Coronavirus infections top 20,000 as Hong Kong reports first death

DPA, Berlin

Emily Wuxue of Monterey Park, Calif., wears a mask in precaution of the corona virus while shopping at Ranch Market in San Gabriel, Calif., on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. She said she’s bought many masks for family members. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Feb. 4 — BEIJING — The number of patients infected in China with new coronavirus has reached 20,438, as Hong Kong reported its first death from the disease, authorities said on Tuesday.

China’s National Health Com- mission said 64 people died on Monday in central China’s Hubei province — the epicentre of the out- break — bringing the countrywide death toll to 425.

The rise in the number of infections in China, of 3,225 from the previous day, and the increase in deaths, were the highest in a single day since the outbreak emerged in the city of Wuhan.

Hong Kong authorities reported a first death due to coronavirus in the semi-autonomous territory on Monday. The patient had traveled to Hubei in January, the South China Morning Post reported.

The death was the second outside of mainland China, after the Philippines reported a fatality at the weekend.

Hong Kong’s authorities said in a press release that hospitals reported 64 new cases meeting the criteria of the virus, bringing the total in the territory to 982.

The virus has spread to about two dozen countries since being identified, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a global emergency.

Chinese authorities said on Monday that they expect the outbreak to peak within 10 to 14 days, longer than initially estimated.

Countries calling for bans on travelers from China include the Philippines, Singapore, the US, Australia and New Zealand.

Governments including Spain, Italy, Britain, France, Belgium, Sweden and Finland continue to evacuate people from Wuhan.

Taiwan announced it would bar entry to all foreign nationals who have visited China over the
past 14 days. One of 247 Taiwanese evacuees late Monday returning from Wuhan was infected, Taiwan’s Minister of Health said late on Tuesday. So far, Taiwan has reported 11 confirmed cases.

A repatriated Belgian citizen, also from Wuhan, is infected, Health Minister Maggie De Block announced on Tuesday, according to the Belga news agency, in the country’s first confirmed case.

A flight carrying 107 Malaysians evacuated from Wuhan land- ed in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday and all were quarantined for 14 days. The same day, Malaysia’s Health Ministry announced two more cases, including the first involving a Malaysian national. Malaysia’s nine other cases were all Chinese visitors.

Singapore announced four cases of local transmission of the coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing
its total number of cases to 24.

Thailand’s Health Ministry confirmed an additional six cases of the virus, bringing its total number to 25.

In a preventive measure, Vietnam is now mobilizing its military to prepare a massive quarantine operation for thousands of Vietnamese returning from China.

The government in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory of Macau has decided to close casinos for two weeks. Macau also scaled back public services and public transport and appealed to residents to stay home unless they needed to go out to buy food.

The eastern city of Hangzhou also announced recommendations to contain the disease,
including asking residents to wear masks outside and assign a family member to go shopping every two days.

Twelve cases have been confirmed in Germany. Berlin and Paris now seek to coordinate better with other European governments and ministers plan to meet in the coming week, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said after meeting his French counterpart. Spahn also tweeted he had met with Britain’s Matt Hancock, to address health security.

Britain updated its official travel advice to advise citizens leave China, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

In China, the Politburo Standing Committee, a top ruling body, said the outbreak was “a major test of China’s system and capacity for governance,” Xinhua news agency reported.

The committee said the crisis exposed “deficiencies” in the national emergency response
system. The government has been criticized for delaying the initial announcement of the
disease, which experts believe might have led to a wider spread of the virus.

Authorities initially tried to silence doctors in Wuhan who were sounding the alarm about
the new virus. The Supreme Court last week chastised police over the crackdown.

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