In its daily update, the National Health Commission said that 46 more people had succumbed to the deadly respiratory disease, all but one of the new deaths came in hardest-hit Hubei province, the epicentre of an outbreak that has spread around the world.
The virus emerged in December in Hubei’s provincial capital Wuhan, and has been traced to a meat market that sold wild game.
The nationwide total number of infections in China also rose, by 2,102, bringing the total to 11,791 despite unprecedented quarantine measures imposed last week on millions of people in Hubei and aggressive preventive steps elsewhere in the country.
The number of new deaths and newly confirmed cases both are spiraling by leaps and bounds on a daily basis since China sounded the nationwide alarm a week ago.
As the Lunar New Year holiday which started last week, many Chinese people travelled within the country and on foreign shores as well, leading to the epidemic to spread far and wide.
It has since ballooned into a global health emergency with cases in more than two dozen countries.
The top Communist Party official in Wuhan expressed “remorse” on Friday, saying local authorities acted too slowly in containing the virus.
This is the sixth time the WHO has declared a public health emergency of international concern after it did so during the outbreaks of H1N1 in 2009; the Ebola virus in West Africa in 2014 and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2019; polio in 2014; and the Zika virus in 2016.
The WHO, however, maintained that there is no reason to restrict international travel over the China virus.
Many countries have already urged their citizens not to visit China while some have banned entry for travellers from the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
WHO chief Ghebreyesus had earlier said on Twitter that the organisation “deeply regrets” what he called a “human error” in WHO reports last week that referred to the global risk of the outbreak as “moderate” instead of “high”.
The Coronavirus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003. Like SARS, it can be passed among people through the respiratory tract. The symptoms of infection include fever, cough and breathing problems.
The Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that causes illnesses ranging from the common cold to acute respiratory syndromes, but the virus in China is a novel strain and not seen before.
Outside of China, Hong Kong and Macau, other countries with confirmed cases include Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, South Korea, Japan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Canada, the United States, United Arab Emirates, Australia (two new cases reported Thursday), France and Germany. Finland reported its first case Wednesday while India confirmed a positive case on Thursday.
Today a special Air India flight Boeing 747 brought back 324 Indian nationals from Wuhan.
The US today declared a public health emergency and temporarily banned the entry of foreign nationals who have travelled to China over the past two weeks, to contain the spread of a deadly new virus. Foreign nationals, other than the immediate family of US citizens and permanent residents, who have travelled in China within the last 14 days will be denied entry into the United States.
The US government also warned Americans ‘do not travel to China’.
(With inputs from AFP)