Chinese President Xi Jinping declared a “people’s war” on Thursday against the fast-spreading coronavirus whose impact has been felt around the world from slowing factory floors to quarantined cruise liners.
The death toll in mainland China jumped by 73 to 563, with more than 28,000 infections also confirmed inside the world’s second largest economy. Such was the anxiety that some Chinese were asking HIV patients for medicines.
But Xi, again seeking to prevent global panic, said China’s strong mobilisation capacity and rich experience in public health would enable it to beat the coronavirus.
“The whole country has responded with all its strength to respond with the most thorough and strict prevention and control measures, starting a people’s war for epidemic prevention and control,” Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying in a telephone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.
In a striking image of the epidemic’s reach, about 3,700 people moored off Japan on the Diamond Princess faced testing and quarantine for at least two weeks on the ship, which has 20 cases.
Gay Courter, a 75-year-old American novelist on board, appealed for the US government to take Americans off.
“It’s better for us to travel while healthy and also, if we get sick, to be treated in American hospitals,” he told Reuters.
In Hong Kong, another cruise ship with 3,600 passengers and crew was quarantined for a second day pending testing after three cases on board.
Taiwan, which has 13 cases, banned international cruise ships from docking.
In China, sometimes dubbed the world’s workshop, cities have been shut off, flights cancelled and factories closed, shutting supply lines crucial to international businesses.
Companies including Hyundai Motor, Tesla , Ford, PSA Peugeot Citroen, Nissan , Airbus, Adidas and Foxconn are taking hits.
Financial analysts have cut China’s growth outlook, with ratings agency Moody’s flagging risks for auto sales and output.
Nintendo Co Ltd warned on Thursday of delays to production and shipping of its Switch console and other goods to the Japan market. Honda Motor Co was considering keeping operations suspended for longer than planned at its three plants in Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus, Japan’s Nikkei newspaper reported. Indonesia said it stands to lose $4 billion in tourism.
Beijing: Chinese doctor Li Wenliang, one of the eight whistleblowers who warned other medics of the coronavirus outbreak but were reprimanded by the police, died of the epidemic on Thursday, official media reported.
Li, a 34-year-old doctor who tried to warn other medics of the epidemic, died of coronavirus on Thursday in Wuhan, the state-run Global Times reported.
He was the first to report about the virus way back in December last year when it first emerged in Wuhan, the provincial capital of China’s central Hubei province.
He dropped a bombshell in his medical school alumni group on the popular Chinese messaging app WeChat that seven patients from a local seafood market had been diagnosed with a SARS-like illness and quarantined in his hospital.
Li explained that, according to a test he had seen, the illness was a coronavirus — a large family of viruses that includes severe acute respiratory syndrome which led to 800 death in China and the world in 2003. Li told his friends to warn their loved ones privately. But within hours screenshots of his messages had gone viral — without his name being blurred.
Additional reporting by PTI