BEIJING (AFP, REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) – China’s death toll in the coronavirus outbreak reached 1,765 on Monday (Feb 17) as Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, reported 1,933 new cases, and 100 additional deaths.
At least 70,400 people have now been infected nationwide.
The Hubei health commission said the total number of cases in the province had reached 58,182 by the end of Sunday, with 1,696 deaths.
The number of new cases rose nearly 5 per cent from the previous day, but the number of deaths fell from 139 last Saturday.
Nearly 90 per cent of the new cases were in the provincial capital of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated. Wuhan has accounted for 71 per cent of the province’s total cases and 77 per cent of deaths.
The number of new cases in the province had been declining since a large spike last week when officials changed their criteria for counting cases to include people diagnosed through lung imaging.
The province has been accused of failing to tackle the outbreak early enough, allowing it to spread. The Communist Party bosses of both Hubei and Wuhan have been dismissed.
Hubei announced tough new measures to try to curb the epidemic on Sunday, ordering its cities to block roads to all private vehicles and telling villages and urban residential districts to strictly control the movement of people.
Outside of hardest-hit Hubei, the number of new cases has been declining and a spokesman for China’s national health authority said on Sunday that the slowing figures were a sign the outbreak was being controlled.
However, World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned it is “impossible to predict which direction this epidemic will take”.
International experts have arrived in Beijing and begun meeting with their Chinese counterparts over the epidemic, Dr Tedros said on Twitter.
“International experts participating in the WHO-led joint mission with (China) have arrived in Beijing and have had their first meeting with Chinese counterparts today,” he said.
“We look forward to this vitally important collaboration contributing to global knowledge about the #COVID19 outbreak.”
The number of new cases from China’s coronavirus epidemic dropped for a third consecutive day on Sunday, but global concern remains high about its spread, emphasised by a United States announcement that more than three dozen Americans from a cruise ship quarantined off Japan are infected.
Meanwhile, Dr Wang Xinghuan, head of Wuhan Leishenshan Hospital, said the turning point for the coronavirus epidemic has been reached and the number of new outbreaks is declining, the state-run China Central Television reported.
The number of people with a fever has been sliding steadily and has never rebounded, Dr Wang was cited as saying.