Coronavirus: 1,000 Dead, WHO Fears Further Spread Outside China

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Coronavirus: 1,000 dead, WHO fears further spread outside China

The toll of the coronavirus epidemic has passed the 1,000 death mark in China. According to the WHO, the number of transmissions of the virus outside the country could also increase.

The toll of the epidemic of the new coronavirus crossed Tuesday 11th February 2020 the mark of 1,000 deaths, and for the WHO, which dispatched an expert mission to China, the growing number of cases of transmission outside this country could augur for a wider spread of the epidemic around the world.

108 deaths in 24 hours

The first death attributed to the 2019-nCoV virus , which appeared in December in the Chinese city of Wuhan (center), was announced on January 11. A month later, the epidemic has now left 1,016 dead in mainland China (excluding Hong Kong and Macao), according to an official report published on Tuesday.

Chinese health officials have reported 108 new deaths in twenty-four hours, the heaviest daily toll recorded to date, while confirmed cases of infection amounted to more than 42,000.

However, as on several occasions since last week, the number of new daily cases (2,478) decreased compared to the previous day.

“Stopping the impetus of contagion”

The Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping called on Monday to take “stronger and decisive measures to resolutely curb the momentum of contagion,” after visiting a Beijing residential area to visit a hospital, appearing for the first time wearing a mask.

Even as most airlines have stopped flights to mainland China and several countries have closed to incoming travelers, the epidemic may now accelerate across the globe, the World Health Organization fears. (WHO).

Outside mainland China, the virus killed two people, one in the Philippines and one in Hong Kong , and more than 400 cases of contamination have been confirmed in more than 30 countries and territories.

Briton contaminates 11 people

But a dreaded scenario materialized: without ever having set foot in China, a Briton contaminated by the coronavirus in Singapore then transmitted it to several compatriots during a stay in the Alps in France, before being diagnosed in Britain.

He is said to have accidentally contaminated at least 11 people, five of whom are hospitalized in Francefive others in Great Britain and a 46-year-old man on the Spanish island of Mallorca, where he resides, according to the information available.

“Serious and imminent”

“The detection of this small number of cases could be the spark that will end in a bigger fire” epidemic, was alarmed Monday the WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“For now, it’s only a spark. Our main objective remains containment (sources of contamination). We call on all countries to use the current fire window to prevent this larger fire.”

Until then, the majority of contamination identified abroad involved people who had returned from Wuhan, the epicentre of the epidemic. “We may only see the tip of the iceberg,” warned Dr Tedros on Sunday.

“Difficult to stop the whole world”

“It is always worrying that people come together (as at a conference in Singapore where the Briton went, note) and then disperse, we must have risk management accordingly. But it’s hard to stop the whole world, ”said Michael RyanWHO emergency health program manager.

London classified the new coronavirus on Monday as “a serious and imminent threat to public health”, notably authorizing it to put the contaminated people in quarantine by force.

The European health ministers will meet in emergency Thursday in Brussels to discuss coordinated action against the epidemic.

A man in a Beijing metro station on February 10, 2020.
A man in a Beijing metro station on February 10, 2020. (© AFP / STR)

Confined on boats

In Asia, thousands of travellers and crew remain on board two cruise ships. At least 135 cases of contamination have been confirmed on the liner Diamond Princess in quarantine off Japan.

An international mission of WHO experts arrived in China, led by Bruce Aylward – a veteran of the fight against the Ebola epidemic -, to study the origin of the new coronavirus and its effects.

WHO has also announced that it will convene an expert meeting Tuesday and Wednesday at its headquarters in Geneva to take stock of research and development of vaccines and treatments against the coronavirus.

Discharged officials

Wuhan and the surrounding province of Hubei, where the epidemic spread, remain cut off from the world by a sanitary cordon. Elsewhere, tens of millions of Chinese are subject to confinement rules in several metropolitan areas.

Outside of these regions, China remains largely paralyzed, despite a timid resumption of work on Monday. Students stay on vacation and companies are encouraged to let their employees work from home.

A usually busy shopping street in Beijing on February 10, 2020.
A usually busy shopping street in Beijing on February 10, 2020. (© AFP / GREG BAKER)

“Short-term” impact

Monday on television, President Xi Jinping wanted to be reassuring, saying that the impact of the virus would be “short-lived” and called for “paying close attention to the unemployment issue”.

The two main officials responsible for health issues in Hubei have also been sacked, state television said on Tuesday.

Local authorities have been criticized for delaying response to the epidemic and even berating whistleblowers for “spreading rumours”. The death of one of them, 34-year-old doctor Li Wenliang, on Friday had sparked unusual calls for freedom of expression.

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