Coronavirus UPDATE: 81 dead, Beijing 50 year old dies, more cases in the US

PHOTO: Patients queue up in front of the Wuhan Red Cross - ABC News

The death toll in China from the respiratory illness called the Wuhan Coronavirus or the Novel Coronavirus, has now reached 81. There are no deaths reported outside China and the vast majority of deaths are in the province of Hubei (76) where Wuhan is the capital. The coronavirus has now infected nearly 3,000 people, and the numbers are expected to grow. It was around 2,000 over the weekend.

The mayor of Wuhan reported yesterday there were about 3,000 patients in the city being treated for confirmed or suspected symptoms.

Officials in the Chinese capital, Beijing – 1,200 kilometres away – have announced the first death in the city from coronavirus. The patient, a 50 year old man, had travelled to Wuhan on January 8 and developed a fever after returning to Beijing on January 15. He was diagnosed a week later and died of respiratory failure on January 27.

Current situation

• There have been 2,744 confirmed cases across China, of which 1,423 cases were in Hubei Province. The youngest confirmed case is a 9 month old girl in the Chinese capital.

Thailand and Hong Kong have now both reported eight confirmed cases of coronavirus infection. The US, Taiwan, Australia and Macau have five. Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia have four. France has three; Canada and Vietnam have two. Nepal and Cambodia each have one case.

• The Chinese government has extended Chinese New Year holidays by three days – from this Thursday to the following Sunday – in an effort to limit people travelling, and the further spread of the virus, at this crucial phase.

• The lockdown, affecting 56 million people, principally in Hubei cities and other strategic locations, could actually be making the situation worse, according to some medical experts. They say the lockdowns slow the movement of critical medical supplies and also make the lockdown cities a hotbed of panic.

• Stocks have tumbled and oil prices fallen over the past 24 hours as the spread of coronavirus spooks investors around the world. China’s yuan has also fallen in value, while investors continued their move into safe havens like gold. China’s A-shares, the mainland share markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen, is down by more than 5% yesterday.

• In the US, at least 110 people are being tested for coronavirus. Three University of Washington students, recently returned from Wuhan, China, have become sick and are being tested for the virus, but officials claim they are not confirmed cases. The three have been isolated and treated in their dorms and not hospitalised.


Comparing to the SARS outbreak in China in 2002/2003, at the current rate of around 1,000 new cases a day, the coronavirus should have infected half of the 8,096 people stricken with the SARS virus, by mid-week. SARS took around 8 months to reach that level of cases. Health officials speculate that Coronavirus, in comparison, appears to be more virulent but less deadly.

In total 774 people died from SARS, according to the World Health Organisation. The SARS virus stayed in the world news cycle for 8 months. There has no cases of SARS detected ever since. In that case, the disease was traced to bats. The Wuhan coronavirus is also being traced to animals, including bats, believed to have been consumed by Wuhan locals.

The Mayor of Wuhan

Wuhan’s leading Communist Party officials have offered to step down amid the growing criticism that the local authorities’ response was too slow. Mayor Zhou Xianwang says that he and Ma Guoqiang, the city’s Communist party secretary, will take responsibility for the crisis and resign to “appease public indignation.”

The mayor says the ban on travel is “unprecedented in human history”. The ban was enacted last week and effectively cut off the city of 11 million people.

Medical workers in the city continue to accuse the Wuhan civil government of reacting too slowly to the crisis. Residents are using social media to complain about the ban on travel that is making it difficult to get food and health care into the city.

Yesterday, Wuhan shops remained mostly closed. But supermarkets, fresh produce markets and shops, and pharmacies, remained open. Many pharmacies report that they have run out of protective masks and hand disinfectant.

Wuhan’s streets remain mostly free of cars. Many residents walked or rode bicycles to do their shopping.

SOURCES: Forbes | CNN | New York Times | Science Today

Coronavirus UPDATE: 81 dead, Beijing 50 year old dies, more cases in the US | News by Thaiger

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