The death toll from the coronavirus epidemic in China yesterday climbed to 1,113, but the number of new cases fell for a second straight day, raising hope that the outbreak could peak later this month.
Ninety-seven more deaths were reported, bringing the total number of people infected by COVID-19 in mainland China to 44,653.
Two people have died elsewhere, one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.
Most of the deaths and a majority of cases have been in central Hubei Province, whose capital, Wuhan, is the epicenter of the outbreak. About 56 million have been placed under lockdown in the province.
The epidemic has threatened to harm the world’s second-largest economy, with ANZ bank warning that China’s first-quarter GDP growth would slow to between 3.2 and 4 percent, down from a previous projection of 5 percent.
Yet in a positive development, the number of new cases has fallen in Hubei for two straight days, according to figures from the Chinese National Health Commission.
Outside the province, the number of new patients has declined for the past week.
“In general, the number of new cases is now slowly decreasing,” Zhong Nanshan (鍾南山), a scientist at the commission, said in a video conference with medical staff in Wuhan on Tuesday.
“When does the turning point occur? I can’t say, but I think it’s at its peak in mid to late-February,” he said.
However, Australian Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy was more circumspect.
“I think we’ve just got to watch the data very closely over the coming weeks before we make any predictions,” Murphy told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
In Geneva, Switzerland, the WHO is hosting a two-day international conference on combating the virus, during which it decided to name it COVID-19.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “We are not defenseless. If we invest now ... we have a realistic chance of stopping this outbreak.”
In addition to locking down Hubei, Chinese authorities have restricted movements in several other cities far from the epicenter.
Authorities have found a cluster in the northern port city of Tianjin, just southeast of Beijing, which has been traced to a department store in Baodi District.
One-third of Tianjin’s 104 confirmed cases are in Baodi, Xinhua news agency reported.
A salesperson working in the store’s small home appliance section became the first person in the cluster to be diagnosed with COVID-19 on Jan. 31, Xinhua said.
The store was already closed at that point, then disinfected on Feb. 1, but several more diagnoses soon followed, it reported.
Additional reporting by AP
EFFICIENCY: The rules for Philippine arrivals were revised after 17.6% of arrivals with symptoms tested positive, compared with 0.7% of those with no symptoms Starting today, Chinese spouses who hold a reunion permit can apply to enter Taiwan and travelers without symptoms from the Philippines do not need to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, but are to be tested after a 14-day quarantine, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that from today, Chinese who are married to a Taiwanese citizen and hold a reunion permit can apply to the National Immigration Agency for entry into Taiwan. Chinese who are married to a foreign national and hold an accompanied reunion permit
PENGHU INSPECTION: Taiwan cannot let its enemies strut around in its airspace, Tsai said, one day after a Chinese spokesman denied a median line exists in the Taiwan Strait Following China’s assertion on Monday that there is no “median line” in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to defend the nation’s airspace during a visit to an air force base in Penghu, saying that Taiwan cannot allow others to flex their military muscle in its territorial airspace. Tsai praised the “heroic performance” of the pilots of the Indigenous Defense Fighters who have been intercepting Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in recent days. “I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China [ROC], how could we let enemies strut
CONSOLIDATION? Taiwan Thinktank deputy executive-general Doong Sy-chi said Beijing’s intimidation tactics are further alienating those who identify as Chinese Only 2 percent of respondents to a poll on constitutional amendments and national identity identified as Chinese, while 62.6 percent identified as Taiwanese, the Taiwan Thinktank said yesterday. Legislators have proposed amendments to the Additional Articles of the Constitution (憲法增修條文), which would change the definition of the nation’s territory, remove the Taiwan Provincial Government as an entity, prioritize the use of “Taiwan” for national groups at international events, and remove restrictions on defining the national emblem, national flag and national anthem. The poll showed that 80.5 percent of respondents agreed that the nation should participate as “Taiwan” at events organized by world
MISTAKE: The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy is not a UN body, and the government is committed to protecting the nation’s name, Joseph Wu said The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday condemned the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy for listing Taiwanese cities as belonging to China on its Web site, and asked that it correct the error. The organization was inaugurated in Brussels in 2016 as a global coalition of mayors committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Six Taiwanese cities at the time joined the coalition as cities in “Taiwan,” the ministry said. However, officials from the Kaohsiung City Government — one of the organization’s members — last week noticed that the city was now listed on the organization’s Web site as a