The toll in China’s coronavirus epidemic rose to 1,523 on Friday, as 143 new fatalities were reported in Saturday morning’s daily update. The country also reported 2,641 new confirmed cases and 2,277 new suspected cases. The total number of confirmed cases across the country now stands at 66,492, of which 11,053 are severe.
In Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, 2,420 new confirmed cases were reported, including 1,923 in Wuhan city. Of the 143 new deaths, 139 were from the Hubei province, and 107 of these were from Wuhan.
The number of new cases reported on Friday was significantly lower than the number reported in the last three days – over 15,000 cases were reported on February 12 and over 5,000 on February 13.
National Health Commission Deputy Director Wang Hesheng said nine medical shelters have been opened to accommodate patients with mild symptoms, as well as people with suspected infections, according to the South China Morning Post.
Wang and Chen Yixin, secretary general of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, the Communist Party’s top law enforcement body, were sent to Wuhan on Friday after uproar over the death of ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, who had warned of a coronavirus outbreak as early as December. Wang said the Chinese government had sent 217 medical teams across provinces, including 25,033 medical professionals to Hubei. He added that the scale of medical assistance provided had surpassed that given to victims of the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008.
As many as 8,096 people have been discharged from hospitals after recovery, the National Health Commission said. The commission said 5,13,183 close contacts have been traced, and among them 30,081 discharged from medical observation on Friday.
On Friday, the Chinese government had asserted that the number of new coronavirus cases and deaths have been steadily decreasing. However, on Saturday, President Xi Jinping called for the use of digital technology like big data, artificial intelligence and cloud computing to better support epidemic monitoring and analysis, virus tracing, prevention and treatment.
The World Health Organization has officially named the virus COVID-19. The Chinese government has begun to convert stadiums into medical shelters due to the shortage of hospitals. Jiao Yahui, deputy director of the National Health Commission, said patients with mild symptoms are being sent to these shelters, so that hospital beds could be freed for more serious cases.
In India, three people have so far tested positive for the virus, but there have been no deaths. On Friday, a third Indian crew member on board a cruise ship quarantined at the port city of Yokohama in Japan tested positive for COVID-19. There are 138 Indians, including passengers and crew, on board the Diamond Princess, which has been isolated since February 3.
On Wednesday, the Indian Embassy in Japan had confirmed that two Indian crew members had tested positive for the virus along with 174 others. In a statement, the embassy said the ship would remain in quarantine till February 19.
On Saturday, the Indian Embassy said all efforts were being made to disembark the Indians on board the ship, PTI reported. “We have continued our efforts with all of them for early disembarkation of our nationals after the end of the quarantine period and subject to favourable results of their tests for COVID-19,” an embassy official told the news agency. The embassy official said the health conditions of all three patients is “stable and improving”.
The coronavirus is considered to have originated in a live seafood market in the province’s Wuhan city. Infection symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. It causes respiratory illness, and is similar to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, which had also emerged from China in 2002. SARS killed 774 people around the world.