China admits ‘shortcomings’ as coronavirus death toll hits 425


International desk, Feb 04: The death toll in China from the deadly coronavirus outbreak that originated in the central city of Wuhan, rose to at least 425 on Monday, as China admitted “shortcomings and difficulties” in its response to the outbreak.The National Health Commission said there were 64 new fatalities on Monday – the biggest daily increase since the virus was first detected in Wuhan late last year. The city, and the surrounding province of Hubei, which have been effectively sealed off from the rest of the country for more than a week.

There are now 20,438 people confirmed to have the infection.

Other countries have rushed to evacuate their citizens from Hubei province and its capital city, Wuhan, while many have also imposed extraordinary travel restrictions on travellers to and from China.

About 150 cases have been reported in two dozen other countries, with the United States reporting the second case of human-to-human transmission on Monday.

Taiwan has evacuated the first group of an estimated 500 Taiwanese stranded in Wuhan.

Taiwan had complained that China had not responded to requests to fly out its citizens, even as Beijing gave such permission to other governments, including the United States and Britain.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement on Tuesday that 247 people had arrived at Taipei’s main international airport late on Monday. They will be quarantined for 14 days, and anyone showing symptoms of the virus will be sent to hospital.

Separately, Taiwan said it would begin rationing face masks, with people limited to two masks each week on presentation of their national insurance cards.

China says US should not overreact on coronavirus outbreak

China’s foreign ministry reiterated on Tuesday the United States should refrain from overreacting over the coronavirus outbreak and called on Washington to work with Beijing and the international community to deal with the epidemic.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, in a statement issued by the ministry, also said Beijing notes the repeated offer from the US to China for assistance in fighting the outbreak. Beijing hopes that Washington will provide the offered aid soon, she said.

Japan quarantines cruise ship in Yokohama

Japan has quarantined a cruise ship with 3,500 people on board after a passenger who got off the liner in  Hong Kong tested positive for the virus.

Television footage showed images of several quarantine officers entering the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama on Monday evening to check the health of all 2,500 passengers and 1,000 crew.

An 80-year-old passenger who disembarked on January 25 in Hong Kong tested positive for the deadly virus.

Australian Wuhan evacuees arrive on Christmas Island

The first plane-load of Australians evacuated from Wuhan has arrived in the Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island, where they will be quarantined for two weeks to prevent the spread of the virus, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said,

The plane carrying 243 passengers, 14 crew, four pilots and officials from the Department of Health first landed at a military airbase about 1,200 kilometres (746 miles) north of Perth, and a pregnant woman and her partner were put into isolation in Perth, Morrison said.

All Australians who were on our flight out of Wuhan have arrived safely. 241 have now been transferred to Christmas Island and are being well looked after. A pregnant woman and her partner have been transferred to Perth and are in isolation there.

Thank you to everyone involved in what has been a complex and very challenging operation, from our medical staff, Qantas ground and air crew to Australian diplomats and other officials. I particularly want to thank the Chinese Government for their cooperative approach.

The remaining 241 people continued their journey to Christmas Island, landing at 9:01pm (14:01 GMT) on Monday, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Morrison said Australia was now working with China on a second evacuation flight, and was working with New Zealand to secure Australian nationals a seat on their plane.

Russia postpones annual investment forum over coronavirus fears

Russia is postponing an annual investment forum in the Black Sea city of Sochi that had been scheduled to take place next week because of concerns about the coronavirus concerns, a government order said.

The Russian Investment Forum, which is attended by a string of high-ranking officials and foreign investors, had been set to take place from February 12-14. The government order did not say when it would now be held.

United Airlines said on Monday it will bring forward its temporary suspension of US-bound flights from mainland China by one day to Tuesday.

The airline, which is the last US airline still operating China flights said on Friday it planned to fly its last flight from China on Wednesday because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Delta Air Lines suspended flights over the weekend, while American Airlines ended its flights from mainland China on Friday. United said Monday it still plans to resume flights to and from China on March 28.

World Bank calls for global effort against virus

The World Bank called on Monday for countries to step up programmes to fight the new coronavirus outbreak and said it was considering mobilising its own resources against the disease.

“We are calling on all countries to strengthen their health surveillance and response systems, which is essential to contain the spread of this and any future outbreaks,” the institution said in a statement.

It added that it was reviewing financial and technical resources that could be mobilised quickly to support affected countries and ways to accelerate the international response.