The total number of deaths from the novel coronavirus outbreak in China rose to 425 on Tuesday, up 64 from the previous day, AP reported. The number of total confirmed infections in China also soared, to 20,438.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who held a meeting with top officials for the second time since the crisis began, said, “We have launched a people’s war of prevention of the epidemic.” He said China must race against time to stop the spread of the virus.
Chinese stock markets, which plunged 8% on Monday, recovered slightly on Tuesday. The country’s benchmark index, the Shanghai Composite, was up around 0.5% at 1.30 pm local time (around 11 am IST), and the Shenzhen Component index was up more than 2%. The Chinese stock and commodity markets had reopened for the first trading session on Monday after an extended Lunar New Year break.
The country’s top leadership admitted during the Politburo Standing Committee meeting that there were “shortcomings and deficiencies” in the response to the outbreak and that the system had to improve. The outbreak was called a big test of Beijing’s governance.
“In response to the shortcomings and deficiencies that were exposed responding to this epidemic, we must improve our national emergency management system and improve our abilities in handling urgent and dangerous tasks,” the leaders are believed to have said, according to the BBC. Trading in illegal wildlife should be completely banned and markets must be better regulated, they said.
Xi also demanded “resolute opposition against bureaucratism and the practice of formalities for formalities’ sake in the prevention work”, according to The Guardian.
The novel coronavirus is said to have emerged late last year in a Wuhan seafood market in Hubei province that was illegally trading wildlife. It can cause pneumonia and spreads between people in droplets from coughs and sneezes. Studies suspect that bats are the origin of the disease.
The new figures were reported a day after China opened a new hospital in less than 10 days to treat people with the virus in Wuhan, infused cash into the financial markets and also imposed more restrictions on people’s movement to combat the virus. The hospital called Huoshenshan, or “fire-god mountain”, has 1,000 beds. More than 7,500 workers took part in the project, launched on January 25 and finished it last weekend. A second hospital in Wuhan with 1,600 beds, called Leishenshan, or “thunder-god mountain”, is scheduled to be completed on Wednesday.
The number of deaths in China has now exceeded the total Chinese toll from the 2002-’03 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. SARS was another coronavirus that had emerged from China and killed almost 800 people around the world and 349 in China.
A 39-year-old man has died in Hong Kong, according to the Hong Kong Free Press. This is the first confirmed fatality in the region. The man went to Wuhan in China on January 21 and returned two days later. However, he did not visit any market or medical facility during the trip. But he developed muscle pain on January 29 and fever on January 31.
Its chief executive Carrie Lam has closed almost all border crossings with the mainlands and kept only some checkpoints open. Only the land checkpoint at Shenzhen Bay and the bridge to Macao and Zhuhai will remain open.
Hundreds of hospital workers in Hong Kong had gone on strike on Monday to demand that the border with China be closed completely.
In Japan, officials prevented over 3,000 passengers from leaving a cruise ship after a passenger tested positive for the virus. The passenger, who had boarded the cruise at Yokohama on January 20, tested positive for the virus last weekend after he returned to Hong Kong.
The vessel, the Diamond Princess, had left Hong Kong on January 25 and made port calls in Vietnam, Taiwan and Okinawa before returning to Yokohama, south of Tokyo, on Monday evening.
Quarantine officers were checking the health of 2,500 passengers and 1,000 crew members, Japan’s Health Ministry said on Tuesday. Hong Kong’s health authorities notified the ship about the passenger’s infection only on Saturday, six days after he got off the ship. The patient is recovering and in a stable condition. His passengers seem to have not caught the infection yet.
“I wish we were informed as soon as they found out, then I could have worn a mask or washed hands more carefully,” a passenger who tweeted the captain’s statement from the ship said. “I was in Hong Kong nine days ago and it seems to be too late now.”
In South Korea, around 800 soldiers who had either recently been to China, Hong Kong or Macao or been in contact with people who had travelled to these places, were quarantined. South Korean airlines have suspended more than half of their flights to China.
The Philippines has barred the entry of all non-citizens from China. So far, the only death outside China was reported in the Philippines.
Restrictions have also been imposed in the US, Singapore, Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia. Nearly 25 countries have recorded confirmed cases. Countries such as Thailand and New Zealand are evacuating their citizens from China.
China on Monday accused the United States of spreading panic in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, including a temporary ban on Chinese travellers. The US did not provide “any substantial assistance” and only created panic, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying alleged at a regular press briefing on Monday. She pointed out that the US was the first to suggest a partial withdrawal of its embassy staff.
The World Health Organization had last week declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern but stopped short of recommending trade and travel restrictions.