World

Coronavirus: More deaths but fewer new cases in China

Number of new virus patients in China falls for second straight day

BEIJING: The death toll from China's coronavirus epidemic climbed past 1,100 yesterday, but the number of new cases fell for a second straight day.

Another 97 people have died in China, while more than 44,600 people are ill with the coronavirus infection, which has been named Covid-19 by the World Health Organisation.

The name comes from CO for corona, VI for virus, D for disease and 19 for the year it emerged.

Most of the deaths and majority of cases have been in central Hubei province. Its capital, Wuhan, is the epicentre of the outbreak.

In a positive development, the number of new cases has fallen in Hubei for two straight days, according to figures from China's National Health Commission (NHC).

DROP IN NEW CASES

Outside the province, the number of new patients has declined for the past week.

"In general, the number of new cases is now slowly decreasing," Mr Zhong Nanshan, a renowned scientist at the NHC, said in a video conference with medical staff in Wuhan on Tuesday.

"When does the turning point occur? I can't say. But I think it is at its peak in mid- to late February," he said.

Australia's chief medical officer was more circumspect, however.

"I think we've just got to watch the data very closely over the coming weeks before we make any predictions," Dr Brendan Murphy told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Doubts have also been aired on social media about how reliable the figures are, after the government last week amended guidelines on the classification of cases.

State news agency Xinhua said late on Tuesday that he epidemic was a "battle that has no gunpowder smoke but must be won".

The epidemic was a big test of China's governance and capabilities, and some officials were still "dropping the ball" in places where it was most severe, Xinhua, adding: "This is a wake-up call."

MOUNTING ANGER

Hubei's provincial government of Hubei has dismissed itsl Health Commission's Communist Party boss, state media said on Tuesday, amid mounting public anger over the crisis.

In another development, there was good news for cruise passengers on the MS Westerdam.

Cambodia has agreed to let the cruise ship, which has been turned away by five places over fears that someone aboard may have the virus, to dock and disembark its passengers, ship operator Holland America Line said yesterday.

The cruise ship, which has 1,455 passengers and 802 crew on board, will dock at the Cambodian sea port of Sihanoukville today, the company said.

The ship - which says it has no sick passengers - has been turned away from Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Guam and the Philippines. - REUTERS, AFP

WORLD