Wuhan virus: Death toll in China rises to 304 with 45 new fatalities in Hubei province

Passengers arriving from different provinces in China at the Beijing Railway Station on Feb 1, 2020.
Passengers arriving from different provinces in China at the Beijing Railway Station on Feb 1, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China said on Sunday (Feb 2) confirmed infections of the flu-like coronavirus jumped by a daily record to top 14,000 cases, as the Philippines reported the first overseas death.

The death toll in China reached 304 as of the end of Saturday (Feb 1), up by 45 from the previous day, state broadcaster CCTV said on Sunday, citing the country’s National Health Commission.

All the new deaths were in central Hubei province, the epicentre of the flu-like coronavirus outbreak.

Across China, there were 2,590 new confirmed infections on Saturday, bringing the total accumulated number so far to 14,380.

China also virtually shutdown another city, Wenzhou, a metropolis of nine million and 800km away from Wuhan in Hubei province. 

Only one resident per household is allowed to go out every two days to buy necessities, while 46 highway toll stations have been closed. The city had previously closed public places such as cinemas and museums and suspended public transport. 

Zhejiang province has the highest number of confirmed cases outside central Hubei province at 661 confirmed infections, with 265 of those in Wenzhou.

China faced mounting isolation amid increasing global travel curbs and flight suspensions on Saturday.

The epidemic has led to mass evacuations of foreign citizens as airlines halt flights. It also risks worsening a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy.

New Zealand joined nations imposing stringent border measures, announcing on Sunday it would bar entry into the country from all foreign nationals arriving from mainland China.

Singapore and the United States announced measures on Friday to ban foreign nationals who have recently been in China from entering their territories. Australia followed suit on Saturday.

The Russian military was to start evacuating Russian citizens from China on Monday and Tuesday, Interfax and Tass news agencies reported.

The Philippine government said it would expand its travel ban amid the outbreak to include all foreigners coming from China. It earlier had restricted only those from the Chinese province of Hubei, where most of the cases of the new coronavirus have been reported. 

The ban also covers foreigners coming from Hong Kong and Macau, said President Rodrigo Duterte’s longtime special assistant, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go.

The announcement came as the Philippines Department of Health said a 44-year-old man from Wuhan city, had died on Saturday after developing severe pneumonia. It is the first confirmed death from the virus outside China, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Sunday.

The man who died was a companion of a 38-year-old Chinese woman, also from Wuhan, who was the first and only other person to test positive for the virus in the Philippines. Both patients arrived in the Philippines via Hong Kong on Jan 21. 

Around two dozen other countries and regions have reported more than 130 cases. Most of them have been in people who had recently travelled to or were visiting from China’s central Hubei province.

The WHO last week declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, but said global trade and travel restrictions are not needed.

Chinese authorities have ordered the remains of patients infected with the novel coronavirus to be cremated close to where they are, and funeral traditions such as a farewell ceremony are banned, Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday (Feb 2).

The remains of infected patients should not be transported between different provincial-level regions, and cannot be preserved by burial or other means, according to a trial guideline jointly issued by the general offices of the National Health Commission, the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security.

PROVINCE IN LOCKDOWN

The number of deaths in Hubei from the outbreak had risen to 294 as of the end of Feb 1.

A further 1,921 cases were detected in Hubei, taking the total in the province to 9,074.

Hubei’s provincial capital of Wuhan, where the virus is thought to have originated, reported 32 new deaths.

 
 
 

A total of 224 people in Wuhan have now died from the virus, for which there is no vaccine.

New confirmed cases also surged by 276 in nearby Huanggang on Feb 1.

One death was reported in the city, about 60km east of Wuhan.

Hubei has been under virtual quarantine for the last week, with roads sealed off and public transport shut down.

Elsewhere, China has placed growing restrictions on travel and business.

Hubei extended its China New Year holiday break to Feb 13 in a bid to contain the outbreak.

But the province is not totally sealed. People are leaving Hubei on foot over a bridge spanning the Yangtze river, entering Jiujiang city in neighbouring Jiangxi province.

Ms Lu Yuejin, a 50-year-old farmer from a village on the Hubei side of the bridge, was trying to gain passage for her leukaemia-stricken daughter on Saturday.

"Please, take my daughter. I don’t need to go past... please, just let my daughter go past," Ms Lu pleaded with the police.

 

Her cries for help were almost drowned out by a loudspeaker playing a pre-recorded message that residents would not be allowed past to Jiujiang.

Eventually, Ms Lu and her daughter were both allowed through and an ambulance was called to pick them up.