China virus toll nears 500; cruise ships, Hong Kong flights hit

Photo: Reuters

The death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in China passed 490 on Wednesday, as two U.S. airlines suspended flights to Hong Kong following the first fatality there and 10 cases were confirmed on a cruise ship quarantined in Japan.

China’s National Health Commission said another 65 deaths were reported on Tuesday, a new daily record bringing the toll on the mainland to 490, mostly in and around the locked-down central city of Wuhan where the virus emerged late last year.

There have been two deaths outside mainland China. A 39-year-old man in Hong Kong with an underlying illness who had visited Wuhan city died on Tuesday. A man died in the Philippines last week after visiting Wuhan, the first virus-related overseas fatality.

Across mainland China, there were 3,887 new confirmed infections, bringing the total accumulated number to 24,324.
Ten people on a cruise liner under quarantine at the Japanese port of Yokohama tested positive for coronavirus, Japan’s health minister said, a figure that could rise as medical screening of thousands of patients and crew continued.

The 10 infected people will be transported to a medical facility, while the remaining around 3,700 people will be quarantined on board the Carnival Corp (CCL.N) ship Diamond Princess for 14 days. There are now 33 cases in Japan.

“I want to take sufficient care of the health of passengers and crew and make every effort to prevent the spread of the virus,” Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told a media briefing.

Carnival on Tuesday canceled cruises scheduled to depart the Japanese ports of Yokohama and Kobe this week because of delays related to the coronavirus checks.

Another cruise ship, the World Dream operated by Dream Cruises, docked in Hong Kong on Wednesday after being denied entry to Taiwan, with all passengers and crew undergoing health checks, Hong Kong’s Cable TV reported.

Nearly 230 cases have been reported in 27 other countries and regions outside mainland China, according to a Reuters tally based on official statements from the authorities involved.

“We have the ability and confidence to finally win this war of containment,” China’s state councillor Wang Yi told Thailand’s foreign minister during a call on Tuesday, according to China’s foreign ministry.

Wang said the mortality rate of less than 2.1% from the coronavirus outbreak to date was far lower than that of other major epidemics, the foreign ministry said in its account of the call published on Wednesday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the flu-like virus a global emergency and experts say much is still unknown, including its exact mortality rate and transmission routes.

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