Coronavirus death toll surges, hits 132
At least 132 people are now dead in China and nearly 6,000 infected from the novel coronavirus, national health officials said on Wednesday.
Several countries began evacuating their citizens from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak. The total 5,974 confirmed cases in China surpasses that of the Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus, which infected 5,327 in the country. The death toll of 132 compares to 348 people killed in China by SARS, which killed nearly 800 people worldwide in 2002-2003.
The new outbreak has now spread to all parts of China, with the first case being reported from the Tibet Autonomous Region. As many as 1,459 new confirmed cases were reported in 31 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities).
Japan airlifted 206 of its nationals out of Wuhan in a chartered flight and the US evacuated about 240 Americans by air.
European officials and businesses stepped up efforts on Wednesday to counter the spreading virus. Several European and other airlines cancelled flights to the Chinese mainland, businesses told employees to work from home and EU nations made plans to repatriate some 600 citizens from China.
The British government is preparing to fly citizens back from Wuhan.
British Airways announced it was immediately suspending all of its flights to and from mainland China .
The spread of the virus could reach its peak in a week to 10 days, a leading Chinese respiratory expert heading Beijing’s efforts to contain the outbreak has told the state media.
After seven to 10 days, the number of cases could plateau, Zhong Nanshan, who is heading the national team of experts set up to control and prevent the outbreak, told Xinhua news agency.
“The SARS outbreak lasted about six months, but I don’t believe the novel coronavirus outbreak would last that long,” said Zhong.
Four members of a Chinese family who travelled to the United Arab Emirates are being treated for the new virus, in the first case in West Asia. A statement from health officials, carried by the state-run WAM news agency, comes after authorities acknowledged the first cases Wednesday in the country that’s home to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The family came from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.
Officials said Finland has its first case of a person who has tested positive for the virus, making it the first case in the Nordic region.
The World Health Organization called a new emergency meeting on the deadly virus, warning that all governments should “take action”. Thursday’s meeting will decide whether to declare an international health emergency.