The death toll in China from a deadly new coronavirus rose to 132 with new cases reaching nearly 6,000 – more than during the SARS epidemic of 2002 and 2003 – as Japan and the United States began evacuating hundreds of citizens from Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak.
Authorities said on Wednesday the number of confirmed cases across the country climbed to 5,974, while the death toll nationwide jumped by 26.
All of those new deaths were in Hubei except for one, which was on a province just to the north. Wuhan is the capital of Hubei.
More than 56 million people in almost 20 Chinese cities, including Wuhan, have been prevented from travelling in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus during the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, traditionally China’s busiest travel season.
The director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, met China’s President Xi Jingping on Tuesday.
The agency has acknowledged the respiratory illness is an emergency in China but said last week it was too early to declare the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. It has described the global risk from the virus as high.
Here are the latest updates:
Wednesday, January 29
Airlines cut flights; Hong Kong stocks tumble
US carrier United Airlines, South Korean budget carrier Air Seoul, Taiwan’s China Airlines and Eva Airways, Air Canada, Lufthansa and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific have all suspended flights or are considering doing so.
Read more here.
Meanwhile, stocks in Hong Kong dropped sharply on the first day of trading after the Lunar New Year holiday.
Almost every stock fell, sending the benchmark Hang Seng index down by more than 2 percent, with travel, casino, and consumer goods companies among the biggest decliners.
China expert says outbreak could peak in 10 days
The coronavirus outbreak could peak in 7 – 10 days, according to respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan, who heads China’s team of experts for the control and prevention of the virus.
Speaking to state news agency Xinhua, Zhong said while it was difficult to estimate the peak, there should be no “large-scale increases” after a week or 10 days.
“There are two keys to tackling the epidemic; early detection and early isolation,” Zhong said. “They are the most primitive and most effective methods.”
Novel #coronavirus outbreak may reach its peak in one week or around 10 days, a senior expert said. By end of Monday, 4,515 confirmed cases reported, 106 people died https://t.co/n95OcBoM20 pic.twitter.com/gmFGk4cmxr
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) January 29, 2020
Four Japanese evacuees from Wuhan taken to hospital with fevers
Japanese officials say four evacuees on a flight from the Chinese city of Wuhan have been taken to hospital with a cough and fever.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government confirmed their condition after the flight of 206 evacuees arrived in Tokyo. Passengers on the flight were wearing masks and underwent temperature checks before boarding and on the plane. Plans were made for all ofthe evacuees to be treated and quarantined depending on their test results.
The four are a woman in her 50s and three men whose ages are from their 30s to 50s.
Sport-X-Games latest event affected by coronavirus outbreak
An X-Games event scheduled for next month in Chongli in China’s northern Hebei province has been postponed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, organisers said.
The event, the first winter X-Games to be held in China, was to take place from February 21 and 23 in the same area as the alpine events for the 2022 Winter Olympics, which are officially being hosted by Beijing.
First US evacuation flight en route to Alaska from Wuhan
A charter plane evacuating as many as 240 Americans from Wuhan took off before dawn, and is en route to the United States, a US State Department official told The Associated Press
The plane will make a refuelling stop in Alaska before flying on to Ontario, California, the US Embassy in China has said.
When the plane arrives in Alaska, passengers will clear customs and go through the Centers for Disease Control screening.
“Then they will put them back on the plane and send them on to their final destination,” said Jim Szczesniak, manager of the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. He did not know how long the process would take beyond “hours.”
Malaysia says 3 new cases of virus infection, total at 7
Malaysia’s health ministry said on Wednesday three more people had been infected with the new coronavirus, taking the total number of cases in the country to seven, all Chinese citizens.
The new patients are a 4-year-old girl, a 52-year-old man and the mother of two children who were confirmed infected earlier, the ministry said in a statement.
Authorities said the mother had initially tested negative and had stayed in Malaysia to take care of her children – grandsons of a 66-year-old man who tested positive in Singapore for the coronavirus last week.
Malaysia this week imposed a temporary ban on Chinese nationals arriving from Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province.
US increases virus screening to 20 airports: CDC
The US Centers for Disease Control said it “decided to expand to screening travelers from the five airports originally to 20 airports in the United States”‘ based on “evolving information from China” on the coronavirus.
“At this point Americans should not worry for their own safety,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters.
Still, “this is a very fast-moving, constantly changing situation,” Azar added.
Australia to help some citizens leave China, quarantine them on Christmas Island
Australia will help some citizens leave Hubei, and quarantine them on Christmas Island, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday following a briefing by the Chinese government.
“We have taken a decision this morning to prepare a plan for an operation to provide some assisted departures for isolated and vulnerable Australians in Wuhan and the Hubei province,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
Christmas Island is an Australian territory south of the Indonesian island of Java.
Japan plane evacuating citizens arrives Tokyo from virus-hit Wuhan
A chartered plane carrying 206 Japanese nationals evacuated from Wuhan arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda airport on Wednesday morning.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on Tuesday that 650 Japanese citizens were hoping to come home, and the government was making arrangements for additional flights.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stressed that the government will explore all possible measures to bring back any citizens who want to return to Japan.
Death toll continues to rise and more cases confirmed
China’s National Health Commission said on Wednesday the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak had risen to 132 by the end of Tuesday, with a further 1,459 new cases confirmed.
The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in China stood at 5,974 as of the end of Tuesday, the authority said in a statement. The number of suspected cases was 9,239, it said.