China virus death toll rises to 170, more than 1,700 new cases
BEIJING (REUTERS, AFP) – China’s National Health Commission said on Thursday the total number of confirmed deaths from the coronavirus in the country has risen by 38 to 170 as of end-Wednesday, as the number of infected patients rose by more than 1,700.
The commission said in a statement there were 7,711 confirmed cases as of the end of Wednesday, with an additional 12,167 suspected cases.
Thirty-seven of the 38 new deaths came in hard-hit Hubei province, the epicentre of a contagion that is causing mounting global fear. Another death occurred in southwestern Sichuan province, the central government said.
Foreign governments began flying their citizens out of China’s Hubei province, as the health commission for Hubei said on Thursday that deaths in the province from the new coronavirus had risen by 37 to 162, while a further 1,032 cases had been detected, bringing its total to 4,586.
Although the majority of cases have been in Hubei, cases have been detected elsewhere in China and in at least 15 other countries.
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Emergency Committee is set to reconvene behind closed doors in Geneva later on Thursday to decide whether the rapid spread of the virus now constitutes a global emergency.
“In the last few days the progress of the virus, especially in some countries, especially human-to-human transmission, worries us,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference on Wednesday, naming Germany, Vietnam and Japan.
“Although the numbers outside China are still relatively small, they hold the potential for a much larger outbreak.”
The United States flew about 200 Americans out of Wuhan, capital of Hubei where most of the cases are concentrated. They were being screened on arrival at a military base in California on Wednesday, where officials declared them free of symptoms.
France, Britain and Canada also have organised evacuations.
The effects of the virus are already weighing heavily on China’s economy, the world’s second-biggest, with companies cutting corporate travel and tourists cancelling trips.
Various airlines are cutting flights, from British Airways and Lufthansa to Air Canada and American Airlines.