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Coronavirus live updates: Quarantined cruise ship passengers reportedly refuse tests

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mrtom-uk/iStock(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of novel coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people worldwide, mostly in Italy and China.

The new respiratory virus, known officially as COVID-19, has reached every continent except Antarctica as well as every European country since emerging in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December. There are nearly 245,000 diagnosed cases globally, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. While China still compromises the bulk of the world’s cases, Italy now has the highest death toll.

There are 14,250 diagnosed cases in the United States, spanning all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. At least 200 people have died in the U.S., according to ABC News’ count.

Here’s how the news is unfolding Friday. All times Eastern:

6:21 a.m. Cases rise in Africa

South Africa’s health minister announced Friday that the country had recorded 52 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing the national total to 202.

Africa’s most industrialized economy has the highest number of confirmed cases of the virus in sub-Saharan Africa. Egypt has the highest total on the larger African continent, with 256 diagnosed cases.

The region has seen a significant increase in COVID-19 infections recently, although there are still fewer diagnosed cases there than in other parts of the world.

More than 800 cases have been diagnosed in at least 34 nations on the African continent as of Friday morning, compared with 147 cases just a week ago. At least 12 of those countries are now experiencing local transmission of the virus.

“The rapid evolution of COVID-19 in Africa is deeply worrisome and a clear signal for action,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa, said in a statement Thursday. “But we can still change the course of this pandemic. Governments must draw on all of their resources and capabilities and strengthen their response.”

5:30 a.m. Hong Kong reports spike in new cases

Hong Kong recorded 48 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday, according to the government’s website.

It’s the largest daily tally since COVID-19 testing began in the semi-autonomous Chinese city, according to local media.

The news comes after the Chinese mainland reported no new domestic transmissions of the virus for two straight days — a major milestone in the country’s fight against the epidemic.

4:18 a.m. Quarantined cruise ship passengers reportedly refuse tests

A majority of passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship who are quarantined at a U.S. Air Force base in California are refusing to be tested for the novel coronavirus, according to a report from San Francisco ABC station KGO-TV.

The cruise ship was granted permission to dock in California’s port of Oakland on March 9, after 21 people on board tested positive for COVID-19. All those infected were first transported to local hospitals, then all remaining passengers gradually disembarked over several days. Foreigners were repatriated on charter flights, while U.S. citizens were taken to designated sites for a 14-day quarantine. Crew members who weren’t sick stayed on board to complete their 14-day quarantine.

That quarantine period ends next week and passengers are eager to go home, which is apparently why many of them are refusing to be tested.

Only 300 passengers quarantined at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California, have agreed to be tested, while the remaining 545 have declined, according to KGO. They were reportedly told that they are not required to be tested.

“We didn’t know for sure when we would get the results,” Carmen Kilcullen, 86, of Northern California, told KGO by telephone Thursday. “In case results came in later, we’d have to stay.”

3:00 a.m. China exonerates whistleblower doctor who warned of virus

In a highly unusual move, Chinese authorities have exonerated a doctor who was officially reprimanded for warning his colleagues about the novel coronavirus and later died from the disease.

The city of Wuhan’s public security bureau said in a statement late Thursday that it would revoke the reprimand issued to Dr. Li Wenliang, accusing him of spreading rumors, according to Chinese state television. Wuhan’s police department also made an official apology to Li’s family, citing “inappropriate handling on the matter,” state TV reported.

Li, a 34-year-old ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital, was detained by police in early January after trying to warn fellow doctors and medical students about the virus in a social media group. Li became infected and died from COVID-19 on Feb. 7.

Li’s death sparked outrage in China where citizens took to social media to vent their frustrations over the government’s handling of the epidemic and portraying the doctor as a martyr of the crisis.

An investigation team from the state supervision authority determined that police had “issued improper instructions” and followed “improper law enforcement procedure,” according to a report released Thursday evening by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the ruling Communist Party’s top disciplinary body.

Li’s family has also received compensation in the wake of his death, according to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection’s report.

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