China’s death toll from the coronavirus epidemic hit 361 on February 3, 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, with one reported in the southwestern megalopolis of Chongqing. That took the toll in China to 361, 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 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 17,200 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.
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 2,829 new confirmed cases nationally on Monday, bringing the total infected to 17,205, health officials said.
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.