China reports 17 new cases of mystery virus

(Agence France-Presse) - January 19, 2020 - 11:37am

BEIJING, China — China reported 17 new cases of the mysterious SARS-like virus on Sunday, including three in a severe condition, heightening fears ahead of China's Lunar New Year holiday when hundreds of millions of people move around the country.

The new coronavirus strain has caused alarm because of its connection to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

Of the 17 new cases in the central city of Wuhan — believed to be the epicentre of the outbreak — three were described as "severe," of which two patients were too critical to be moved, authorities said.

Those infected range from 30 to 79 years old.

The virus has now infected 62 people in Wuhan, city authorities said, with eight in a severe condition, 19 cured and discharged from hospital, and the rest remaining in isolation receiving treatment.

Two people have died so far from the virus, including a 69-year-old man who died on Wednesday after the disease caused pulmonary tuberculosis and damaged multiple organ functions.

Authorities said they had begun "optimised" testing of pneumonia cases across the city to identify those infected, and would begin "detection work... towards suspected cases in the city" as a next step, as well as carrying out "sampling tests."

Scientists with the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College in London warned in a paper published Friday that the number of cases in the city was likely to be closer to 1,700, much higher than the number officially identified.

Authorities said Sunday that some of the cases had "no history of contact" with the seafood market believed to be the centre of the outbreak.

No human-to-human transmission has been confirmed so far, but Wuhan's health commission has previously said the possibility "cannot be excluded."

Three cases have also been reported overseas — two in Thailand and one in Japan.

Screening measures

Although there has been no official announcement of screening measures on the mainland, Wuhan deputy mayor Chen Xiexin said on state broadcaster CCTV that infrared thermometers had been installed at airports, railway stations and coach stations across the city.

Chen said passengers with fevers were being registered, given masks and taken to medical institutions, with nearly 300,000 body temperature tests had been carried out, according to CCTV.

Authorities in Hong Kong have stepped up detection measures, including rigorous temperature checkpoints for inbound travellers from the Chinese mainland.

The US said from Friday it would begin screening direct flights arriving from Wuhan at San Francisco airport and New York's JFK, as well as Los Angeles, where many flights connect.

Thailand said it was already screening passengers arriving in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket and would soon introduce similar controls in the beach resort of Krabi.

Wuhan is a city of 11 million inhabitants that serves as a major transport hub, including during the annual Lunar New Year holiday, when hundreds of millions of Chinese people travel across the country to visit family.

CHINA PNEUMONIA OUTBREAK SARS
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: January 23, 2021 - 2:22pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

January 23, 2021 - 2:22pm

The World Health Organization says it was too early to draw any conclusions from its mission to Wuhan as to whether the COVID-19 pandemic started in China.

A team of WHO experts arrived in Wuhan on January 14 to start probing the origins of the deadly coronavirus, more than a year after the first cases were detected in the central Chinese city.

They were whisked to a hotel to complete a two-week quarantine. — AFP

January 23, 2021 - 9:15am

Thousands of Hong Kongers are ordered to stay in their homes on Saturday for the city's first coronavirus lockdown as authorities battle an outbreak in one of its poorest and most densely packed districts.

The order bans anyone inside multiple housing blocks within the neighborhood of Jordan from leaving their apartment unless they can show a negative test.

Officials say they planned to test everyone inside the designated zone within 48 hours "in order to achieve the goal of zero cases in the district". — AFP

January 22, 2021 - 2:09pm

The number of people taking their own lives in Japan rose for the first time in over a decade last year, as the pandemic reversed years of progress combatting a stubbornly high suicide rate.

Japan's health and welfare ministry said Friday that 20,919 people died by suicide in 2020 according to preliminary data, up 3.7 percent from the previous year. That compares with 3,460 deaths from coronavirus in the same period.

It marks the first year-on-year rise in suicides in more than a decade, with women and children in particular taking their lives at higher rates. — AFP

January 21, 2021 - 8:02am

The number of US COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday surpassed the country's toll of military fatalities in World War II, according to a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

As of the evening, the tracker showed that 405,400 people have died from the disease caused by the new coronavirus in the United States.

The total number of combat and non-combat deaths in World War II was 405,399, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The figure is a stark reminder of the pandemic's cost as newly-elected President Joe Biden begins his term. — AFP

January 20, 2021 - 8:52pm

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 2,058,226 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to an AFP tally from official sources at 1100 GMT on Wednesday.

More than 96,144,670 cases of coronavirus have been registered.

These figures are based on daily tolls provided by health authorities in each country and exclude later re-evaluations by statistical organisations as has happened in Russia, Spain and Britain. —  AFP

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