China’s virus deaths surpass Sars toll, but number of new cases fall

Updated Feb 10 2020

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SEOUL: Spectators wear face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus as they watch a skating gala on Sunday. South Korea has confirmed 27 cases of the virus so far.—AFP
SEOUL: Spectators wear face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus as they watch a skating gala on Sunday. South Korea has confirmed 27 cases of the virus so far.—AFP

BEIJING: China’s virus death toll rose by 89 on Sunday to 811, passing the number of fatalities in the 2002-2003 Sars epidemic, but fewer new cases were reported in a possible sign its spread may be slowing as other nations stepped up efforts to block the disease.

Some 2,656 new virus cases were reported in the 24 hours ending at midnight Saturday, most of them in the province of Hubei, where the first patients fell sick in December. That was down by about 20pc from the 3,399 new cases reported in the previous 24-hour period.

“That means the joint control mechanism of different regions and the strict prevention and control measures have worked,” a spokesman for the National Health Commission, Mi Feng, said at a news conference.

Also on Sunday, new cases were reported in Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, the UK and Spain. More than 360 cases have been confirmed outside China.

“Dramatic reductions in the pace of the disease’s spread should begin this month if containment works,” said Dr Ian Lipkin, director of Columbia University’s Centre for Infection and Immunity.

“Warmer weather will reduce the virus’s ability to spread and bring people out of enclosed spaces where it is transmitted more easily,” Lipkin said in an online news conference. However, he said, “if new cases spike as people return to work after the Lunar New Year holiday, which was extended to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, then well know we’re in trouble.”

The new UK case was the nation’s fourth, while Spain reported its second, as European authorities sought to contain the spread of the virus by tracking down people who came into contact with those infected. Both of the new cases were acquired during trips to France, officials said.

The fatality toll passed the 774 people believed to have died of Sars, another viral outbreak that originated in China. The total of 37,198 confirmed cases of the new virus vastly exceeds the 8,098 sickened by Sars.

New cases

Japan reported six more cases among 3,700 passengers and crew aboard the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess, bringing the number of infections on the vessel to 70. The new cases are an American passenger in her 70s and five crew members four Filipinos and a Ukrainian.

South Korea reported a new case in a 73-year-old woman whose relatives visited Guangdong province in China, raising its total to 27. The family members, a 51-year-old South Korean man and a 37-year-old Chinese woman, were confirmed infected later on Sunday.

Vietnam reported its 14th case. The Health Ministry said she is a 55-year-old woman in Vinh Phuc province, northwest of Hanoi, where six earlier patients were found to be infected.

Malaysia reported its 17th case. The 65-year-old woman’s son-in-law was diagnosed earlier with the virus.

Spain confirmed its second case in Mallorca, a popular vacation island in the Mediterranean. The first case was a German tourist diagnosed a week ago in the Canary Islands off northwest Africa.

Quarantined ship released

The 1,800 passengers and 1,800 crew members of the cruise ship Dream World were released from quarantine after Hong Kong authorities said tests of the crew found no infections.

The ship was isolated after eight Chinese passengers were diagnosed with the disease last month.

Port official Leung Yiu-hon said some passengers with symptoms tested negative but there was no need to test all of them because they had no contact with the infected Chinese passengers.

Doctor’s mother wants explanation

The mother of a physician who died last week in Wuhan said in a video released on Sunday she wants an explanation from authorities who reprimanded him for warning about the virus in December.

The death of Li Wenliang, 34, prompted an outpouring of public anger at Wuhan officials. Some postings left on his microblog account said officials should face consequences for mistreating Li.

“My child was summoned by the Wuhan Police Bureau at midnight. He was asked to sign an admonishment notice,” Lu Shuyun said in the video distributed by Pear Video, an online broadcast platform. “We won’t give up if they don’t give us an explanation.”

Wuhan opens new hospital

A 1,500-bed hospital built in two weeks in Wuhan, the city of 11 million people at the centre of the outbreak, accepted its first patients on Saturday, the government announced. Another 1,000-bed hospital built in 10 days opened last week.

The government of the surrounding province of Hubei it will pay subsidies to farmers, other food producers and supermarkets and give tax breaks to companies that donate to anti-virus work, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It said overtime for employees of companies making medical supplies will be subsidised.

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2020