'Stress test': Coronavirus fatalities rise to 361 in China

The death toll in China from the deadly coronavirus outbreak that originated in the central city of Wuhan, rose to at least 361 on Monday, as the Philippines became the first country outside China to confirm a death from the infection.

The National Health Commission said there were 57 new fatalities on Sunday, all but one of them in Hubei, which has been effectively sealed off from the rest of the country for more than a week.

The total deaths nationwide was at least 361, with 17,205 people across the country infected with the virus, after 2,829 new cases reported.

Other countries have rushed to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan and Hubei, while many have also imposed extraordinary travel restrictions on travellers to and from China. Wuhan is the capital of Hubei.

Many of those brought out of Wuhan have been put in quarantine for 14 days and monitored for any sign of the infection. About 150 cases have been reported in two dozen other countries.

Dr Ali Khan, the Dean at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health, told Al Jazeera the outbreak was a significant test of the world’s public health systems.

“What we have available to us is good public health measures,” Dr Khan said. “That means identifying those that are sick, getting them into the correct hospitals and making sure we do good contact tracing. This new coronavirus is a stress test of emergency preparedness of public health capabilities in countries worldwide.”

Here are the latest updates:

Monday, February 3

Maldives bans China travellers over virus fears, minister says

The Maldives has banned travellers arriving from China as a precautionary measure to combat the spread of coronavirus, Ali Waheed, the tourism minister for the Indian Ocean islands, said on Monday.

More than 280,000 Chinese tourists visited the luxury holiday destination in 2019, according to government data making them the largest group of visitors from any country.

More hospital beds for coronavirus patients in Wuhan

China has designated 27 hospitals in Wuhan for the treatment of coronavirus, the state-run newspaper Global Times reported on Monday.

Previously, people who suspected they were ill with the infection could go to only seven hospitals, causing long queues and days-long waits for treatment.

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It is also building two giant field hospitals with the first of them due to go into operation on Monday.

“This is a hospital we’ve been talking about the last week or so, which has been built in 10 days,” said Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler, who is in Beijing. “It will be staffed by about 1,400 Army medical people, workers, personal, doctors, nurses.”

Australia evacuates citizens from Wuhan to offshore quarantine

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said 243 citizens and permanent residents were evacuated from Wuhan on Monday on a government-chartered aircraft to Christmas Island, a remote Australian territory just south of the Indonesian island of Java.

They will be kept in quarantine at a detention centre on the island that Australia has previously used to hold asylum seekers.

“We have prioritised vulnerable and isolated Australians which is reflected in the fact that 89 of the Australians on the flight are under 16 and five are under two,” Payne told reporters in Canberra.

All passengers and crew were being given masks and hand sanitiser and the crew were being told to remain on the upper deck of the plane except for when needed to man the doors.

The aircraft has medical-grade air filters, which eliminate 99 percent of particles, including viruses, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said.

“It’s a lot safer, a lot cleaner than being in a restaurant, in an office,” he said.

Vietnam confirms three more cases of coronavirus

Vietnam’s health ministry confirmed an additional three cases of the coronavirus on Monday, bringing the country’s total to eight.

The latest patients were on the same flight from Wuhan to Vietnam as those who were diagnosed on January 30.

Vietnam has declared a public health emergency over the outbreak and halted all flights to and from mainland China.

China virus Vietnam
Vietnam confrimed three new cases of the coronavirus on Monday [Luong Thai Linh/EPA]

The government has also advised citizens to limit large gatherings.

Canada plans to airlift citizens from Wuhan via Hanoi

Canada said on Monday it planned to evacuate citizens from Wuhan via Vietnam and that a chartered aircraft was on the ground in Hanoi awaiting clearance from the authorities in China.

Canada said all passengers would be screened before boarding and monitored throughout the flight to Trenton in Ontario, where they, the crew and diplomatic and military officials on the flight would remain in quarantine for 14 days.

“We have been working with all levels of government, public health officials and our international partners to ensure the safe return home of Canadians from Hubei Province, including staff and the flight crew,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in a statement. “Our plan is focused on ensuring the health and safety of all Canadians.”

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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