The toll in the Wuhan strain of the coronavirus infection rose to 41 in China, health officials said, adding that there were 1,287 confirmed cases, PTI reported. Thirty-nine of these deaths occurred in Hubei province. The condition of 237 persons is critical, China’s National Health Commission said on Saturday.

The coronavirus emerged from Wuhan in Hubei province of China and has led to an outbreak. All those infected were residents of Wuhan or recent visitors to the city. The virus has since spread beyond China’s borders, raising concerns of a pandemic. The coronavirus is part of the same family as the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, and the Middle East respiratory syndrome. It has pneumonia-like symptoms and has no cure so far.

The virus has spread to Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Nepal, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, France and the United States. As many as 28 cases have been confirmed outside China. France announced two cases of the virus on Friday, becoming the first country in Europe to do so. Australia reported its first coronavirus case on Saturday. Hong Kong declared Wuhan virus outbreak an emergency on Saturday, reported AFP.

The outbreak has cast a shadow over Lunar New Year celebrations in China. Hundreds of millions of people in China were expected to travel over the course of the new year period, which began Saturday, both within the country and overseas. Health officials feared this travelling could spread the transmission, so China stepped up measures to contain the virus.

About 56 million people across at least 18 cities were under lockdown in China as of Saturday. Most major cities have banned public gatherings over the Lunar New Year holiday. The outbreak has stoked fears of a pandemic similar to the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome that also started in China and killed nearly 800 people.

China began building a 1,000-bed hospital in Wuhan in an effort to battle the virus. It is expected to be completed in 10 days. Several cities in China, including Shanghai and Beijing, and provinces such as Hubei, Hunan, Zhejiang, Anhui and Guangdong have raised the emergency response to public health safety to level 1, the highest.

The World Health Organization said earlier this week that the disease was not yet a global health emergency. “Make no mistake, though, this is an emergency in China,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “It has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one.”

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In India

Meanwhile, in India, 11 people were under observation in hospitals across four cities after they showed mild symptoms of the Wuhan strain of coronavirus, NDTV reported. No positive case has been detected in the country so far, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Saturday.

Seven people were kept in isolation in Kerala, while two people were under observation in Mumbai and one each in Bengaluru and Hyderabad. “Seven people [in Kerala] who have extremely mild symptoms were kept under observation in isolation wards on Friday, primarily as a precautionary measure, since they returned from China,” Dr Amar Fettle, Kerala’s officer-in-charge for communication on coronavirus, said.

The four people in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad tested negative, health officials said.

The Union Health Ministry said 20,844 passengers have been medically screened at Indian airports till Friday for symptoms of coronavirus infection. The ministry said 4,082 passengers were screened in 19 flights on Friday itself.

Vardhan said a 24x7 call centre has been made operational. “The call centre will monitor the list of contacts furnished by Ministry of External Affairs, provide details of district and state surveillance officers to those who seek them, and in case of any clinical query, direct the concerned to the relevant Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme officer,” said the health ministry.

The health minister also directed multi-disciplinary central teams to visit the seven airports – New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kochi – where thermal screening is being done. The central teams of a public health expert, a clinician and a microbiologist will reach on Sunday.

The Punjab government said a team of doctors will be stationed at the Amritsar international airport to screen passengers arriving from China from Monday. “If any passenger comes with symptoms will be screened at that place and if required, next steps will be taken,” Dr Gagandeep Singh, state programme officer of Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (Punjab), told PTI. Amritsar was among 12 designated airports in the country where the Centre had issued advisory for coronavirus.

The state government has also asked all district hospitals and medical colleges to have necessary arrangements to tackle any emergency situation. They have been asked to have separate isolation wards and ventilators support, said Singh.