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World

Virus deaths in China rise to 360, exceeding SARS mainland toll

Helen Roxburgh, Beiyi Seow - Agence France-Presse
Virus deaths in China rise to 360, exceeding SARS mainland toll
Passengers wearing facemasks arrive from different provinces at the Beijing Railway Station on February 1, 2020. China faced deepening isolation over its coronavirus epidemic as the death toll soared to 259, with the United States and Australia leading a growing list of nations to impose extraordinary Chinese travel bans.
AFP / Noel Celis

BEIJING, China — China's death toll from the coronavirus epidemic soared to 360 on Monday, with deepening global concern about the outbreak and governments closing their borders to people from China.

The fresh toll came a day after China imposed a lockdown on a major city far from the epicentre and the first fatality outside the country was reported in the Philippines. 

Authorities in Hubei, the province at the epicentre of the outbreak, reported 56 new fatalities. That took the toll in China to 360, exceeding the 349 mainland fatalities from the 2002-3 SARS outbreak.

Struggling to contain the virus, authorities took action in the eastern city of Wenzhou on Sunday, closing roads and confining people to their homes.

Wenzhou is some 800 kilometres (500 miles) from Wuhan, the metropolis at the heart of the health emergency.

Since emerging out of Wuhan late last year, the new coronavirus has infected more than 16,400 people across China and reached 24 nations.

The G7 countries -- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States -- have all confirmed cases of the virus. They will discuss a joint response, Germany's health minister Jens Spahn said on Sunday.

In Thailand, which has 19 confirmed cases, doctors said Sunday an elderly Chinese patient treated with a cocktail of flu and HIV drugs had shown dramatic improvement and tested negative for the virus 48 hours later.

Most of the infections overseas have been detected in people who travelled from Wuhan, an industrial hub of 11 million people, or surrounding areas of Hubei province.

The man who died in the Philippines was a 44-year-old from Wuhan, according to the World Health Organization, which has declared the epidemic a global health emergency.

China has embarked on unprecedented efforts to contain the virus, which is believed to have jumped to humans from a Wuhan animal market, and can be transmitted among people.

Wenzhou lockdown

China's efforts have included extraordinary quarantines in Wuhan and surrounding cities, with all transport out banned, effectively sealing off more than 50 million people.

But 10 days after locking down Wuhan, authorities imposed similar draconian measures on Wenzhou, a coastal city of nine million people in Zhejiang province, part of the eastern industrial heartland that has powered China's economic rise over recent decades.

Only one resident per household is allowed to go out every two days to buy necessities, and 46 highway toll stations have been closed, authorities announced.

The city had previously closed public places such as cinemas and museums, and suspended public transport.

Zhejiang has 661 confirmed infections, with 265 of those in Wenzhou, according to the government.

This is the highest tally for any province in China after ground-zero Hubei.

Closing borders

The United States, Australia, New Zealand and Israel have banned foreign nationals from visiting if they have been in China recently, and they have also warned their own citizens against travelling there.

Mongolia, Russia and Nepal have closed their land borders.

The number of countries reporting infections rose to 24 after Britain, Russia and Sweden confirmed their first cases this weekend.

There were 2,103 new confirmed cases in hardest-hit Hubei province on Monday, bringing the total infected to more than 16,480.

With hospitals in Wuhan overwhelmed, China will open a military-led field hospital Monday that was built in just 10 days to treat people stricken by the virus.

And with the Chinese economy suffering, the central bank announced it would release 1.2 trillion yuan ($173 billion) on Monday to maintain liquidity in the banking system -- the day markets re-open after the long holiday break.

Holiday ending

The emergence of the virus coincided with the Lunar New Year, when hundreds of millions travel across the country in planes, trains and buses for family reunions.

The holiday, which was scheduled to end on Friday, was extended by three days to give authorities more time to deal with the crisis.

With many due back at work on Monday, people were starting to return on planes and trains over the weekend, with almost everyone wearing face masks.

Customs authorities had ordered temperature checks at all exit-entry points in Beijing, according to state media.

Returning travellers were being checked and registered at residential compounds, while fever checks were in place in subway stations, offices and cafes.

One 22-year-old arriving at a Beijing train station from northeastern China said her family had urged her to delay her return.

"But I was worried it would affect my job," she said.

Security guard Du Guiliang, 47, said he would be starting back at work in Beijing on Sunday, after returning from northeast Liaoning province.

"Many colleagues (from Hubei) couldn't come back. Now, those who work the day shift at our company have to do the night shift as well," he said.

Many businesses were to remain closed for at least another week, however, while some major cities -- including Shanghai -- had also extended the holiday.

2019-NCOV NOVEL CORONAVIRUS SARS-LIKE VIRUS
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 22, 2021 - 1:59pm

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

September 22, 2021 - 1:59pm

Brazil's Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga tested positive for Covid-19 Tuesday after attending the UN General Assembly in New York that was inaugurated by his president, Jair Bolsonaro, according to an official statement.

"The other members of the delegation have been tested and are negative," said the official Brazilian government press release.

Queiroga, who had received a Covid-19 vaccine, was the second member of Bolsonaro's entourage to test positive for the virus since arriving in New York for the UN gathering. — AFP

September 21, 2021 - 6:52pm

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 4,696,559 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

At least 229,008,620 cases of coronavirus have been registered.

The vast majority have recovered, though some have continued to experience symptoms weeks or even months later.

September 20, 2021 - 8:29pm

The COVID-19 pandemic sped up the shift of innovation from Europe and North America towards Asia, UN world rankings showed Monday.

The Global Innovation Index 2021, from the United Nations' World Intellectual Property Organization, showed surging performances by South Korea and China.

"The pandemic has accelerated the long-term geographical shift of innovation activities toward Asia, even if Northern America and Europe continue to host some of the world's leading innovators," said WIPO.

While the top four in the global rankings remained the same as last year — with Switzerland leading for the 11th year running followed by Sweden, the United States and Britain — South Korea leapt five places to fifth.

The index found "substantial increases in brand values in Korea, in trademarks being filed, but also in cultural and creative services exports," index co-editor Sacha Wunsch-Vincent told reporters, citing the K-Pop phenomenon. — AFP

September 19, 2021 - 4:17pm

Australia's second-largest city will exit its coronavirus lockdown in late October if vaccine targets are met under an official roadmap released Sunday.

About five million people in Melbourne have been under stay-at-home orders since August 5, the sixth lockdown they have endured so far during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials in Victoria state, which includes Melbourne, announced those orders would be lifted when 70 percent of over-16s are fully vaccinated. They projected that target would be reached around October 26.

"Lockdown will end. The (limited) reasons to leave your home and the curfew will no longer be in place," Victoria premier Dan Andrews said, adding that a raft of restrictions would still be enforced.

Restaurants and pubs will be allowed to reopen but only with a maximum of 50 fully vaccinated people seated outdoors, while a ban on visitors to homes will remain in place. — AFP

September 17, 2021 - 7:07pm

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 4,667,150 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

At least 226,967,810 cases of coronavirus have been registered.

The vast majority have recovered, though some have continued to experience symptoms weeks or even months later.

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