Coronavirus deaths and fresh cases leap in China as countries struggle to evacuate citizens
WHO prepares to meet on Thursday to decide whether to declare outbreak a global emergency
China reported its biggest single-day jump in coronavirus deaths on Thursday, as countries struggled to evacuate citizens still trapped in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the outbreak began.
The death toll rose to 170 on Thursday – up from 132 reported on Wednesday, a rise of 29%. The number of confirmed cases in China now stands at 7,711, up from 5,974 a day earlier.
It is understood that 162 of the deaths – or 95% – are in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located. Of the new deaths, 37 were in Hubei province and one in the south-western province of Sichuan.
The World Health Organization (WHO), which initially downplayed the severity of the disease, has warned all governments to be “on alert”, with the UN agency’s emergency committee due to meet later on Thursday to decide whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency.
The WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said the few cases of human-to-human spread of the virus outside China – in Japan, Germany, Canada, and Vietnam – were of “great concern”.
The US and Japan have started evacuating citizens, and other countries are poised to send chartered flights to the city, amid reports that some evacuations had been held up by delays in obtaining permission from the Chinese authorities.
A British flight to bring about 200 nationals back to the UK was unable to take off as planned on Thursday. The Foreign Office said it was “working urgently” to organize a flight to the UK “as soon as possible”.
Australia is yet to gain permission from the Chinese government to evacuate hundreds of its citizens, and New Zealand has launched a separate rescue mission from its neighbor, though a timeline is still unclear.
France, South Korea, and other countries are also pulling out their citizens or making plans to do so. About 250 French citizens and 100 other Europeans will be flown out of Wuhan on board two French planes this week.
Businesses are beginning to feel the impact of the outbreak. Several airlines, including British Airways, have suspended services to China, while Toyota, Ikea, Foxconn, Starbucks, Tesla and McDonald’s were among major companies to temporarily freeze production or close large numbers of outlets in China. The Chinese Football Association has postponed all domestic games.
In Huahe town, in the stricken Hubei province, authorities are investigating reports a 17-year-old boy with cerebral palsy died after his father, who cared for him, was taken into quarantine for five days.
Almost 200 Americans who were evacuated from Wuhan on Wednesday are undergoing three days of testing and monitoring at a Southern California military base to make sure they do not show signs of the virus.
In Japan, three of the 206 people repatriated on Wednesday have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the country to 11. A second group of 210 Japanese nationals arrived in Tokyo on Thursday morning.
The cases in Japan include two that are believed to have come from human-to-human transmission – a bus driver in his 60s who drove tourists from Wuhan on two occasions this month, and a female tour guide in her 40s who worked alongside him. Neither of them had traveled abroad in the past month, the public broadcaster NHK said.“We are in a truly new situation,” Japan’s health minister, Katsunobu Kato said.
在日本，有兩起案件被認為是通過人與人之間的傳播而產生的：一名60多歲的公共汽車司機本月兩次開車從武漢來游客，還有一位40多歲的女性導遊與他一起工作。 公共廣播NHK說，他們兩個人過去一個月都沒有出國旅行。日本衛生大臣Katsunobu Kato說：“我們處於一個前所未見的新局面。”
The Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said he was concerned that Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHO risked hampering the region’s ability to coordinate a response.
Speaking in parliament on Thursday, Abe said Taiwan, whose participation in the WHO has been blocked by China and its diplomatic allies, should be admitted to the body. “It will be difficult to maintain the health of the entire region and prevent infection if [Taiwan] is excluded,” Kyodo news agency quoted him as saying.
Authorities in Taiwan, where eight cases have been confirmed, have banned residents of Hubei province from entering the island. Several countries in Asia are battling the virus on a second front – the spread of online rumors about affected areas and the number of deaths.
Police in South Korea are investigating a rise in falsehoods about the coronavirus, including a scam in which people are being asked to provide personal details in return for access to information about the spread of the disease.
The South Korean government has arranged for a chartered plane to fly to Wuhan late Thursday to repatriate the first group among an estimated 700 nationals living or staying in and around Wuhan.
Source: The Guardian