China reported 105 new deaths due to the new coronavirus on Monday, pushing the overall death toll to 1,770, as officials announced stringent measures such as closing non-essential public venues and traffic restrictions to control the epidemic in the worst-hit Hubei province.
The National Health Commission said 2,048 new cases of the virus have been confirmed, taking the total number of COVID-19 infected cases to 70,548.
Of the new deaths, 100 were from Hubei Province, three in Henan, and two in Guangdong, according to the National Health Commission.
By Sunday, 57 confirmed cases including one death had been reported from Hong Kong, 10 in Macao, and 20 in Taiwan including one death.
Hubei, where 18 cities with over 50 million people are under lockdown since January 23, announced a slew of more stringent measures to control the epidemic, including enforcing province-wide traffic restrictions on all non-emergency vehicles and closing all non-essential public venues.
A circular by the provincial government said the health screening campaign should be strengthened and no one should be missed. Also, companies should not resume production unless allowed by local authorities. Those that have resumed work including public institutions should follow strict prevention measures.
The measures came as the situation remains “grave”, the circular added.
However, new cases outside the epicentre have been declining for the last thirteen days. There were 115 fresh cases outside the central province — sharply down from nearly 450 a week ago, suggesting that epidemic control measures were taking effect.
“In Wuhan, the epicentre of the epidemic, the proportion of severe cases among the confirmed cases fell from a peak of 32.4 per cent on January 28 to 21.6 per cent on February 15,” Mi Feng, a spokesperson with the NHC, said during a media briefing.
Meanwhile, a 12-member team of World Health Organisation experts began assisting their Chinese counterparts to control the virus.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said international experts were now on the ground in China to understand the outbreak and inform the next steps in the global response.
Ghebreyesus also met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Munich Security Conference.
Some 1,700 medical workers have been infected, with six dying from the COVID-19 illness in China, officials said, underscoring the country’s struggle to contain the deepening health crisis.
Meanwhile, an additional 99 people have tested positive for Coronavirus the cruise ship Diamond Princess off the Japan coast, taking the total number of positive cases on the Diamond Princess to 454.
It was also not clear whether the figures included 14 US citizens who tested positive for the virus but were allowed to board evacuation flights home. The Diamond Princess vessel moored in Yokohama near Tokyo has the largest cluster of Coronavirus cases outside the epicentre Wuhan in China.
The US was the first country to evacuate its citizens from the ship but Australia, Canada, Italy, and Hong Kong have indicated they will follow suit. On land, cases in Japan have risen to 65, with authorities warning that the outbreak is entering a “new phase” and advising people to avoid large gatherings.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had on Saturday that 400 Americans on the Diamond Princess cruise ship would be evacuated and flown back to the United States where they would face a 14-day quarantine period.
The novel Coronavirus outbreak has caused alarm as it has crossed global fatalities in the 2002-03 SARS epidemic.
Over 770 people had died worldwide during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak.
WHO, which has declared the Coronavirus outbreak as a global health emergency, has stated that it poses a “very grave threat for the rest of the world” and should be viewed as “Public Enemy Number 1”.
Several countries have banned arrivals from China and major airlines have cut services with the country.
However, the epidemic has continued to spread across China and nearly 500 cases have emerged in more than two dozen countries.
(With agency inputs)