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China warns of virus mutation as three more die

2020-01-22 HKT 10:29
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  • An airport staff member uses a temperature gun to check people leaving Wuhan Tianhe International Airport. Photo: AP
    An airport staff member uses a temperature gun to check people leaving Wuhan Tianhe International Airport. Photo: AP
Wendy Wong reports
Mainland officials warned on Wednesday that there is a possibility that the Wuhan virus has mutated as they announced three more people had died from the coronavirus.

After the virus was first reported last month, the Wuhan authorities had said there were only 40 odd cases for weeks. But the number of cases have jumped last week and the total number of patients now exceeds 440 – an increase of 149 since Tuesday – and death toll stands at nine now.

The coronavirus is transmitted via the respiratory tract and there "is the possibility of viral mutation and further spread of the disease", National Health Commission vice minister Li Bin said at a news conference.

"We have urged Wuhan city and Hubei province to intensify their response," Li said. "In terms of entry, there has been more strict management of farm markets and a ban on the live poultry trade; wild animals and live poultry.

"In terms of exit, temperature screening is practised at airports, train and coaches stations and ports. Strict isolation measures are taken on patients with fever and their close contacts, and public gatherings are kept at the minimum level."

The commission announced measures to contain the disease as hundreds of millions of people travel across the country for this week's Lunar New Year holiday, including disinfection and ventilation at airports, train stations and shopping centres.

The authorities also asked people not to travel to Wuhan and urged people in the city not to travel as they want to "contain" the disease.

The news comes after the United States became the latest country to identify a case of the disease. Cases have also been identified in Taiwan, Thailand, Japan and South Korea. (RTHK/AFP)