Beijing: The death toll in mainland China from the new virus type has risen to 425. According to official figures, the total number of cases was 20,438. The new numbers come after the country opened a new hospital in 10 days, money poured into financial markets, and further restricted people's hopes of curbing the rapidly spreading virus and its escalating effects.
Japanese officials decided to quarantine more than 3,000 people on a cruise ship that had a passenger who tested positive for the virus. The latest figures show 361 deaths and 17,205 confirmed cases. Other countries continue to evacuate and restrict the entry of Chinese or people who have recently traveled to the country. In the province in the epicenter of the outbreak, a specialized 1,000-bed hospital has started treating patients. A second hospital with 1,500 beds is to be opened within a few days.
Other countries continued to evacuate citizens from the hardest hit Hubei province and restricted the entry of Chinese or people who had recently traveled to the country. The World Health Organization announced that the number of cases will continue to grow as tests are pending on thousands of suspected cases.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who hosted a special meeting of the country's top Communist Party for the second time since the crisis broke out, said: "We have launched a people's war to prevent the epidemic." He told the Politburo standing committee that the country must step back in time to curb the spread of the virus and that those who neglect their duties would be punished, the state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Medical teams from the People's Liberation Army arrived in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province, to relieve overworked healthcare workers and to occupy the new 1,000-bed rural hospital, far from the city center. The prefabricated stations are equipped with the latest medical equipment and ventilation systems. A second hospital with 1,500 beds is scheduled to open in a few days.
China's Shanghai Composite stock index fell nearly 8% on the first trading day after the Chinese New Year, despite the central bank's announcement that 1.2 trillion yuan ($ 173 billion) was invested in the markets. "We are confident and able to minimize the economic impact of the epidemic," said Lian Weiliang, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, at a press conference in Beijing.
Hong Kong's Carrie Lam announced that the semi-autonomous region, except for two land and sea borders, would close almost all border crossings to the mainland at midnight to curb the spread of the virus. Only the land control points in Shenzhen Bay and the bridge to Macao and Zhuhai remain open.
More than 2,000 hospital workers went on strike earlier in the day demanding that the border be closed completely. Your union threatened a major strike on Tuesday. Hong Kong was hit by SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2002/03, a disease from the same family of viruses as the current outbreak, which many believe has been exacerbated by the official Chinese secret and the veil.
Chinese scientists said they have more evidence that it is likely to come from bats. In a study published in the journal Nature, Shi Zhen-Li and colleagues from the Wuhan Institute of Virology reported that the genome sequences of seven patients were 96% identical to those of a bat coronavirus. SARS is also believed to have its origin in bats, although it jumped to civet cats before infecting humans.
Scientists suspect that the recent outbreak started at a fish market in Wuhan that sold wild animals and came into contact with people. Meanwhile, Japanese health officials said a passenger on a Japan-operated cruise ship tested the virus positive after leaving the ship in Hong Kong on January 25.
The Diamond Princess returned to Yokohama with over 3,000 passengers and crew after visiting the ports of Vietnam, Taiwan and Okinawa. A team of quarantine officers and medical personnel boarded the ship on Monday and began medical examinations of everyone on board, a Ministry of Health official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with the departmental rules.
Passengers and crew can be quarantined on the ship if the captain agrees, the official said. The ship's captain announced that the Hong Kong health authorities informed the ship of the passenger's infection on Saturday, six days after leaving the ship, after not undergoing a thermal examination.
The patient is currently recovering and in a stable condition and his travel companions have not been infected, the captain said. "I wish we were informed as soon as they found out I could have worn a mask or washed my hands more carefully," said the passenger. "I was in Hong Kong nine days ago and it seems too late now."
South Korea, which has 15 confirmed cases, has quarantined 800 soldiers who have recently visited or contacted people in China, Hong Kong or Macau, Defense Ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyunsoo said. The Philippines prohibited all non-citizens from entering China after two cases were confirmed, including the only death outside of China.
The United States, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, New Zealand, and Australia have imposed similar restrictions despite China's criticism and WHO guidelines that such measures are unnecessary.