Coronavirus: China's death toll passes 1,800 with 98 new fatalities reported

Medical workers in protective suits attend to a patient inside an isolation ward of Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan on Feb 16, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

WUHAN (AFP, REUTERS) - The death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in mainland China rose to 1,868 as of the end of Monday, up by 98 from the previous day, the National Health Commission said on Tuesday (Feb 18).

The central Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, reported 93 deaths, with 72 people dead in the provincial capital of Wuhan. Across mainland China, there were 1,886 new confirmed infections on Monday, bringing the total so far to 72,436.

In its daily update, Hubei province's health commission also reported 1,807 new cases, a decline on the number of new cases reported on Monday.

The latest toll brings the number of deaths in Hubei to 1,789 as of Monday, the commission said on its website on Tuesday.

Most of the new deaths on Monday were in Hubei's provincial capital of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated. Wuhan reported 72 new deaths, down from 76 on Sunday. A total of 1,381 people in Wuhan have now died from the virus. New confirmed cases in Wuhan stood at 1,600, down from 1,690 on Sunday.

Outside of hardest-hit Hubei, which has been effectively locked down to try to contain the virus, the number of new cases has been slowing and China's national health authority has said this is a sign the outbreak is under control.

However, World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the trend "must be interpreted very cautiously".

"Trends can change as new populations are affected. It is too early to tell if this reported decline will continue. Every scenario is still on the table," he told reporters on Monday.

He also warned against "blanket measures" over the coronavirus outbreak, pointing out that the epidemic outside of China was only affecting a "tiny" proportion of the population.

The WHO also said that, with a mortality rate of around 2 per cent, Covid-19 was "less deadly" than other coronaviruses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) or Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers).

WHO officials rejected the suggestion that all cruises should be halted to avoid risking a new nest of infection like the one on the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess off Japan.

"Measures should be taken proportional to the situation. Blanket measures may not help," Dr Tedros said.

The outbreak has battered manufacturing and tourism across the region and led to multiple travel restrictions, including for flights and cruises.

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