Sun 09 February 2020:
(AFP) The death toll from the novel coronavirus surged past 800 in mainland China on Sunday, overtaking global fatalities in the 2002-03 SARS epidemic, even as the World Health Organization said the outbreak appeared to be “stabilising”.
With 89 more people dying — most in Hubei, the province at the centre of the outbreak — the toll is now higher than the 774 killed worldwide by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), according to figures from national health authorities.
The latest data came after the WHO said the last four days had seen “some stabilising” in Hubei but warned the figures can still “shoot up”.
Almost 37,200 people in China have now been infected by the new coronavirus, believed to have emerged late last year in Hubei’s capital Wuhan, where residents are struggling to get daily supplies because of sweeping transport restrictions and instructions to stay inside.
The epidemic has prompted the government to lock down whole cities as anger mounts over its handling of the crisis, especially after a whistleblowing doctor fell victim to the virus.
With much of the country still not back at work after an extended Lunar New Year holiday, cities including financial hub Shanghai have ordered residents to wear masks in public.
Many regions far from Hubei are allowing only one person per household to go out every two days to buy supplies.
Michael Ryan, head of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said the “stable period” of the outbreak “may reflect the impact of the control measures that have been put in place”.
While the death toll has climbed steadily, new cases per day have declined since Wednesday’s single-day peak of nearly 3,900 new cases nationwide.
On Sunday, the number of new cases was just over 2,600 people.
– Global fears –
The first foreign victim in China was confirmed this week when a 60-year-old American diagnosed with the virus died on Thursday in Wuhan.
The only fatalities outside the mainland have been a Chinese man in the Philippines and a 39-year-old man in Hong Kong.
Governments have hardened their defences, with several countries banning arrivals from China while major airlines have suspended flights.
Sixty-four people on board the Diamond Princess off Japan’s coast have tested positive and the ship’s passengers have been asked to stay inside their cabins to prevent new infections.
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