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Coronavirus deaths surpass 400 in China as new hospital for infected opens

The latest:

  • 414 deaths, further 2,345 cases detected in China’s Hubei province.
  • New hospital opens in Wuhan to take pressure off health-care system as case numbers rise.
  • Foreign countries still evacuating citizens from Hubei province.
  • Ottawa moving forward with plan to get Canadians who want to leave out of Wuhan, but timeline for flight not yet clear.
  • Public Health Agency of Canada says risk to Canadians from coronavirus is low.

The number of deaths in China from the rapidly spreading coronavirus surpassed 400 on Monday as the central government sent medical workers to a newly built hospital and further restricted people’s movement in sweeping new steps to contain the illness.

China’s state television said the number of deaths in China’s central Hubei province had risen by 64 to 414 as of Monday. It also reported a further 2,345 cases detected in the province, the epicentre of the outbreak, taking the total in the region to 13,522.

Hubei’s provincial capital of Wuhan, where the virus is thought to have originated, reported 48 new deaths on Monday, accounting for most of the new casualties. A total of 313 people in Wuhan have now died from the virus as confirmed cases in the city increased by 1,242.

With Wuhan and some other Chinese cities in virtual lockdown, travel severely restricted, and China facing increasing international isolation, fears of wider economic disruption are growing.

Earlier Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported the total number of confirmed cases globally had reached 17,238, with 153 infections outside of China. 

WHO said the number of cases will keep growing because tests are pending on thousands of suspected cases.

Reopening of schools was also delayed to keep the virus from spreading further in Hubei, where the 1,000-bed hospital in the provincial capital Wuhan was completed in just 10 days. A second hospital with 1,500 beds will open within days. Restrictions were tightened still further in one city by allowing only one family member to venture out to buy supplies every other day.

Military medics arriving in Wuhan

Medical teams from the People’s Liberation Army were arriving in Wuhan to relieve overwhelmed health workers and to work at the new hospital, located in the countryside far from the city centre. Its prefabricated wards, where patients began arriving by late morning, are equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment and ventilation systems.

Leading Chinese epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan said additional hospital space was crucial to stopping the spread of new infections.

“The lack of hospital rooms forced sick people to return home, which is extremely dangerous. So having additional [beds] available is a great improvement,” Zhong told state broadcaster CCTV.

Zhong played a major role in overcoming China’s 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS, a coronavirus from the same family as the current pathogen.

WATCH | What we actually know about the coronavirus:

Information about the coronavirus outbreak is spreading fast, but what do we actually know about the illness? CBC News medical contributor and family physician Dr. Peter Lin breaks down the facts about what it is, where it came from, how it spreads and what you can do to protect yourself. 5:10

In a sign of the economic toll of the outbreak, China’s Shanghai Composite index plunged 8.7 per cent when it reopened Monday following the Lunar New Year holiday. It steadied later on the central bank’s moves to inject cash.

“We are fully confident in and capable of minimizing the epidemic’s impact on economy,” Lian Weiliang, deputy chief of the National Development and Reform Commission, said at a news conference in Beijing.

Meanwhile, health ministers from the Group of Seven (G7), which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., the U.S., and the EU, agreed to co-ordinate their response to dealing with coronavirus on Monday, the German health ministry said.

The ministers agreed to co-ordinate their approach on travel regulations and precautions, research into the new virus and co-operation with WHO and China.

“An appropriate response to the virus can only be co-ordinated internationally and at European level. Because a virus knows neither borders nor nationalities,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said in a statement.

Risk low in Canada, health officials say

Canada’s public health agency says there have been four confirmed coronavirus cases here — three in Ontario and one in B.C. The overall risk to Canadians from the disease is low, the Public Health Agency of Canada says. 

The first two confirmed cases were reported in Toronto after a couple returned from a trip to China that officials said included travel to the Wuhan area. One patient was treated in hospital and then released. The other was in self-isolation in their home.

The next case was confirmed in B.C., and the most recent case was in London, Ont. Both of these patients had travelled to the Wuhan area in China.

In Canada, efforts continued Monday to get Canadians who want to leave out of the affected area.

Ottawa is currently working with China to arrange flights out of Wuhan for more than 300 Canadians. It’s not yet clear when the flight will happen, but Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said planning is well underway and a second plane will be available if needed.

Canada’s Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Monday there’s no indication that any of the Canadians who have asked for help getting out of Wuhan have the coronavirus. Hajdu also noted that officials don’t expect that anybody with symptoms of the virus would be allowed by Chinese authorities to get on the flight.

Even without signs of the virus, Canadians who are on the flight out of Wuhan will be quarantined at a military base for two weeks to prevent the spread of the virus, Global Affairs Canada said over the weekend.

On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control confirmed that there had been a second case of person-to-person transfer of the coronavirus. The first such case in the U.S. had been reported last week. The U.S. said Sunday that Americans who had travelled in China within the last 14 days would be routed to designated airports for enhanced health screenings and most non-Americans who recently were in China would be denied entry.

Hong Kong imposing border controls

Carrie Lam announced Monday that Hong Kong will shut almost all land and sea border control points to the mainland from midnight to stem the spread of the virus. She said only two border checkpoints — at Shenzhen Bay and the bridge to Macao and Zhuhai — will remain open.

Lam denied that the move was due to pressure from medical workers. Some hospital workers went on strike Monday and more threatened to walk out on Tuesday unless the government agrees to talks.

Hong Kong has recorded 15 cases of the virus and has cut flights and train and bus connections to the mainland, but a push is growing for it to close the border completely.

Strike organizers say about 6,000 medical staff were prepared to participate. Hong Kong was severely impacted by the SARS outbreak, which many believe was intensified by official Chinese secrecy and obfuscation.

South Korea, which has 15 confirmed cases, was quarantining 800 soldiers who had recently visited China, Hong Kong or Macao or had contact with people who had, defence ministry spokesperson Choi Hyunsoo said. Military service is required of all young South Korean men to guard against the threat from the communist North.

The Philippines banned the entry of all non-citizens from China after two cases were confirmed there, including the only death outside China. The U.S., Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia have imposed similar restrictions despite criticism from China and WHO’s guidance that such measures were unnecessary.

WATCH | Hospital workers in Hong Kong press for stronger border controls amid outbreak:

Samuel Chan says medical workers fear a repeat of the deadly SARS outbreak in 2003. 0:45

On Monday, China accused the U.S. of spreading fear by pulling its nationals out of Wuhan and restricting travel instead of offering significant aid.

Washington has “unceasingly manufactured and spread panic,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters, noting that the WHO had advised against trade and travel curbs.

“It is precisely developed countries like the United States with strong epidemic prevention capabilities and facilities that have taken the lead in imposing excessive restrictions contrary to WHO recommendations,” she added.

About 150 cases have been reported in two dozen other countries. The Philippine Health Department said a 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan died from the virus and his companion remained hospitalized. Vietnam’s confirmed cases increased to eight, including a Vietnamese American man who had a two-hour layover in Wuhan on his way from the U.S. to Ho Chi Minh City.

Amid accusations of a slow official response to the outbreak, six officials in the city of Huanggang, next to Wuhan in Hubei province, were fired over “poor performance” in handling the outbreak, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. It cited the mayor as saying the city’s “capabilities to treat the patients remained inadequate and there is a severe shortage in medical supplies such as protective suits and medical masks.”

The trading and manufacturing centre of Wenzhou, with nearly 10 million people in coastal Zhejiang province, confined people to their homes, allowing only one family member to venture out every other day to buy necessary supplies. Huanggang, home to 7 million people, imposed similar measures on Saturday.

WATCH | The National explores the issue of what to call the novel virus:

Calling the pneumonia-like illness that started in Wuhan, China “the coronavirus” is problematic, but coming up with a better name is also tricky. 2:36

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