China intensifies efforts to combat coronavirus as death toll rises to 305
By: K J M Varma
Beijing/Wuhan, Feb 2 : China on Sunday resorted to more drastic measures like isolating coronavirus patients to designated areas and restricting the movement of residents in regions hit by the rapid spreading virus that has killed 305 people and infected over 14,000 others.
The Philippines on Sunday reported the first death outside China from the deadly virus that has spread to 25 countries, including India, taking the total toll to 305.
The victim, a 44-year-old Chinese man, was the companion of a 38-year-old Chinese woman who arrived in the Philippines on January 21 from Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus outbreak.
So far over 140 coronavirus cases have been reported from abroad, including India where a second case of virus was reported from Kerala on Sunday.
India airlifted 647 Indians and seven Maldivians on Saturday and Sunday from Wuhan. The evacuated Indians would be monitored for any signs of infection for two weeks by a qualified team of doctors and staff members.
India also temporarily suspended e-visa facility for Chinese travellers and foreigners residing in China in view of the rapid spread of the virus.
Two Indians who were not allowed to get into the special flight in Wuhan on Friday after they reported high fever told PTI that their temperatures have now come down to normal level and wished to travel back home.
A total of 10 Indians were not allowed to board the AI flight by Chinese immigration officials after they were found to have high fever.
Indian Ambassador to China Vikram Misri told PTI that about 100 Indians are still believed to be residing in Hubei province.
By the end of Saturday, a total of 304 people had died of the disease in the country, China’s National Health Commission said.
The state-run CGTN reported that there were 14,411 confirmed cases of virus. However, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post said that the virus has infected 14,562 people.
The commission said 19,544 people were suspected of being infected with the virus of which the condition of the 2,110 patients remained severe.
Chinese health experts have been saying that the casualties will increase sharply for the next two weeks before they start declining.
This is so because millions of travellers especially those from Wuhan and Hubei province who travelled to China and abroad during the New Year holidays are returning home.
A top Chinese official said that about five million residents of Wuhan have travelled out of the virus-hit city before it was locked down on January 23.
China is bringing back by charter flights hundreds of its citizens who had travelled abroad during holidays. They are directly being flown to Wuhan.
The commission also highlighted that number of virus affected patients are recovering, saying that 328 people have been discharged.
Since the virus is transmitted human-to-human, over 1.63 lakh close contacts had been traced of which 1.37 lakh are still under medical observation, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
China has intensified measures to contain the virus by isolating the patients. Wuhan health authorities announced that people suspected of infection will be isolated in designated areas effective immediately.
Wenzhou city in Zhejiang Province regulated that only one family member is allowed to step out of the house every other day for grocery shopping from Saturday to February 8, amid efforts to contain the epidemic, state-run Global Times reported.
The National Health Commission also directed that bodies of coronavirus victims should be cremated close by and immediately. Burials or transfer of the bodies are not allowed, the Commission said.
China also reported an outbreak of the deadly H5N1 bird flu in Hunan province, which lies on the southern border of Hubei province.
“The outbreak occurred in a farm in the Shuangqing district of Shaoyang city. The farm has 7,850 chickens, and 4,500 of the chickens have died from the contagion. Local authorities have culled 17,828 poultry after the outbreak,” a statement by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said on Saturday.
No human cases of the Hunan H5N1 virus have been reported, the Post reported.
The bird flu is highly deadly to humans who contract it, with a mortality rate of more than 50 per cent in cases over the last 15 years.
China also geared up to open the makeshift 1,000 bed hospital built in Wuhan in record nine days. Another 2,300 bed hospital is getting ready in few days.
President Xi Jinping has ordered 1,400 medical staff from the armed forces to treat patients in the newly-built Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan starting from Monday.
Huoshenshan Hospital, with a capacity of 1,000 beds, is a makeshift hospital dedicated to treating patients infected with the coronavirus, Xinhua reported.
The medics include 950 people from hospitals affiliated to the People’s Liberation Army Joint Logistic Support Force and 450 from medical universities of the army, navy and air force of the PLA.
Meanwhile, a joint expert group of 15 people has also been set up to guide the hospital’s epidemic prevention and control on the spot.
While India, the US, Sri Lanka and many countries evacuated their nationals from Wuhan, Pakistan has declined pleas by its stranded citizens in Wuhan to airlift them.
Pakistan’s Ambassador to China Naghmana Hashmi on Sunday said that Pakistani students should not be evacuated from Wuhan as medical facilities back home do not meet the standards required to treat a patient diagnosed with coronavirus.