The death toll from the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak yesterday surged past 1,000 in China as the WHO warned that the epidemic poses a “very grave” global threat.
The WHO is holding a conference in Geneva, Switzerland, on combating the virus as Beijing struggles to contain a disease that has now infected more than 42,000 and reached about 25 countries.
Another 108 deaths were reported yesterday — the first triple-digit daily rise since the virus emerged in December last year.
“With 99 percent of cases in China, this remains very much an emergency for that country, but one that holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the conference, where scientists were discussing how the virus is transmitted and possible vaccines.
Chinese authorities have locked down millions of people in a number of cities, while several governments have banned arrivals from China and major airlines have suspended flights in a bid to keep the disease away from their shores.
The death toll has now reached 1,016, although the mortality rate remains relatively low at 2.4 percent.
However, the case of a British man who passed on the virus to at least 11 other people after a conference in Singapore has raised fears of a new phase of contagion abroad.
Most cases overseas have involved people who had been in Wuhan, where the virus emerged late last year, or people infected by others who had been at the epicenter.
“The detection of this small number of cases could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire,” Tedros said on Monday, urging countries to seize on the “window of opportunity” to prevent a bigger outbreak.
Chinese authorities, meanwhile, sacked the two most senior health officials at the epicenter of the outbreak, state media said yesterday, as pressure mounts over the way local authorities have handled the epidemic.
Zhang Jin (張晉), the Chinese Communist Party boss of the provincial health commission in Hubei, and Liu Yingzi (劉英姿), director of the commission, have been removed from their positions, China Central Television reported.
Authorities also tightened restrictions in the city, forbidding people with fever from visiting hospitals outside of their home districts and sealing off residential compounds.
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