fbpx

Global alarm mounts as China virus deaths hit 17

2 mins read

Beijing (Reuters) – Deaths from China’s new flu-like virus rose to 17 on Wednesday with more than 540 cases confirmed, increasing fears of contagion from an infection suspected to originate from illegally traded wildlife.

The previously unknown coronavirus strain is believed to have emerged from an animal market in central city of Wuhan, with cases now detected as far away as the United States.

Contrasting with its secrecy over the 2002-03 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed nearly 800 people, China’s communist government has this time given regular updates to try to avoid panic as millions travel for the Lunar New Year.

“The rise in the mobility of the public has objectively increased the risk of the epidemic spreading,” National Health Commission vice-minister Li Bin said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) was meeting in a high-tech room at its Geneva headquarters to decide whether the outbreak is a global health emergency.

Many Chinese were cancelling trips, buying face masks, avoiding public places such as cinemas and shopping centers, and even turning to an online plague simulation game or watching disaster movie “The Flu” as a way to cope.

“The best way to conquer fear is to confront fear,” said one commentator on China’s Twitter-like Weibo.

The virus has spread from Wuhan to population centers including Beijing, Shanghai, Macau and Hong Kong.

With more than 11 million people, Wuhan is central China’s main industrial and commercial center and a transport hub, home to the country’s largest inland port and gateway to its Three Gorges hydroelectric dam.

The latest death toll in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, rose from nine to 17 by midday on Wednesday, state television quoted the provincial government as saying.

The official China Daily newspaper said 544 cases had now been confirmed in the country. Thailand has confirmed four cases, while the United States, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan have each reported one.

U.S. President Donald Trump said U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a good containment plan. “We think it is going to be handled very well,” he said at Davos in Switzerland.

%d bloggers like this: