China, WHO vow to curb virus spread as death toll tops 100

28, Jan. 2020

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BEIJING, Kyodo - China and the World Health Organization agreed Tuesday to work closely to curb the spread of a new pneumonia-causing coronavirus which has infected more than 4,500 people and killed over 100 across the country.

During their meeting in Beijing, WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus told Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi the U.N. agency hopes serious measures can control the outbreak of the mysterious, deadly virus.

Wang said China is "confident" about overcoming the infections, which have spread to over 10 countries but which the WHO has so far not declared a public health emergency of international concern.

Across China, the virus has claimed the lives of 106 people, after 24 more people died in Hubei Province, the epicenter of the outbreak, bringing total deaths in the central Chinese province to 100, according to the nation's health authorities.

Over 4,500, including 80 in Beijing and 66 in Shanghai, have been infected with the virus as of Tuesday morning, up from just over 2,800.

In Beijing, the first death from the killer virus was confirmed Monday. Municipal authorities in Shanghai, the biggest commercial hub in China, have ordered firms -- excluding those related to food and infrastructure -- to close their doors until Feb. 9.

Health authorities have called on people to refrain from going outside and to avoid crowds, to reduce the risk of infection from the virus, which has been found to transmit between humans.

The virus is believed to have begun spreading last month in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province around 1,000 kilometers south of Beijing. The city is a major business hub with the population of 11 million.

With Wuhan effectively in lockdown since last week due to the outbreak, a U.S. chartered flight will arrive there as early as Tuesday night to bring its citizens and diplomats back to the United States, U.S. government sources said.

Japan will also send a chartered plane to Wuhan on Tuesday night to evacuate its nationals, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters earlier in the day.

On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump offered to help China contain the outbreak. "We are in very close communication with China concerning the virus...We have offered China and President Xi (Jinping) any help that is necessary. Our experts are extraordinary!" he tweeted.

(World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (L) meets with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing)
(World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (L) meets with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing)

The U.S. State Department, meanwhile, has urged the public to "reconsider" any plans to visit China in its latest travel advisory.

Infections have also been confirmed in other Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea and Sri Lanka, as well as in Europe, North America and Australia.

The new strain is a type of coronavirus different from those which caused serious, sometimes deadly respiratory diseases, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome or Middle East respiratory syndrome, known as SARS and MERS, respectively.

It is known to cause fever, coughing and breathing difficulties. Its incubation period is about 10 days but can be between one and 14 days, according to China's National Health Commission. The commission says it can be transmitted to others before symptoms emerge.

Large amounts of the coronavirus were found in samples taken from a seafood market in Wuhan that also traded in wild animals, according to Chinese media. (Kyodo)