China coronavirus cases near 10,000 as global emergency declared

KYODO NEWS – Jan 31 , 2020. 27 minutes ago – 16:15

BEIJING – Cases of a new coronavirus in mainland China have jumped to around 9,700, with 213 deaths, the Chinese government said Friday, following the World Health Organization’s overnight declaration of the outbreak as a global public health emergency.

With the pneumonia-causing virus continuing its rapid spread, Britain and South Korea joined other countries that have evacuated their citizens from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

China’s National Health Commission said the number of infections rose by around 1,980 on Thursday from the previous day, with the death toll rising by 43. The vast majority of deaths have been in Hubei Province, of which Wuhan is the capital.

The virus has already infected more people than the SARS virus did during its 2002-2003 outbreak, in which 8,098 people were stricken and 774 killed worldwide.

The new coronavirus has also spread to around 20 countries, with over 100 cases in Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East, according to official media.

In Geneva on Thursday, the WHO declared a global emergency amid concern over the rising number of confirmed cases around the world and potentially major impacts on business and travel.

“China will continue working with WHO and other countries to safeguard regional and global public health security,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.

The spokeswoman also said China has shared the virus’ genome sequence in a timely manner, an attitude she said was commended by the U.N. health agency and other countries.

Having taken measures that go “well beyond” the requirements of international health regulations, Hua said, “We have full confidence and capability to win this fight against the epidemic.”

Meanwhile, North Korea, which shares a border with China, will suspend all flights and trains to and from the country on Friday in response to the outbreak, according to the British ambassador to North Korea.

Russia on Thursday temporarily closed its eastern border with China to prevent the spread of the virus, with Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signing a decree ordering it, Tass news agency reported.

The Philippines, which reported its first case on Thursday, banned the entry of Chinese people from Hubei Province on Friday. President Rodrigo Duterte indicated the country also plans to ban people from other parts of China in which the virus is spreading.

With Wuhan in virtual lockdown since last week due to the outbreak, South Korea conducted its first evacuation flight out of the city for 368 of its stranded citizens on Friday, followed by Britain hours later.

The chartered plane bound for Britain was carrying 83 British nationals and 27 foreigners, according to the Foreign Office.

Also Friday, Japan evacuated a third group of its nationals on a chartered flight, raising the total of Japanese brought home from the epidemic-stricken city to 565.

The U.S. State Department, meanwhile, raised its travel alert for China to the highest level warning not to travel to the country from “reconsider travel” on Thursday.