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China reports 1,886 new virus cases

2020-02-18 HKT 08:12
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  • Medical workers treat a coronavirus patient in Wuhan. The Health Commission for Hubei province reported 1,807 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, down on the number reported 24 hours earlier. File photo: AP
    Medical workers treat a coronavirus patient in Wuhan. The Health Commission for Hubei province reported 1,807 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, down on the number reported 24 hours earlier. File photo: AP
Mainland China reported 1,886 new virus cases and 98 more deaths for a total of 1,868 in its update on Tuesday, following a report that 80 percent of cases have been mild, prompting guarded optimism from health officials.

The latest figures come after health officials in China published the first details on nearly 45,000 cases of infection with the coronavirus that originated there, saying more than 80 percent have been mild and new ones seem to be falling since early this month.

A total of 72,436 cases have been reported in mainland China as of Tuesday, although a spike in recent cases was due to a broader definition in the hardest-hit region based on doctors' diagnoses before laboratory tests were completed.

Monday's report from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention gives the World Health Organization a "clearer picture of the outbreak, how it’s developing and where it’s headed,” WHO's director-general said at a news conference.

"It’s too early to tell if this reported decline will continue. Every scenario is still on the table," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

China may postpone its annual congress in March, its biggest political meeting of the year, to avoid travel while the disease is still spreading. The standing committee for the National People’s Congress will meet February 24 to deliberate on a postponement of the meeting due to start March 5.

The new disease, called Covid-19, first emerged in December in Wuhan, the capital of central China's Hubei province, and has spread to more than two dozen other countries.

The new study reports on 44,672 cases confirmed in China as of February 11. The virus caused severe symptoms such as pneumonia in 14 percent of them and critical illness in 5 percent.

The fatality rate for these confirmed cases is 2.3 percent — 2.8 percent for males versus 1.7 percent for females.

That's lower than for Sars and Mers, which are caused by two similar viruses, but Covid-19 ultimately could prove more deadly if it spreads to far more people than the others did. Ordinary flu has a fatality rate of 0.1 percent yet kills hundreds of thousands because it infects millions each year.

The Covid-19 cases include relatively few children, and the risk of death rises with age. It's higher among those with other health problems — more than 10 percent for those with heart disease, for example, and higher among those in Hubei province versus elsewhere in China.

Cases seem to have been declining since February 1, but that could change as people return to work and school after the holidays, the report warns. Beijing has sought to forestall that by extending the Lunar New Year holiday, imposing tight travel restrictions and demanding 14 days off self-quarantine for anyone returning from outside their immediate region.

Hundreds of cases have been confirmed outside China, with a significant number on a cruise ship quarantined at a port near Tokyo.

Japanese officials on Monday confirmed 99 more people were infected on the Diamond Princess, bringing the total to 454. The Health Ministry said it has now tested 1,723 people on the ship, which had about 3,700 passengers and crew aboard. Outside China, the ship has the largest number of cases of Covid-19.

Japan has 518 confirmed cases, including the 454 from the cruise ship, and one death from the virus. (AP)
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Last updated: 2020-02-18 HKT 09:46