Deaths from virus in China overtake SARS toll

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Workers make protective clothing at a factory in Wuxi, east China’s Jiangsu Province. – The factory, which previously produced suits and sportswear, has switched to producing protective clothing as demand increases due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. – AFP

CHINA: The death toll from the novel coronavirus topped 800 in mainland China on Sunday, surpassing the worldwide death toll in the 2002-03 SARS outbreak, even as the World Health Organization said that the epidemic seemed to be “stabilizing”.

With 89 more deaths – most in Hubei, the province at the center of the epidemic – the toll is now higher than the 774 deaths worldwide from severe acute respiratory syndrome nearly two decades ago, authorities show national health.

The latest data came after the WHO said the past four days had seen “some stabilization” in Hubei, but warned it was “very early to make predictions” and the numbers may “rise further. “.

Nearly 37,200 people in China have now been infected with the new coronavirus, which is believed to have emerged late last year in a market that sold wild animals in Hubei’s capital Wuhan before spreading across the country. countries and other countries.

The outbreak has prompted the government to lock down entire cities as anger mounts over its handling of the crisis, particularly after a whistleblower doctor fell victim to the virus.

With much of the country still not returning to work after an extended Lunar New Year vacation, cities like Shanghai have ordered residents to wear masks in public, and many areas far from Hubei only allow one. person per household to go out every other day to buy supplies.

Michael Ryan, head of the WHO’s health emergency program, said the “stable period” of the epidemic “may reflect the impact of the control measures that have been put in place.” The first foreign victim in China was confirmed this week when a 60-year-old American diagnosed with the virus died in Wuhan on Thursday, according to the US embassy.

A Japanese man in his 60s with a suspected coronavirus infection has also died in a city hospital.

The only deaths outside the mainland were a Chinese in the Philippines and a 39-year-old man in Hong Kong.

The new virus belongs to the same coronavirus family as SARS although the death rate is lower.

According to official figures, around 2,650 people were cured and released across the country, including 600 more on Saturday.

China has drawn international condemnation for covering up cases in the SARS outbreak as the measures it has taken this time around have been hailed by the WHO. But anger at Beijing’s approach erupted on social media this week after the death of a Wuhan doctor who was silenced by police when he sounded the alarm over the threat of an emerging virus like SARS in December.

Li Wenliang was working as an ophthalmologist in Wuhan when he observed patients with symptoms similar to those of the deadly SARS pathogen.

The doctor, 34, died on Friday morning, Wuhan Central Hospital said in an article posted on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo, after contracting the virus while treating a patient. The government responded by sending its anti-transplant organization to launch an investigation.

In Hong Kong, the semi-autonomous financial center of southern China, where 299 people were killed by SARS, authorities on Saturday imposed a quarantine on people from the mainland.

The city, with 26 confirmed cases, has been hit by a wave of panic buying. – AFP

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