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China coronavirus outbreak sees death toll climb to 811

THE death toll from China’s coronavirus outbreak surpassed that from the 2002-3 Sars epidemic today, climbing to 811.

But a 20 per cent slowdown in the number of new cases reported was welcomed as a sign that the tough containment measures being taken are starting to limit its spread.

Some 2,656 new virus cases were reported in the 24 hours ending at midnight Saturday, most of them in the central province of Hubei, where the first patients fell sick in December. That contrasts with 3,399 new cases reported in the previous 24-hour period.

“That means the joint control mechanism of different regions and the strict prevention and control measures have worked,” National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng said at a news conference.

Although the vast majority of cases are still reported from China’s Hubei province where the virus first emerged, cases were reported in Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia and Spain yesterday.

Hubei’s capital Wuhan opened the doors of a new 1,500-bed hospital that took just a fortnight to build on Saturday, following the opening of a 1,000-bed hospital that was constructed in 10 days last week.

The municipal government of the city of 11 million said it would begin carrying out twice-daily disinfection of hospitals, markets, public toilets and other facilities. Beijing unveiled sweeping food subsidies and said the government would compensate farmers and medicine producers who had to ask staff to work overtime.

Hong Kong released the 1,800 passengers and 1,800 crew of the Dream World cruise ship after tests found no infections among crew.

The territory said it would impose a 14-day quarantine on arrivals from the Chinese mainland, though Chief Executive Carrie Lam refused demands from anti-China protesters that the border be completely sealed.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres praised China at the weekend for its “remarkable” efforts to contain the virus.

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