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Coronavirus death toll exceeds SARS

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

As the coronavirus death toll rose to 722 on the mainland of China, countries around the world are enforcing stricter measures to contain its spread.

The death toll in mainland China from coronavirus has risen by 81 to 780 in the latest figures, passing the 774 deaths recorded globally during the 2002-2003 pandemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Meanwhile an American has became the first confirmed non-Chinese victim of the new coronavirus.

The 60-year old US citizen died on February 6 in Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus outbreak in the central Chinese province of Hubei, a US embassy spokesman said in Beijing.

A Japanese man in his sixties and in hospital with pneumonia in Wuhan also died after suffering symptoms consistent with the virus, Japan's foreign ministry said.

But owing to difficulties in diagnosing the disease, the cause of death was given as viral pneumonia, the ministry said, citing Chinese medical authorities.

As of midday on Thursday, 17 foreigners were being treated for the disease in quarantine in China, according to the latest government figures.

Two deaths have been reported outside of mainland China - in Hong Kong and the Philippines. Both victims were Chinese nationals. A Reuters count based on official reports show there are more than 330 cases outside China, in 27 countries and regions.

Most of the deaths in China have occurred in and around Wuhan. Hubei officials on Saturday reported 81 new deaths, 67 of those in Wuhan, a city in virtual lockdown. Across mainland China, the number of outstanding cases stood at 31,774.

While China is bearing the brunt of the virus, anxiety levels are spiking across Asia, with Japan alarmed by the rising number of cases aboard a quarantined cruise ship, major foreign companies pulling out of an international air show in Singapore, and Thailand losing money as Chinese tourists stay home.

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Another three people on the cruise liner off Japan tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases from the ship to 64, Japan's health ministry said.

Thailand reported seven new cases, including three Thais and four Chinese, bringing the total reported in the country to 32, among the world's highest number of infections outside of China.

Having already decided to suspend most flights from Monday between Taiwan to China, Taiwan's government said it would also suspend all direct passenger and freight shipping.

Hundreds of foreigners have been evacuated out of Wuhan over the past two weeks. A second evacuation plane to airlift Australians out of Wuhan was delayed after China did not give it clearance to land but has since taken off.

Cruise ship passengers faced more woe as Japan reported three more cases for a total of 64 on one quarantined vessel and turned away another.

The three are among 3700 passengers and crew on the quarantined Diamond Princess. They must remain on board for 14 days.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said foreign passengers on another ship, Holland America's Westerdam, won't be allowed into Japan. He said suspected coronavirus patients were on board.

The ship, with more than 2000 people, was near Okinawa and was seeking another port, said Overseas Travel Agency official Mie Matsubara.

"We are getting desperate," she said.

"We hope we can go somewhere so that passengers can land."

Hong Kong began enforcing a 14-day quarantine for arrivals from mainland China on Saturday (local time).

Hong Kong has refused to completely seal its border but hopes the quarantine will dissuade travellers from the mainland.


Push to ensure food suply in quarantine areas

China's leaders are trying to keep food flowing to crowded cities despite anti-disease controls and to quell fears of possible shortages and price spikes following panic buying after most access to Wuhan and nearby cities was cut off.

Employees at the Wushang Mart wore masks and protective suits. Customers washed their hands with disinfectant and were checked for the virus's telltale fever, said the manager, who would give only her surname, Lu.

"It is normal for people to worry about supply, but we explain there will be enough," Ms Lu said by phone.

Food stocks in supermarkets ran low shortly after Beijing imposed travel curbs and extended the Lunar New Year holiday to keep factories, offices and other businesses closed and the public at home in an attempt to prevent the virus from spreading.

That also kept trucks off the road, disrupting supplies of food to markets, feed to farmers and poultry to slaughterhouses.

As the shutdown of Wuhan expanded to cover cities with a total of 60 million people, villagers set up their own roadblocks to keep outsiders and possible infection away.

A Cabinet official acknowledged vegetable supplies were uneven and some "daily necessities" were sold out.

Even getting out to shop is a challenge in some cities that are under almost total quarantine.

Only one member of each household is allowed out each day to shop for food in Hangzhou, an industrial metropolis of 10 million people southwest of Shanghai, and in Huanggang, a city of one million near Wuhan.

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Source: 9News

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