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Taiwan records first coronavirus death as global toll passes 1,600

Taiwan records first coronavirus 
death as global toll passes 1,600

AFP
Taipei
Taiwan reported its first death from the new coronavirus on Sunday, as the death toll from the outbreak rose to 1,665 inside mainland China.
A 61-year-old man from central Taiwan with underlying health problems but no recent overseas travel history died in hospital on Saturday after testing positive for the virus, officials confirmed.
It is the fifth recorded death outside mainland China -- previous victims were in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan, and France.
“This latest case was an unlicensed taxi driver. His main clients were people who had been to China, Hong Kong and Macao,” health and welfare minister Chen Shih-chung told reporters.
Chen said authorities were examining the driver’s client list and their travel history, in an attempt to trace the possible source of infection.
A 50-year-old male relative of the victim was later confirmed to have contracted the virus, Chen added, although he was not showing any symptoms. Taiwan’s confirmed cases now stands at 20.
France reported the first coronavirus fatality outside Asia on Saturday, fuelling global concerns about the epidemic.
Nearly 1,000 Taiwanese are still awaiting repatriation in Hubei province -- the epicentre of the outbreak -- after Beijing and Taipei accused each other of “political manipulation”, causing delays.
Taiwan did fly 247 people from Hubei’s capital Wuhan on mainland-owned China Eastern Airlines flight on 3 February. But how that evacuation was carried out caused disagreements.
The relationship between the two is complicated by the fact that Beijing views Taiwanese people as its own citizens, not as foreign nationals.
Global concern remains high about the spread of the virus, which first emerged in China’s central Hubei province in December.
The death toll jumped to 1,665 in mainland China on Sunday after 142 more people died from the virus. More than 68,000 people have now been infected -- but the number of new cases of the COVID-19 strain continued to decline.
In hardest-hit Hubei, the number of new cases slowed for a third consecutive day and at 139, the number of deaths was level with Saturday’s toll.
The number of new cases in other parts of the country has dropped for twelve straight days.
Mi Feng, National Health Commission spokesman, said Sunday that the figures were a sign that China was controlling the outbreak.
“The effects of epidemic prevention and control in various parts of the country can already be seen,” he told reporters.
But the WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned that it was “impossible to predict which direction this epidemic will take”.
“We ask all governments, companies, and news organisations to work with us to sound the appropriate level of alarm without fanning the flames of hysteria,” he said, speaking at the Munich Security Conference.
The UN health body has asked China for more details on how diagnoses are being made. An international team of WHO experts will arrive in Beijing this weekend for a joint mission with Chinese counterparts.
The scale of the epidemic ballooned on Thursday after authorities in Hubei changed their criteria for counting cases, retroactively adding 14,000 cases in a single day.
Chinese authorities have placed some 56 million people in Hubei and its capital Wuhan under quarantine, virtually sealing off the province from the rest of the country in an unprecedented effort to contain the virus.
Even as China insisted the epidemic was under control, Hubei authorities announced Sunday a tightening of movement across the province.
This includes broad instructions that residential compounds and villages are “sealed off” from unnecessary visitors, with tenants’ outings “strictly managed”, as well as recommending bulk purchases of daily necessities.

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