The total number of deaths from the novel coronavirus outbreak in China rose to 490 on Tuesday, up 65 from the previous day, PTI reported. The number of total confirmed infections in China soared 24,324, China’s National Health Commission announced on Wednesday. The global toll is 492, with deaths of a person each from Hong Kong and the Philippines.
All 65 deaths reported on Tuesday were from Wuhan city and Hubei province. 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.
Officials have begun to convert a national auditorium and a gymnasium in Wuhan into makeshift hospitals. Two temporary hospitals have already been built for coronavirus patients.
Meanwhile, ten people on a cruise ship docked near Yokohama in Japan have tested positive for the virus, AFP reported. The number may increase as only 273 of the more than 3,500 passengers and crew aboard the Diamond Princess have been tested. The others are still awaiting their results.
Officials prevented over 3,000 passengers from leaving the cruise ship on Monday after a 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 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. 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.
The novel coronavirus has spread to nearly 25 countries. The World Health Organisation on Tuesday refused to declare the outbreak a pandemic and said there was a “window of opportunity” to prevent the spread. The lockdowns put in place by China offered a chance to stop the transmission, it said, according to The Guardian.
The organisation also called for greater solidarity between world powers. “While 99 percent of cases are in China, in the rest of the world we only have 176 cases,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “That doesn’t mean that it won’t get worse. But for sure we have a window of opportunity to act.”
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. 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.
Several countries have banned flights to and from China, restricted travel, and in some cases, closed their borders with the country.
In India, there are three positive cases – all from Kerala. They recently returned from the Chinese city of Wuhan. On Tuesday, India tightened visa restrictions for travellers from China amid the novel coronavirus virus outbreak.