
While the court would have a hard time prosecuting Israelis, it could issue arrest warrants that would make it difficult for Israeli officials to travel abroad. A case in the ICC would also be deeply embarrassing to the government, Shany said.
"The big white whale is the settlements," he said. "That would be a major PR disaster for the country."
An airplane evacuating as many as 240 Americans from a Chinese city at the center of a virus outbreak departed Wednesday before dawn, and is en route to the U.S., a U.S. State Department official has told The Associated Press
The U.S. government chartered the plane to fly out diplomats from the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, where the latest coronavirus outbreak started, and other U.S. citizens. The plane will make a refueling stop in Alaska before flying on to Southern California, the U.S. Embassy in China has said.
Tuesday night, it was announced that the plane would land at March Air Reserve Base in California's Riverside County instead of at Ontario International Airport in neighboring San Bernardino County.
Curt Hagman, an Ontario airport commissioner, said the Centers for Disease Control announced the diversion.
"We were prepared but the State Department decided to switch the flight" to the airbase, Hagman said.
Wuhan is the epicenter of a new virus that has sickened thousands and killed more than 100 and the official said Tuesday that the plane left the city before dawn Wednesday, China time. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.
When the plane arrives in Anchorage, Alaska, passengers will clear customs and go through the Centers for Disease Control screening.
"Then they will put them back on the plane and then send them on to their final destination," said Jim Szczesniak, manager of the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. He didn't know how long it would take beyond "hours."
The passengers are being isolated in the airport's international terminal, which lies mostly dormant in the winter months.
Szczesniak stressed the terminal is not connected to the larger and heavily used domestic flights terminal, and each has separate ventilation systems.
The lobby in the international terminal was nearly empty Tuesday afternoon, and an airport employee was seen jogging through though the facility that has closed counters for companies like Korean Air, China Airlines and Asiana Airlines. There are two businesses operating at either end of the ticket coutners, a 4x4 rental agency and a satellite office of the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles.
Because the terminal is only active in the summer, it allows the airport to practice situations such as this one.
"In the winter time, we have the ability and the luxury of not having any passenger traffic over there, so it's a perfect area for us to handle this kind of flight," he said.
Officials at the Ontario airport 35 miles (56 kilometers) east of Los Angeles had been readying facilities to receive and screen the repatriates and temporarily house them for up to two weeks — if the CDC determined that is necessary, said David Wert, spokesman for the county of San Bernardino.
Ontario International Airport was designated about a decade ago by the U.S. government to receive repatriated Americans in case of an emergency overseas but it would have been the first time the facility was used for the purpose, Wert said.
Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, and in more severe cases shortness of breath or pneumonia.
China has cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities in Hubei province to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further. In addition to the United States, countries including Japan and South Korea have also planned evacuations.
The United Arab Emirates on Wednesday confirmed the first cases in the Mideast of the new Chinese virus that causes flu-like symptoms, saying doctors now were treating a family that had just come from a city at the epicenter of the outbreak.
The UAE's state-run WAM news agency made the announcement citing the Health and Prevention Ministry , but offered no details on where the stricken family lived nor where they were receiving treatment.
It also did not offer a number of those afflicted by the virus, other than to say the cases came from "members of a family arriving from the Chinese city of Wuhan."
The UAE is home to long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad Airways and is a hub for global air travel.
Officials are taking "all the necessary precautions in accordance with the scientific recommendations, conditions and standards approved by the World Health Organization," the ministry said. "The general health condition is not a cause for concern."
The new type of coronavirus first appeared in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December. Its symptoms, including cough and fever and in severe cases pneumonia, are similar to many other illnesses.
The new virus causes flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough and in severe cases pneumonia. It's from the coronavirus family, which includes those that can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as SARS and MERS.
The viral outbreak that began in China has infected more than 6,000 people in the mainland and more than a dozen other countries. China's death toll has passed 100.