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Coronavirus death toll surpasses SARS

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It is not being reported that there are 89 deaths per day.

Workers in protective suits ride on a truck carrying medical supplies into Huoshenshan temporary hospital built for patients who diagnosed with 2019-nCoV in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province. Picture: Chinatopix via AP

Shanghai/Beijing – China raised the death
toll from the coronavirus epidemic to 811 on Sunday, passing the
number killed globally by the SARS epidemic in 2002/2003 and
raising anxiety among people preparing to return to work after
an extended Lunar New Year break.

Struggling to contain the spread of the disease, authorities
had told businesses to tack up to 10 extra days onto holidays
that had been due to finish at the end of January as the rising
numbers of dead and infected cast a pall over the country.

Many of China’s usually teeming cities have almost become
ghost towns during the past two weeks, as the Communist Party
rulers ordered virtual lockdowns, cancelled flights, closed
factories and kept schools shut.

The sight of an economy regarded as a workshop to the world
laid so low has also taken a toll on international financial
markets, as shares slumped and investors switched into
safe-havens like gold, bonds and the Japanese yen.

Even on Monday, a large number of workplaces will remain
closed and many white-collar workers will continue to work from
home.

The new deaths on Saturday reached another daily record at
89, data from the National Health Commission showed, pushing the
total well over the 774 who died from SARS, or Severe Acute
Respiratory Syndrome.

An American hospitalised in the central city of Wuhan, where
the outbreak began, became the first confirmed non-Chinese
victim of the disease. A Japanese man who also died there was
another suspected victim.

As millions of Chinese prepared to go back to work, the
public dismay and mistrust of official numbers was evident on
Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.

“What’s even more frustrating is that these are only the
‘official’ data,” said one user.

“Don’t say anything else. We all know we can’t purchase
masks anywhere, why are we still going back to work?” said a
second.

“More than 20,000 doctors and nurses around the country have
been sent to Hubei, but why are the numbers still rising?” asked
a third.

Of the coronavirus deaths, 81 were in China’s central Hubei
province, where the virus has infected most people by far. New
deaths in Hubei’s capital Wuhan saw a rare decline.

New infection cases on Saturday recorded the first drop
since Feb. 1, falling back below 3,000 to 2,656 cases. Of those,
2,147 cases were in Hubei province.

The total of confirmed coronavirus cases in China stood at
37,198 cases, the commission data showed.

Joseph Eisenberg, professor of epidemiology at the School of
Public Health at the University of Michigan, said it was too
early to say whether the epidemic was peaking.

“Even if reported cases might be peaking, we don’t know what
is happening with unreported cases,” he said. “This is
especially an issue in some of the more rural areas.”

The virus has spread to 27 countries and regions, according
to a Reuters count based on official reports, infecting more
than 330 people. Two deaths have been reported outside mainland
China – in Hong Kong and the Philippines. Both victims were
Chinese nationals.

Chinese-ruled Hong Kong introduced a two-week quarantine on
Saturday for all people arriving from the mainland, or who have
been there during the previous 14 days.

A police officer wears a mask as he walks in front of the Oriental Pearl Tower. Picture: Aly Song/Reuters

ALARM IN EUROPE, UNITED STATES AND ASIA

The latest patients outside China include five British
nationals staying in the same chalet at a ski village in
Haute-Savoie in the Alps, French health officials said, raising
fears of further infections at a busy period in the ski season.

The five, including a child, had been lodged in the same
chalet with a British man believed to have contracted the virus
in Singapore. They were not in a serious condition, the
officials said.

France issued a new travel advisory for its citizens, saying
it did not recommend travelling to China unless there was an
“imperative” reason. Italy asked children travelling from China
to stay away from school for two weeks voluntarily.

There have been 64 confirmed cased from a cruise ship held
in quarantine off Japan.

The small island-state of Singapore has reported 40 cases of
coronavirus, putting it among the hardest hit countries, along
with Japan, outside of China.

On Friday, the Singapore government raised its response
level on the virus to “orange,” a level also adopted during SARS
and the 2009 outbreak of H1N1 influenza. Singaporeans reacted by
clearing out supermarket shelves of rice, noodles and toilet
paper. On Sunday, the central bank in the Asian financial hub
advised financial institutions to step up precautions for staff.

The government also said it had organised a second
evacuation flight for 174 Singaporeans and their family members
in Wuhan.

Organisers of the Singapore Airshow 2020 expect this week’s
event to draw less than half the crowd seen on public days at
the last show in 2018. The Pentagon has shrunk the size of its
delegation and U.S. defence firms Lockheed Martin Corp
and Raytheon Co said they would not attend.

“It’s getting worse & more scarier. I fear for my family
,every Singaporean & ppl all over the world.. Can’t our
government take up more safety precautions,” Ramesha Beham asked
in a Facebook post. 

Reuters