China confirms 9 deaths, 440 cases of coronavirus infection
BEIJING,Kyodo - The Chinese government said Wednesday nine people have died after being infected with a new coronavirus that has spread in China, and confirmed the infection of 440 people in 13 provinces.
The National Health Commission pointed to an expert view that the virus, the vast majority of whose cases have so far centered on the central China city of Wuhan, may spread further through mutation as it has become evident it can be passed between humans.
The commission stressed the country will step up international cooperation in containing the outbreak, amid reports the virus has spread to other countries, including the United States.
As of midnight Tuesday, the death toll in China had increased by three and the number of confirmed cases of respiratory problems due to the virus rose by more than 100 from a day earlier, according to the commission.
Li Bin, vice minister of the commission, told the news conference the recent jump in confirmed cases can be attributed to improved detection methods, accompanied by a deeper understanding of the disease.
All the deaths have occurred in Hubei Province, in which Wuhan is located, he added.
Given that millions of Chinese citizens are expected to travel domestically and internationally for the Lunar New Year holidays, which start Friday, China will implement stronger controls on movements in and out of Wuhan, and restrict public gatherings in the entire province, Li said.
The press conference was the first held by the Chinese government over the new coronavirus.
Thailand, South Korea and Japan have confirmed cases of infections, while Taiwan and the United States reported within the last 24 hours their first cases of pneumonia caused by the new virus.
Macau said Wednesday it has confirmed the first coronavirus case within the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
The World Health Organization, meanwhile, is expected to hold an emergency committee meeting later Wednesday in Geneva to discuss how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Coronaviruses usually cause common-cold symptoms affecting the nose, sinuses or upper throat, and are spread through sneezing, coughing or direct contact. (Kyodo)