Number of cases in China falls
The number of new coronavirus cases in China fell on Sunday and a health official said intense efforts to stop its spread were beginning to work, as another 70 people tested positive on a virus-stricken cruise ship quarantined in Japan.
China’s latest figures showed 68,500 cases of the illness and 1,665 deaths, most of them in Hubei.
The National Health Commission on Sunday reported 2,009 new cases, down from 2,641 the previous day, and 142 new deaths, just one lower than the 143 on the previous day. All but four of the new deaths were in Hubei.
The province and its capital, Wuhan, have been virtually sealed off and locked down since January 23, with schools, offices and factories shut and most travel suspended.
The virus is believed to have an incubation period of 14 days, which would appear to indicate it has been spreading since the lockdown was imposed. But health commission spokesman Mi Feng said the campaign was beginning to show results.
“The effect of the coronavirus controls is appearing,” Mi told reporters.
Increased medical support and preventive measures in Hubei had headed off more critical cases and the proportion of critical cases among confirmed cases had fallen to 21.6 per cent on Saturday, from 32.4 per cent on January 27, Mi said.
Mild cases were also being treated more quickly, preventing them from becoming critical, Mi said.
Nevertheless, restrictions were tightened in Hubei on Sunday with a ban on vehicles, apart from essential services, and companies told to stay shut until further notice.
The first fatality in Europe was an 80-year-old Chinese man who died at a Paris hospital, authorities said on Saturday.
Robin Thompson, an expert in mathematical epidemiology at Britain’s University of Oxford, said that with nearly 50 cases in Europe, a death was not surprising. “There still hasn’t been sustained person-to-person transmission in Europe,” he said.
After an extended Lunar New Year holiday, China urgently needs to get back to work. But some cities remain in lockdown, streets are deserted, employees are nervous, and travel bans and quarantine orders are in place around the country.
Many factories are yet to reopen, disrupting supply chains in China and beyond for everyone from smartphone makers to car manufacturers.
While there has been some hope that the disease may be peaking in China, a trend has been hard to discern, especially after a reclassification that widened the definition of cases.
World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Saturday it was impossible to tell where the epidemic will spread.
“We are concerned by the continued increase in the number of cases in China,” Tedros told the Munich Security Conference in Germany.
The sickness, now officially labelled COVID19, has killed about 2 per cent of those infected.