Coronavirus death toll climbs to 80 in mainland China

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Jan. 26 (UPI) — Mainland China’s death toll in the coronavirus increased by 24 to 80 on Monday as a sign the disease is accelerating in the nation despite efforts to control the outbreak.

No other deaths have been reported elsewhere in the world although there have been confirmed 56 cases.

China’s National Health Commission also said that 2,744 people had so far been infected. There were 769 new cases Sunday, compared with 688 recorded the day before.

On Monday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Wuhan, which is the epicenter of the outbreak.

“You are trying every means to save lives,” LI told medical staff at Jinyintan hospital in Wuhan, and one of the designated institutions for treating infected patients. “When you are putting your efforts to save lives, you have to protect yourselves too.”

Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang estimated that 45 percent of the 2,800 who are suspected to be infected with the virus will turn into confirmed cases, causing the total to rise by at least 1,000 in the Chinese city.

Zhou added Sunday that 553 people confirmed to be infected with the virus have been hospitalized including 53 in critical condition, while an additional 643 unconfirmed carriers are under medical observation.

The Bejing municipal health authority said Sunday that the city now has 68 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

A 9-month-old girl was included among the new confirmed cases, the youngest case confirmed so far, the city said.

Elsewhere in China, there have been eight reported cases in Hong Kong, five in Macau and four in Taiwan.

On Sunday, China Health Minister Ma Xiaowei said the virus appears to be getting stronger and can be transmitted during incubation of one to 14 days.

“There are signs showing the virus is becoming more transmissible. These walking ‘contagious agents’ [hidden carriers] make controlling the outbreak a lot more difficult,” Ma said at a news conference. “From observations, the virus is capable of transmission even during incubation period.”

A different severe acute respiratory syndrome, SARS, was not contagious during incubation. From 2002-03, SARS killed more than 600 people across mainland China and Hong Kong, and 100 elsewhere in the world.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday warned of an “accelerating spread” of the virus as the number of cases has increased 50 percent in 24 hours.

More than 50 million people in central China were ordered on lockdown and a travel ban has been instituted for 16 cities in the Hubei province where the virus was first reported.

Before the lockdown and the Spring Festival holiday, about 5 million residents left Wuhan. About 9 million people remained in the city after the lockdown, Zhou told a news conference.

The most effective way to stop the transmission would be to reduce travel and avoid meetings, Feng Luzhao, researcher with the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said.

“[We have decided] to extend the Chinese New Year holidays because [we want] to encourage people to stay home and avoid going to areas where infection may be prevalent and places with large crowds of people,” Feng said at the news conference. “[We believe] this can help curb the spread of the disease.”

Hong Kong Disneyland and rival attraction Ocean Park shut down on Sunday in response to concerns about the coronavirus and Shanghai’s Disneyland also closed on Saturday.

Hong Kong Disney land said it chose to close the park to protect “the health and safety of our guests and cast members” and said guests would receive refunds.

The Chinese Football Association withdrew as the host of the host for the women’s soccer Olympic qualifying tournament next month and Sydney, Australia was chosen as the replacement.

“We are confident we will host a successful tournament here in Sydney, said Football Federation Australia chairman Chris Nikou.

Several cruise lines, including Costa Crociere, MSC, Royal Caribbean and Genting Cruise Lines, have suspended cruise operations in mainland China. Cruise Industry News reported sailing have been canceled at least through the next week. Genting plans to continue to operate from Hong Kong.

In addition, Semester at Sea will divert the MV World Odyssey from the anticipated port stop in Shanghai, China, and extend a planned stay in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, by six days. Semester at Sea offers 100-plus days programs that travel around the world.

Outside China, the virus has been reported in 11 nations. Thailand has the most with eight, followed by Australia and United States with five; Japan, Malaysia, Singapore with four; France and South Korea with three; two in Vietnam; and one each in Canada and Nepal.