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WHO urges calm as China virus official death toll hits 1,868

WHO urges calm as China virus official death toll hits 1,868

AFP
Beijing
The death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak rose again on Tuesday but Chinese and international health officials sought to calm global nerves, citing a study showing most cases are mild and warning against excessive measures to contain the epidemic.
Nearly 1,900 people have now died and more than 72,000 others infected by the virus in China, with hundreds more cases in some 25 countries.
The situation remains dire at the epicentre, with the director of a hospital in the central city of Wuhan becoming the seventh medical worker to succumb to the COVID-19 illness. But Chinese officials released a study showing most patients have mild cases of the illness, and World Health Organization officials said the mortality rate was relatively low.
The epidemic has triggered panic-buying in Singapore and Hong Kong, concerns about cruise-ship travel and the postponement of trade fairs, sports competitions and cultural events in China and abroad.
The outbreak is threatening to put a dent in the global economy, with China paralysed by vast quarantine measures and major firms such as iPhone maker Apple and mining giant BHP warning it could damage bottom lines.
Several countries have banned travellers from China and major airlines have suspended flights.
Authorities have placed about 56 million people in hard-hit central Hubei and its capital Wuhan under an unprecedented lockdown.
Other cities far from the epicentre have restricted the movements of residents, with a 14-day self-quarantine for people returning to Beijing.
President Xi Jinping, in a phone call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said China’s measures were achieving “visible progress”, according to state media.
The official death toll in China hit 1,868 on Tuesday after another 98 people died -- most in Hubei and Wuhan, where the virus emerged in December.
Liu Zhiming, the director of Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan, became its latest victim, sparking an outpouring of grief online.
New infections have been falling in the rest of the country for the past two weeks.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned that it was too early to tell if the decline would continue.
A study among 72,000 confirmed, suspected and clinically diagnosed cases showed that 81 percent of patients had only mild infections. Those most at risk were the elderly, and people with underlying medical conditions.
The study released by China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention also showed the death rate stood at 2.3 percent, falling below one percent for people in their 30s and 40s.
Zhong Nanshan, a prominent expert with China’s National Health Commission, told reporters that 85 percent of patients can improve “if they have good life support, treatment conditions, and nutrients”.
The research was cited by WHO officials, who said the COVID-19 illness was “less deadly” than its cousins, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

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