Coronavirus Live Updates: China Death Toll Is Greater Than in SARS Outbreak

 Coronavirus Live Updates: China Death Toll Is Greater Than in SARS Outbreak


The death toll from the coronavirus has now exceeded that of the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2002 and 2003 in mainland China. But nationwide, the number of people who have recovered has risen in recent days, suggesting that the fatality rate of the virus is relatively low.

China’s Health Commission reported on Sunday that there were 475 recoveries and 361 deaths nationwide. During the SARS outbreak, 349 people died in mainland China.

Health experts say they were encouraged by the steady rise in the number of recoveries and took it as evidence that the treatments meted out have been effective and showed that the virus does not appear to be as deadly as SARS.

SARS had a mortality rate of 9.6 percent, and about 2 percent of those reported to have been infected with the new coronavirus have died.

China first announced an outbreak of a mysterious pneumonia in the city of Wuhan on Dec. 31. It has been 12 days since the authorities began to place the city and much of the surrounding province of Hubei — home to tens of millions of people — under lockdown on Jan. 23.

In the province of Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak, 80 patients had recovered on Sunday, compared with 56 deaths. On Saturday, 49 patients had left the hospitals, while 45 people had died.

But the number of infections from the new coronavirus is still climbing and has far exceeded that of SARS, suggesting that it could take a while before China declares an end to the outbreak. China had 17,205 confirmed infections as of Sunday. During the SARS outbreak, China had 5,327 cases, according to the World Health Organization.

Stocks in China plunged in Monday trading as investors returned from a long holiday to the prospect of the world’s No. 2 economy virtually shut down by the coronavirus epidemic.

Stocks in Shanghai dropped 7.7 percent by midafternoon, while shares in the southern Chinese boomtown of Shenzhen fell 8.4 percent. The markets had been closed since Jan. 23 for the Lunar New Year holiday, and government officials extended that closure until Monday while the authorities dealt with the outbreak.

Other markets in the region, which have already digested much of the impact, opened lower as well. Shares in Tokyo and Australia were down about 1.5 percent in early Monday trading. Stocks in Hong Kong opened about half a percent lower.

The damage could be confined to Asia. Futures markets that predict the performance of stocks in the next day forecast a positive opening for Wall Street and a mixed day for shares in Europe.

Separately, China’s central bank moved to pump $173 billion into its financial system on Monday in an emergency move to help government efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Hong Kong’s government said Monday that it would close four more border crossing points with mainland China, leaving open just three, as the number of coronavirus cases in the city continues to grow.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s top official, has been under increasing pressure from hospital employees, the business community and even some pro-government lawmakers to further tighten border controls with mainland China.

More than 2,400 medical workers in Hong Kong went on strike Monday morning to pressure the government to bar entries from mainland China, a number that was expected to grow if the government did not relent.

The medical workers, who are members of a newly formed union, said they were worried that hospitals will be overwhelmed by a surge of coronavirus cases as mainland Chinese seek to use Hong Kong’s well-respected health care system.

Mrs. Lam announced measures last week to cut arrivals from mainland China, including the closure of some border checkpoints, halting cross-border trains and cutting inbound flights. The government also said it would not allow entry by residents of Hubei Province, the center of the outbreak, or people who acknowledged that they had traveled there recently.

But she has resisted a complete closure, calling such a move “a discriminatory approach” and not in line with recommendations from the World Health Organization. Hong Kong has 15 confirmed cases of infection.

Members of the newly formed Hospital Authority Employees Alliance picketed outside of public hospitals on Monday morning. The union called for nonemergency personnel to strike on Monday, but asked for all its members to join in starting Tuesday if the government does not respond.

The union has about 18,000 members, including 9,000 who have signed pledges to strike. The Hospital Authority of Hong Kong has about 80,000 employees in total.

Signaling concerns among business executives, three-quarters of American business leaders questioned said they wanted to see the Hong Kong government shut down the border with the mainland, according to a survey of 156 executives by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.

From Amy Qin, a China correspondent, and Elsie Chen, a researcher, on the ground in Wuhan:

People desperate for treatment started descending on a new hospital in Wuhan on Monday that was built in just 10 days after the outbreak of the new coronavirus. But with workers still trying to finish construction on it for Monday’s opening, many were turned away.

Multiple road checkpoints had been set up to screen cars heading to the hospital. A sign at one checkpoint said: “Huoshenshan Hospital does not have an outpatient facility. Only diagnosed patients transferred from other hospitals can be admitted.” Officers at the checkpoint were telling the sickly arrivals and their relatives to instead call 120, China’s emergency number.

One man named Xue Ying was driving toward the hospital with his cousin, who had recently been tested for the coronavirus but had not yet received the results.

Mr. Xue believes his mother died from the coronavirus, but they could not secure a bed in a hospital and she was never tested for it. His aunt and uncle were also in a hospital. He said he was desperate to find help for his cousin.

“I can’t afford to lose anyone else,” he said, sitting dejectedly in the car with his sick cousin.

About 1,400 military medics will begin working at the new hospital, which covers roughly 365,000 square feet and has been fitted with 1,000 beds. A second facility in Wuhan, with 1,500 beds, is expected to be completed this week.

From Amy Qin, a China correspondent, and Elsie Chen, a researcher, on the ground in Wuhan:

Weak with fever, An Jianhua waited in line for seven hours outside the hospital in the cold, hoping to get tested for the new coronavirus, which doctors suspected she had contracted.

Ms. An, 67, needed an official diagnosis from a hospital to qualify for treatment, but the one she and her son raced to last week had no space, even to test her. The next hospital they were referred to here in Wuhan, the city of 11 million people at the center of the outbreak, was full, too, they said. They finally got an intravenous drip for Ms. An’s fever, but that was all.

Since then, Ms. An has quarantined herself at home. She and her son eat separately, wear masks at home and are constantly disinfecting their apartment. Ms. An’s health is declining rapidly, and even keeping water down is a struggle.

“I can’t let my mom die at home,” said her son, He Jun. “Every day I want to cry, but when I cry there are no tears. There is no hope.”

For some people, like Gan Hanjiang, the city’s new hospitals for treating the coronavirus cannot be built fast enough.

Last month, his father came down with a severe fever and cough. He was tested for the coronavirus, but the results were negative. Ten days after the onset of symptoms, however, his father died, Mr. Gan said.

The hospital classified the cause as “severe pneumonia,” Mr. Gan said, but he believes it was the coronavirus. Several experts have recently conceded that several rounds of testing may be needed for an accurate diagnosis of the virus.

On the day his father died, Mr. Gan began to show the same symptoms, he said. But without a car, he has not been able to go to one of the designated hospitals to get tested for the coronavirus.

“Getting treatment is so difficult,” he whispered slowly by telephone from a small hospital near his home where he was being treated for viral pneumonia. “We can’t get admitted to the hospitals. And there’s not enough medicine.”

The turnaround time for receiving the results is usually at least 36 hours, but often longer. Local health departments are not yet able to test for the new illness themselves.

But based on a number of factors — the type of symptoms. the patients’ recent travel in China and the exclusion of influenza and some other common illnesses through testing — the New York City health authorities are taking quite seriously the possibility that these patients may have the virus.

Three more cases were confirmed in California on Sunday, bringing the total in the United States to 11.

Hundreds of Australian citizens and permanent residents became the latest evacuees from Wuhan on Monday, after a complicated debate over who would pay for the flights that highlighted the challenge and cost of global containment efforts.

Australia’s foreign minister, Marise Payne, said the evacuation prioritized “vulnerable and isolated Australians,” including 89 passengers under 16 years old and five passengers younger than 2 years old.

In all, 243 passengers were flown out of the coronavirus epicenter by Qantas to an air force base in Western Australia. From there, Australian officials said, they will be transported by military planes to Christmas Island, a location previously used to house detained asylum seekers, where they will be separated into their families and quarantined for two weeks.

The process has been tainted from the start by criticism and errors. Human rights advocates questioned the use of Christmas Island, and Australian citizens were initially told they would have to pay 1,000 Australian dollars ($670) for the flight, causing many to reject the offer of repatriation.

On Sunday, Australia’s treasurer, Josh Frydenberg said no Australians would be charged. The government is subsidizing the cost, and Qantas is covering the rest, including flying people back to their home cities after the two-week quarantine.

“We needed to get them out of Wuhan,” said Alan Joyce, the chief executive of Qantas. He said that after the flight, the plane will undergo two or three days of “deep cleaning.”

While the world’s attention is focused on China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, medical experts worry about looming problems in Southeast Asia, which now has the largest cluster of patients with the new coronavirus outside China.

The Times’s Southeast Asia bureau chief, Hannah Beech, reports that some governments there have either played down the threat of the epidemic or openly expressed worry about offending China, a superpower whose economic heft can propel their economies.

On Sunday, the first overseas death from the virus, a 44-year-old Wuhan resident who had died a day earlier, was reported in the Philippines. The virus has spread to about two dozen countries.

Medical experts worry that a delayed response to the coronavirus in Southeast Asia could hasten the spread of the disease.

“Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director general.

In Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen told a packed news conference last week that he would kick out anyone who was wearing a surgical mask because such measures were creating an unwarranted climate of fear. And in Indonesia, Terawan Agus Putranto, the health minister, advised citizens to relax and eschew overtime work to avoid the disease, saying, “to prevent it is very easy as long as your immunity is good.”

Reporting was contributed by Sui-Lee Wee, Alexandra Stevenson, Austin Ramzy, Carlos Tejada, Cao Li, Gerry Mullany, Amy Qin, Joseph Goldstein, Damien Cave and Hannah Beech.



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