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World

WHO urges calm as China virus death toll reaches 2,000

Laurent Thomet - Agence France-Presse
WHO urges calm as China virus death toll reaches 2,000
This photo taken on February 17, 2020 shows patients who have displayed mild symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus doing exercises at an exhibition centre converted into a hospital in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province. The death toll from the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic jumped to 1,868 in China on February 18 after 98 more people died, according to the National Health Commission.
AFP / STR

BEIJING, China — The death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak surged to 2,000 on Wednesday, as Chinese and international health officials warned against excessive measures to contain the epidemic.

More than 74,000 people have now been infected by the virus in China, with hundreds more cases in some 25 countries.

The situation remains serious at the epicentre, with the director of a hospital in the central city of Wuhan becoming the seventh medical worker to succumb to the COVID-19 illness.

But Chinese officials released a study showing most patients have mild cases of the infection, and World Health Organization officials said the mortality rate was relatively low.

The outbreak is threatening to put a dent in the global economy, with China paralysed by vast quarantine measures and major firms such as iPhone maker Apple and mining giant BHP warning it could damage bottom lines.

Several countries have banned travellers from China and major airlines have suspended flights -- something that Beijing's ambassador to the EU warned was fuelling panic and threatening attempts to resume business.

Russia on Tuesday said no Chinese citizens would be allowed to enter its territory from February 20.

The epidemic has triggered panic-buying in Singapore and Hong Kong, concerns about cruise-ship travel and the postponement of trade fairs, sports competitions and cultural events in China and abroad.

Authorities have placed about 56 million people in hard-hit central Hubei and its capital Wuhan under an unprecedented lockdown.

The city was carrying out "very good public health practice" with door-to-door surveillance, said Michael Ryan, head of WHO's health emergencies programme.

Other cities far from the epicentre have restricted the movement of residents, with a 14-day self-quarantine for people returning to Beijing.

President Xi Jinping, in a phone call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said China's measures were achieving "visible progress", according to state media.

'Less deadly' than SARS

The official death toll in China hit 2,000 after another 132 people died in Hubei, where the virus emerged in December.

Liu Zhiming, the director of Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan, became its latest victim, sparking an outpouring of grief online.

Earlier this month, the death of Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang -- who had been punished by authorities for sounding the alarm about the virus in late December -- triggered anger and calls on social media for political reform.

Official figures, meanwhile, showed there were nearly 1,700 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday in Hubei.

New infections have been falling in the rest of the country for the past two weeks.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned that it was too early to tell if the decline would continue.

A study among tens of thousands of confirmed and suspected cases showed that 81 percent of patients had only mild infections.

The study released by China's Centre for Disease Control and Prevention also showed the death rate stood at 2.3 percent, falling below one percent for people in their 30s and 40s.

WHO officials said the COVID-19 illness was "less deadly" than its cousins, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

But it is higher than the mortality rate for the seasonal flu, at around 0.1 percent in the United States.

Ryan said the outbreak was "very serious" and could grow, but stressed that outside Hubei the epidemic was "affecting a very, very tiny, tiny proportion of people".

There have been some 900 cases around the world, with five deaths in France, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Another 88 people tested positive for the virus on the quarantined Diamond Prince cruise ship off Yokohama in Japan, raising the number of those infections to 542.

The US has repatriated more than 300 American passengers and Britain became the latest country to offer its citizens a way off the ship after similar plans by Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and South Korea.

And around 500 passengers were to leave the vessel on Wednesday after testing negative for the virus.

2019-NCOV CHINA COVID-19 NOVEL CORONAVIRUS WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 21, 2021 - 6:52pm

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

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.

September 14, 2021 - 8:48pm

Frontline health and social care workers, older people and the clinically vulnerable in Britain will start to receive a booster jab against COVID-19 from next week, the government says.

Health minister Sajid Javid tells parliament he had approved a recommendation from advisory body the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to start the programme.

He also approved a controversial proposal to offer jabs to children aged 12-15 as concern mounts about the spread of the virus in schools. — AFP

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