Coronavirus: China receives protective gear from US as death toll passes 2,000

Owen Churchill

Mainland China’s health authorities reported 1,749 new cases of coronavirus and 136 new deaths, bringing its totals to 74,185 and 2,004 respectively.

While the day’s deaths on the mainland, counted on Tuesday, were up 39 per cent on the previous day, the number of patients who recovered and were discharged from hospital on Tuesday – 1,824 – was, for the first time, greater than the day’s number of new reported cases. Outside Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, the rise in infections slowed for a 15th consecutive day.

Hubei continued to be hardest hit, with 1,693 of the new cases and 132 of the deaths reported on Wednesday morning, with its daily deaths up 42 per cent. Wuhan, Hubei’s capital, accounted for 1,660 and 116 of these, respectively. To date, more than 9,100 people in Hubei have recovered and been discharged, but 11,200 people remain in severe or critical condition.

US supplies reach China

China said on Wednesday that it had received 16 tonnes of supplies from the United States, including face masks and other protective gear.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that China hoped the US would deliver on its promised US$100 million donation to help contain the outbreak, made on February 8.

“In the fight against the epidemic, all countries need to pitch in,” Geng said. “We hope that the US$100 million donation the US State Department announced it would make to China and other countries will come to fruition soon.”

Russia bans entry for Chinese citizens

Whereas China has traded barbs with the US over the outbreak, saying that the US was creating panic with its restrictions on entry for Chinese travellers, Beijing took a soft line in response to Russia announcing a blanket ban on all Chinese citizens entering the country, citing the “worsening of the epidemic in China”.

Geng said Russia had informed China in advance and the measures, to take effect on Thursday, “will be adjusted and even withdrawn” when the situation allows.

World Health Organisation (WHO) officials have repeatedly called on countries to refrain from taking measures to restrict China-related travel and trade, while applauding the drastic measures taken by China, such as its lockdown of tens of millions of people in numerous cities.

WHO experts are in China to collect information and offer guidance to authorities there. As part of that mission, the team may travel to Wuhan, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing on Tuesday.

International medics condemn conspiracies

A group of 27 public health experts from eight countries have signed an open letter in the British medical journal The Lancet to support Chinese scientists and public health and medical workers fighting the outbreak and to quash conspiracy theories surrounding it.

“We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid-19 [the disease caused by the coronavirus] does not have a natural origin. Scientists from multiple countries have published and analysed genomes of the causative agent … and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife,” the statement, published on Tuesday, said.

One of the signatories, Leo Poon Lit-man, a professor at the University of Hong Kong, told the South China Morning Post: “There are a lot of lay people spreading these scandals and some scientists also tried to make hypotheses to claim this virus is artificial … which creates fear in the public and misdirects our attention. The whole idea is to try to tell people that evidence shows this is not a man-made virus, so try not to come up with conspiracy theories.”

Taiwan reports new case, Iran has two patients

Taiwan reported a new case, bringing the total on the island to 23. Authorities were also negotiating with the Japanese government to send a charter flight to Japan to collect 18 Taiwanese passengers and an employee from the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess in Yokohama, possibly on Friday.

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said that the latest confirmed patient was a 60-year-old woman who contracted the virus from her brother – a taxi driver who died on Saturday from complications of pneumonia and septicaemia. The woman had dinner with her brother and other relatives on January 27 and developed symptoms on Monday. Her mother, younger brother and another relative have all tested positive for the virus in the past three days.

In Iran, health authorities confirmed the country’s first two cases, according to Associated Press, citing a report by the semi-official ISNA news agency. The report did not give the nationality of the two patients, or their condition. An unspecified number of patients suspected of having the virus have been quarantined.

Closed environment may increase risk

Staying in relatively closed environments for extended periods of time may lead to infection, according to the latest guidelines.

China’s National Health Commission issued its sixth national treatment and diagnosis plan for the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, which confirmed that the virus was mainly transmitted through respiratory droplets and close contact with infected people.

However, it added that aerosolisation was possible through exposure to high concentrations of aerosols – small particle droplets – in a relatively closed environment for long periods.

The new guidelines also removed the diagnostic distinction between “in Hubei” and “outside the province” and added plasma treatment – based on antibodies in recovered patients – for severe cases of infection. The antiviral drugs chloroquine phosphate and Arbidol were also added to the treatment plan.

Army veterans join fight

Tens of thousands of veterans have been deployed to help fight the novel coronavirus outbreak, Beijing Daily reported on Wednesday. Many of the retired army personnel have been volunteering in the capital, while others have been working on the front line in Wuhan and the surrounding province.

A letter from veterans published by Beijing Daily said: “Even if you aren't wearing a military uniform, you are still a soldier. If there is a war, I will go on a mission.”

They join other ex-military volunteers who have been stationed on the front line of the outbreak, while other veterans have been helping communities stricken by the virus.

Second Hongkonger dies after becoming infected with coronavirus

Zhang Yajun, an ex-soldier, has volunteered every day at Wuhan Tongji Hospital since February 9. Earlier this month, Tian Jun, 54, and two other retired pilots delivered medicine and protective gear by helicopter in Hubei.

“We are special-class pilots from the army and air force with flight times of more than 5,000 hours,” Tian told Beijing Daily.

Beauty spot reopens with fever checks

Hangzhou West Lake, a famous tourist destination in China's Zhejiang province, reopened on Wednesday, but all visitors are required to wear a mask.

According to Communist Party newspaper People's Daily, tourists visiting the lake will be required to register their real identities and have their temperatures checked before entering. All entry points to the beauty spot have been equipped with thermoscanners.

Hangzhou West Lake attracts more than 28 million visitors each year. It was closed on January 24 in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The local authority has said it will issue health QR codes to visitors based on their identity and health condition.

Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.

More from South China Morning Post:

This article Coronavirus: China receives protective gear from US as death toll passes 2,000 first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.