By K J M Varma :
According to China’s National Health Commission, 91 deaths were reported in Hubei province, the epicentre of the epidemic, two in Anhui, and one each in Heilongjiang, Jiangxi, Hainan and Gansu
THE death toll in China’s coronavirus outbreak has gone up to 908 with 97 new fatalities reported mostly in the worst-affected Hubei province and the confirmed cases of infection crossing 40,000, Chinese health officials said on Monday, as a team of international experts led by the WHO is set to arrive in Beijing to help contain the epidemic. According to China’s National Health Commission, 91 deaths were reported in Hubei province, the epicentre of the epidemic, two in Anhui, and one each in Heilongjiang, Jiangxi, Hainan and Gansu. There were 97 deaths and 3,062 new confirmed cases of the lethal infection on Sunday, it said. A total of 908 people have died of the disease and 40,171 confirmed cases of the outbreak have been reported in 31 provincial-level regions so far, it said.
Another 4,008 new suspected cases were reported on Sunday. A total of 296 patients became seriously ill, the commission said, adding that 6,484 patients remained in severe condition and 23,589 people were suspected of being infected with the virus. A total of 3,281 people have been discharged from hospital after recovery, it said. The commission said 3.99 lakh close contacts had been traced, adding that among them, 29,307 were discharged from medical observation on Sunday, with 1.87 lakh still under medical observation. By the end of Sunday, 36 confirmed cases, including one death, had been reported in Hong Kong, 10 confirmed cases in Macao and 18 in Taiwan. Overseas, over 300 cases of coronavirus have been reported, including from three from Kerala.
A team of international experts led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) would arrive in China to assist the Chinese health officials to contain the spread of coronavirus outbreak. “I’ve just been at the airport seeing off members of an advance team for the @WHO-led 2019nCoV international expert mission to China, led by Dr Bruce Aylward, veteran of past public health emergencies,” WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a tweet.
After the outbreak, Ghebreyesus visited Beijing last month and held consultations with Chinese health experts and leaders. Earlier, he said China had agreed to allow the WHO experts team comprising different countries. Their arrival was expected to boost efforts to contain the virus which is causing havoc in China and many parts of the world, even though the Chinese officials claim the confirmed cases have begun to drop in the last few days. The WHO said the number of cases of the coronavirus in China was “stabilising”, which is “good news”. It, however, cautioned that it was too early to make any predictions about whether the virus might have peaked.
“There has been a stabilisation in the number of cases reported from Hubei,” Michael Ryan, head of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme said at a briefing in Geneva. “We’re in a four-day stable period where the number of reported cases hasn’t advanced. That’s good news and may reflect the impact of the control measures that have been put in place,” Ryan was quoted as saying. He added that it was “very early to make any predictions”. Meanwhile, millions of people have started returning to Beijing and other cities in China after the extended holiday of China’s New Year.
The holidays, which began on January 24 and were due to end on February 3, has been extended till February 9 as part of its efforts to contain the spread of the virus. However, the employees of most of the offices have been asked to work from home. As the biggest reverse migration began, Chinese officials said on Saturday that the cases of the deadly infection had started declining for the first time after weeks of sharp rise. China’s new confirmed cases of novel coronavirus outside Hubei has been dropping for six consecutive days, according to the commission.
China inflation rises as coronavirus disrupts supply chains
CHINA consumer prices rose at their highest rate in more than eight years, official data showed Monday, with inflation more than expected on the back of Lunar New Year demand and a deadly virus outbreak. Beijing had already been battling a slowing domestic economy before the new coronavirus emerged, disrupting businesses, travel and supply chains. The consumer price index (CPI), a key gauge of retail inflation, came in at 5.4 percent last month on-year, up from 4.5 percent in December -- with prices of pork and fresh vegetables pushing up costs. Food prices spiked 20.6 percent. The overall monthly figure exceeded the 4.9 percent forecast by analysts in a Bloomberg survey and is the highest since October 2011. “The year-on-year increase has been affected not only by Spring Festival-related factors but... By the new coronavirus as well,” said the National Bureau of Statistics on Monday.
Analysts expect China’s struggle to contain the spread of the virus over the Lunar New Year holiday, which started in late January, to keep prices higher than usual. “Some food supplies may spoil before shipping to large cities due to the disruption of transportation and other lockdown measures, especially for fruits, vegetables and livestock,” said Lu Ting of Nomura in a research note. “People also tend to hoard food and other supplies in this kind of situation. The hoarding will most likely push up prices.”
About 60 more coronavirus cases on Japan cruise ship
AROUND 60 more people aboard the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship moored off Japan have been diagnosed with novel coronavirus, national broadcaster NHK said Monday, bringing the total number of infected to about 130. Other local media also reported the new cases, but health ministry officials declined to comment. The Diamond Princess has been in quarantine since arriving off the Japanese coast early last week after the virus was detected in a former passenger who got off the ship last month in Hong Kong. When the boat arrived off Japan, authorities initially tested nearly 300 people for the virus of the 3,711 on board, gradually evacuating dozens who were infected to local medical facilities. In recent days, testing has expanded to those with new symptoms or who had close contact with other infected passengers or crew, and several more cases were reported over the weekend.
Those who remain on the ship have been asked to stay inside their cabins and allowed only briefly onto open decks. They have been asked to wear masks and keep a distance from each other when outside, and given thermometers to regularly monitor their temperatures. The ship is expected to stay in quarantine until February 19 -- 14 days after the isolation period began. The quarantine has made life on board the ship difficult, particularly for those in windowless interior cabins and a significant number of passengers who require medication for various chronic conditions.
The health ministry said Monday that around 600 people on board urgently needed medication, and around half received supplies over the weekend. Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters that discussions were ongoing about how to increase testing capacity and also whether testing would take place after passengers are released from quarantine. The World Health Organization confirmed in a tweet that newly diagnosed cases on the ship should not extend the length of the quarantine.