The number of deaths from a coronavirus outbreak in China is nearing 1,000, while an increase in cases in Britain has led the government there to declare the virus a “serious and imminent threat” to public health.
Britain reported four new cases Monday, bringing to eight the number of people testing positive for the virus. Health Minister Matt Hancock made the declaration to give the government more power to isolate people in its bid to keep the virus from spreading.
The director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said Monday that the spread of coronavirus between people who had no history of travel to China could be “the spark that becomes a bigger fire.”
“In recent days, we have seen some concerning instances of onward transmission from people with no travel history to China,” he said, citing the new cases in Britain as well as in France.
Tedros said an advance WHO team of medical experts arrived in China on Monday to help investigate the outbreak.
U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday that he is expecting the coronavirus outbreak to disappear in April because of the warmer weather. “The heat, generally speaking, kills this kind of virus,” he said.
Also Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a rare visit to a hospital in Beijing, speaking with health care workers and patients. Xi donned a blue mask during his visit to the Beijing Ditan hospital — a designated institution treating the coronavirus.
Xi, who has largely stayed out of the public eye since the epidemic began in December, also visited a residential community in central Beijing to talk to locals about their daily lives during the outbreak.
China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of a coronavirus outbreak, reported 2,097 new cases and 103 new deaths on Feb. 10, Reuters news service reported from the local health authority Tuesday. The Hubei provincial health commission said the province now had confirmed a total of 31,728 cases with 974 deaths by the end of Monday, a fatality rate of 3.07%.
It said there were still a total of 16,687 suspected cases. The province pledged on Monday to test all those suspected to have the virus within a day.
Millions of people remain under lockdown in Hubei province, and people are complaining of food shortages.
Commerce official Wang Bin said Sunday said there are poor logistics, price increases and labor shortages.
“It is difficult for the market supply to reach normal levels,” he acknowledged. Currently, he said there is a five-day supply of pork and eggs, and a three-day supply of vegetables.
China’s central bank said that starting Monday it would make available 300 billion yuan ($43 billion) to help businesses involved in fighting the epidemic.
Cruise ship quarantine
In Japan, a cruise ship remains in quarantine in Yokohama with 66 new cases reported Monday, more than doubling the number of known cases on board.
The Diamond Princess was ordered to remain isolated last week after a passenger who got off the ship in Hong Kong tested positive for the coronavirus.
Joseph Eisenberg, professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, told the Reuters news agency it was too early to say whether the epidemic was peaking due to the uncertainty in the number of cases.
“Even if reported cases might be peaking, we don’t know what is happening with unreported cases,” he said. “This is especially an issue in some of the more rural areas.”
The death toll from the coronavirus is higher than that of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002-03, which is believed to have killed 774 people and sickened nearly 8,100 in China and the special administrative region of Hong Kong.