China coronavirus: Death toll rises to 41; more than 1,000 cases of infection confirmed in mainland

By Cissy Zhou | South China Morning Post

This story is being published by POLITICO as part of a content partnership with the South China Morning Post. It originally appeared on scmp.com on Jan. 24, 2019.

Deaths caused by the rapidly spreading coronavirus infection that began in China’s Hubei province rose to 41, while the number of confirmed cases nationwide topped 1,000, authorities said on Saturday.

Twenty-nine provinces in China have reported 1,112 cases of the deadly pneumonia-like virus, with 572 in Hubei’s capital city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, according to data released by local governments.

Hubei’s death toll was 39, with the other two fatalities in the provinces of Hebei and Heilongjiang.

Cases have also been reported in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and eight other countries.

Tens of millions of people in Hubei are effectively on lockdown as a travel ban has been imposed on most of the province.

Flights, trains, buses and ferries connecting Wuhan to other cities in Hubei have been suspended. Wuhan is the hub for several major high-speed rail lines.

Eighteen Chinese provinces have activated a top-level public health emergency response to the outbreak, meaning public events, businesses and schools can be suspended and the migrant population quarantined in these areas.

In Wuhan, video footage of people desperately seeking help was widespread on social media. Some nurses and doctors were reported to be suffering emotional breakdowns in hospital consulting rooms while outpatients crowd corridors with some pictured lying on the floor.

More than 20 hospitals in Wuhan have posted statements pleading for aid from various sectors as there has been a shortage of masks, latex gloves, protective goggles and surgical gowns.

Hubei has also tightened restrictions on private vehicles from Wuhan. A notice posted by a petrol station in Chibi, next to Wuhan, said all fuelling stations in the city were now off-limits to vehicles with Wuhan licence plates, on orders of the Chibi municipal government.

On Friday, China Development Bank granted a 2 billion yuan (US$288.3 million) emergency loan to Wuhan for virus prevention and treatment. On Thursday, China’s finance ministry announced an allocation of 1 billion yuan to be used by Hubei authorities to halt the contagion’s spread.