China has increased the number of victims of coronavirus and is stepping up measures to reduce the risk of contagion.
Ten holidays in a row in the midst of an epidemic of viral pneumonia: China extended its long New Year’s holiday on Monday in the hope of delaying the peak in transport and reducing the risk of contagion.
The epidemic, whose toll increased further on Monday, has caused a wave of global concern despite the small number of cases recorded outside of China.
Parades on the occasion of the Chinese New Year have been cancelled in France, Paris and Bordeaux, where three cases of contamination have been confirmed, while several countries are trying to evacuate their nationals from the region at risk.
Prime Minister Li Keqiang arrived in the forbidden zone in Wuhan (centre), the cradle of the new virus, on Monday in blue coat and protective mask: four days after the city’s 11 million inhabitants were quarantined, it is the first senior official in the communist regime to go there since the epidemic began in December.
A dead city atmosphere still hung over Wuhan, where the circulation of “non-essential” vehicles remains prohibited. Motorists transporting health personnel to hospitals, on the other hand, were allowed to circulate.
About fifteen kilometres south of the city centre, an AFP team saw a police roadblock monitoring the vehicles and the temperature of the occupants.
Motorists had to produce a document before they could pass, and in the queue of vehicles was a truck that appeared to be transporting food.
WHO boss in Beijing
The number of victims jumped to 80 dead, while 2,744 cases were confirmed in the country, including that of a nine-month-old baby, against nearly 2000 the day before.
The number of suspected cases has doubled in the space of 24 hours to almost 6,000.
Twenty-four additional deaths have been recorded in Hubei, the province of which Wuhan is the capital, but no new deaths have been confirmed outside this region.
A total of 56 million people are cut off from the world in Hubei by the blocking measures.
In the photographs released by the government, the Prime Minister appears dressed in a blue plastic coat, his face covered by a mask of the same colour, examining on a screen a bedridden patient.
Li Keqiang has been appointed to head a “task force” to oversee the fight against the epidemic. President Xi Jinping warned on Saturday that the epidemic was accelerating and that the situation was “serious”.
While a dozen countries besides China are now affected, the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is expected during the day in Beijing. The WHO last week renounced proclaiming an “international emergency”.
Beijing has decided to extend the very long Chinese New Year holidays (seven holidays) by three days until February 2, in order to delay the massive returns to the cities of hundreds of millions of migrant workers who have returned to spend the holidays in their families, thereby reducing the risk of the epidemic spreading.
Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang said on Sunday that 5 million people left the city before the Chinese New Year, which fell on January 25 this year.
A figure likely to increase the fear of a spread of the epidemic, especially since, according to Chinese health officials, the virus can be transmitted even before the appearance of symptoms.
Several major cities in the north of the country – Beijing, Tianjin, Xian – have already announced the suspension of long-distance coach lines which connect them to the rest of the country. In the east, Shandong province (100 million inhabitants) did the same.
The wearing of protective masks has been imposed in several provinces, notably in Guangdong, the most populous in the country (more than 110 million inhabitants).
The epidemic has reached Europe and Australia and one suspected case has been reported in Canada. No fatal case has yet been recorded outside of China.
The United States, where five cases are confirmed, announced to organize the departure of their diplomatic personnel and of American citizens stranded in Wuhan, hoping to take off a flight Tuesday.
Other countries are in communication with Beijing to evacuate their nationals.
The French Minister of Health, Agnès Buzyn, announced that France was going to organize “direct air repatriation” of its nationals and that a quarantine period of 14 days would be applied to them.
The situation in Wuhan hospitals is sometimes chaotic: patients have to wait hours before seeing a doctor. The construction of two additional sites that can each accommodate more than a thousand beds must be completed within two weeks.
“The capacity to spread the virus has increased,” senior Chinese health officials said on Sunday, even if it is not “as powerful as SARS”, a previous coronavirus that had claimed hundreds of lives in the country. the early 2000s.