A 61-year-old man has become the first person to die in China from a respiratory illness believed to be caused by a new virus from the same family as SARS, which claimed hundreds of lives more than a decade ago, authorities said.
Forty-one people showing pneumonia-like symptoms have so far been diagnosed with the new virus in Wuhan, China, with one of the victims dying on Thursday, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said on its Web site on Saturday.
Seven others remained in serious condition, two were discharged from treatment and the rest were stable, it added.
The episode has caused alarm due to the specter of SARS, which in 2002-2003 killed 349 people in China and another 299 in Hong Kong, whose economy was hit hard by the epidemic’s devastating impact on tourism.
The commission said the man who died had purchased goods from the Huanan Seafood City market, identified by authorities as the center of the outbreak and closed on Jan. 1.
The man, who also had underlying health issues including chronic liver disease, died in hospital of “respiratory failure and severe pneumonia,” the commission added.
No new cases have been detected since Jan. 3, nor any “clear evidence of human-to-human transmission,” it said.
People in white hazmat suits were seen spraying liquid on the market floor late on Saturday, while a number of guards sat outside the perimeter of the facility’s two sections without masks on.
Chinese health officials investigating the outbreak last week said they believe the pathogen is a previously unknown type of coronavirus, a broad family ranging from the common cold to more serious illnesses like SARS.
Hong Kong Department of Health officials on Saturday said that genetic sequencing of the virus found in one of the Wuhan patients and published online by a Chinese expert indicated it was 80 percent similar to a coronavirus found in bats, which have been linked to SARS.
Speaking at a news conference in Hong Kong, they said it was too early to conclude definitively that it was a SARS strain, adding that the territory needed to stay vigilant.
Hong Kong authorities have taken a range of precautions including stepping up the disinfection of trains and airplanes, and checks of passengers.
On Saturday evening, there was little sign of alarm in Wuhan outside of the market.
Few people at the city’s main airport wore masks and no extra monitoring measures were visible at the airport’s terminals.
A restaurant on the outside of the building housing the seafood market was still open for business.
One man, a dry-goods seller at the market surnamed Dai, attempted to enter the market at about midnight, but was turned away by the guards.
He told reporters that he was not worried about getting infected.
“I haven’t heard that this disease is contagious,” Dai said, adding that he believed the illness was caused by a fire at the market in the middle of November last year in which items including plastic materials and chili peppers were burnt.
The WHO on Thursday said it was not recommending any specific measures for travelers or restrictions on trade with China, and expressed confidence in the ability of Chinese authorities to contain the virus.
China has entered the Lunar New Year holiday travel rush, raising concerns about the mass movement of people serving as a vector for the pathogen.
Hong Kong authorities on Saturday said that the number of people hospitalized with flu-like symptoms after traveling to Wuhan had increased to 60, including seven new cases since Friday.
SCHEDULE: The delegation is due to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen this morning and witness the signing of an MOU on bilateral health cooperation in the afternoon US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar yesterday arrived in Taipei aboard a US government plane at the head of a delegation that is the highest-level visit by a US official since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979. Azar’s flight landed at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) at 4:48pm, nearly one hour earlier than scheduled, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The apron where it landed is reserved for military aircraft, the Songshan Air Force Base Command said. The members of Azar’s delegation included HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, HHS Chief of Staff Brian
CHINESE FIGHTERS: Beijing marked the US Cabinet member’s visit by briefly sending two warplanes across the median line of the Taiwan Strait yesterday morning President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday met with US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar in the highest-level official meeting between the two nations since 1979. “It is a true honor to be here to convey a message of strong support and friendship from [US] President [Donald] Trump to Taiwan,” Azar said during the open portion of his courtesy call to the Presidential Office, which was streamed live online before Tsai and Azar held a closed-door meeting. “Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 has been among the most successful in the world, and that is a tribute to the open, transparent,
ALEX AZAR: The first visit by a head of the Department of Health and Human Services would strictly observe the CECC’s special regulations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar is to lead a delegation to Taiwan — the highest-level visit by a US Cabinet official since the two sides cut formal relations in 1979. The plan was announced yesterday morning by the US Department of Health and Human Services and confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Beijing has expressed its concerns to Washington, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) said later yesterday. Taiwan and the US only issued statements saying that the visit would happen “in the coming days.” MOFA said that due to security concerns, it would
‘CROSS-STRAIT CONSIDERATIONS’: Groups said that the Ministry of Education’s policies excluded Chinese and students should not be blocked over political issues The Taiwan International Student Movement yesterday said it would protest today outside the Ministry of Education in Taipei against a policy that excludes some Chinese students from returning to Taiwan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since June 17, the ministry has allowed foreign students from 19 “low risk” and “medium-low risk” countries and regions to enter Taiwan. On July 22, it announced that it was relaxing restrictions to include students from all countries and regions who are graduating this semester and on Wednesday it further expanded entry to students enrolled in degree programs. A letter sent by the ministry on Wednesday to universities did