China to pump $236b into economy as deaths rise to 304, cases cross 14,000

People's Liberation Army medical personnel arriving at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport yesterday. Some 1,400 military medics will be deployed at a new 1,000-bed hospital in Wuhan.
People's Liberation Army medical personnel arriving at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport yesterday. Some 1,400 military medics will be deployed at a new 1,000-bed hospital in Wuhan.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • China yesterday ramped up measures to contain the Wuhan virus epidemic and shore up an economy hit by travel curbs and business shutdowns, as it reported 304 deaths and more than 14,000 cases of infection.

China's central bank said it would inject a hefty 1.2 trillion yuan (S$236 billion) worth of liquidity into the markets via reverse repo operations today, as the country prepares to reopen its stock markets after an extended Chinese New Year holiday.

The country will also help firms that produce vital goods resume work as soon as possible, state broadcaster CCTV reported yesterday, citing a meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang.

Non-essential sectors, however, will be allowed flexibility in how they resume operations after the holiday, as the country seeks to stem the spread of the coronavirus outbreak which originated in Wuhan city, in central Hubei province.

CCTV also said China will speed up construction of hospitals in Hubei and ensure sufficient medical supplies to deal with the virus there.

Yesterday, the army was given control of a new 1,000-bed field hospital, dubbed Fire God Mountain, in Wuhan, which will receive its first patients today, just 10 days after construction began, according to Xinhua news agency.

Some 1,400 military medics will be deployed there, many of whom were involved in the fight against the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak in 2002-2003.

The hospital is one of two makeshift facilities that the authorities built in order to relieve overcrowded hospitals in Wuhan. The second field hospital, dubbed Thunder God Mountain, has 1,600 beds and will start admitting patients on Thursday.

Outside of Hubei province, Wenzhou city in Zhejiang province restricted the movement of residents and closed roads yesterday, in the most drastic steps taken by the authorities outside the epicentre.

Zhejiang has the highest number of confirmed cases outside Hubei - 661 confirmed infections, 265 of them in Wenzhou, a city with nine million people.

Only one resident per household is allowed to go out once every two days to buy necessities. The city has also closed public places such as swimming pools and cinemas, and suspended public transport, among other measures.

The National Health Commission said yesterday that 304 people have died in China. The number of infections jumped to 14,380 as of Saturday, after their biggest daily rise of 2,590 new cases, the commission added.

The authorities have ordered the remains of patients infected with the coronavirus to be cremated close to where they are, and funeral traditions such as a farewell ceremony are banned, Xinhua reported. The remains should not be transported between different provincial-level regions and cannot be preserved by burial or other means, it said.

Xinhua also reported yesterday that Chinese experts warned that the virus could be transmitted via faeces, other than droplets and contact. They found the virus in stools, after they noticed that the initial symptom of some patients was diarrhoea only, instead of a fever.

In another local report, Chinese infectious diseases expert Zhong Nanshan confirmed the possibility of transmission via stools. He said so far, the virus has not been detected in urine.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong said yesterday it was investigating one more case of infection, bringing its total number of cases to 15. The 72-year-old woman is the mother of one of the confirmed cases and she had no travel history.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2020, with the headline 'China to pump $236b into economy as deaths rise to 304, cases cross 14,000'. Print Edition | Subscribe