Coronavirus: China's death toll climbs to 1,113 as Hubei reports 94 new deaths

Residents wait to enter a supermarket in Wuhan, China on Feb 11, 2020, that limited the number of shoppers allowed inside the store in response to the coronavirus epidemic. PHOTO: NYTIMES

BEIJING (AFP, REUTERS) - The number of fatalities from China's new coronavirus epidemic jumped to 1,113 nationwide on Wednesday (Feb 12) after hard-hit Hubei province reported 94 new deaths.

In its daily update, Hubei's health commission also confirmed another 1,638 new cases in the central province, where the outbreak emerged in December, taking the total in the province to 33,366. The total death toll in the province is now 1,068.

Nationwide, the number of infections stood at 44,653 as at Tuesday, according to the National Health Commission.

The latest tolls came as the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned of a global threat posed by the virus - officially named Sars-CoV-2 - potentially worse than terrorism.

The world must "wake up and consider this enemy virus as public enemy number one", WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters, adding the first vaccine is 18 months away.

China's foremost medical adviser on the outbreak, Dr Zhong Nanshan, said the number of new cases was falling in some provinces and forecast the epidemic would peak this month.

"I hope this outbreak or this event may be over in something like April," Dr Zhong, 83, an epidemiologist who played a role in combating an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) in 2003, told Reuters.

The latest numbers of new cases of the disease, now named Covid-19, may further feed that optimism. Hubei which has been under virtual lockdown, reported 94 people died and there were 1,068 new coronavirus cases as of Tuesday. That is down from a peak of over 3,000 new cases on Feb 4, and the lowest number of new infections since 1,347 were reported on Jan 31.

Even if the epidemic ends soon, it has already taken a toll on China's economy, as companies began laying off workers and other firms said they would need loans running into billions of dollars to stay afloat. Supply chains for car manufacturers to smartphone makers have broken down.

St Louis Federal Reserve president James Bullard said China's economy was expected to "slow noticeably" in the first quarter and anyone pricing assets should for now consider the "tail risk" that the outbreak could get worse.

But Bank of England governor Mark Carney said the financial spillover from the outbreak looked containable, though it was still early to judge the economic impact.

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