Coronavirus: Death toll touches 213 in China as countries begin evacuating citizens
The ongoing novel Coronavirus outbreak in China has killed 213 people and infected more than 9,800, health officials said on Friday as the country grapples with the fast-spreading epidemic that’s likely to surge in the coming days.
As many as 42 deaths were reported overnight, the largest number in a day since the epidemic broke out, in the central Chinese province of Hubei, which is at the centre of the outbreak. It has millions of people under an unprecedented lockdown to contain the disease.
Officials said over 1200 were critical and around 170 have recovered from the infection until now.
More countries including South Korea and the UK on Friday evacuated its citizens from Hubei’s capital, Wuhan, which is where the previously unknown virus is said to have originated and jumped from unidentified wild animal to humans.
More than 100000 people – mostly family and friends of the infected – in China are said to be under medical observation, raising the spectre of a big rise in confirmed cases in the days ahead.
Reports said there’s been a gradual rise in the number of cases outside the province of Hubei.
The five mega cities of China – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chongqing – are likely to see a sharp rise in cases.
Chongqing, a city of more than 30 million people, in southwestern China already has 206 cases (until late Thursday) and could see a surge.
Meanwhile, a leading China expert has said that it will take at least three months to prove that a vaccine for the novel Coronavirus is effective.
“As of Wednesday, we have isolated five strains of the virus, two of which are very suitable for vaccine development,” Chinese epidemiologist Li Lanjuan told official news agency, Xinhua.
China is currently experiencing the peak period of confirmed cases and with prevention and control measures in place, the number of future infections will be significantly reduced, Li who heads the State Key Laboratory for Diagnosis and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, said.
China has taken “the most comprehensive and rigorous prevention and control measures,” a foreign ministry spokesperson said on Friday.
“We have full confidence and capability to win this fight,” spokesperson Hua Chunying, said in a statement.
That didn’t stop many governments from evacuating their citizens from Wuhan on Friday.
A special flight carrying Britons and other Europeans left Wuhan on Friday, Britain’s embassy said.
Japan sent three flights to bring citizens home and the first of four planned flights taking South Koreans home landed on Friday as well.
The Chinese government is also hiring a number of chartered aircraft to bring its citizens back to Hubei, and its capital, Wuhan, because of “practical difficulties” they are facing in other countries, the government said.
There have been reports about Chinese nationals – even those perceived to be Chinese – being targeted in countries they were visiting as tourists.
“In view of the practical difficulties that Chinese citizens from Hubei, especially Wuhan, have faced overseas, the Chinese government has decided to send charter flights to take them directly back to Wuhan as soon as possible,” Hua said in a statement.