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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.

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