Coronavirus inflicts growing toll on China's health workers

Daniel Fowler
February 14, 2020

In its latest update, China's National Health Commission said it had recorded 121 new deaths and 5,090 new coronavirus cases on the mainland on February 13, taking the accumulated total infected to 63,851 people.

It's also possibly good news for numerous sick in Wuhan, the Hubei capital where the outbreak began, who have been unable to access hospitals without confirmed diagnoses - though there is still an urgent shortage of facilities, staff and medicals supplies. This is the third death outside mainland China - the Philippines and Hong Kong have reported a death each.

Chinese officials and hospitals have repeatedly spoken of a shortage of protective equipment, including face masks.

"Clearly in Wuhan, the health system is under extreme pressure and so the first priority has to be the patient", said Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh. There are now several hundred coronavirus cases in 27 countries outside of China.

Infection cases and deaths attributed to the virus have been concentrated in the regional transport and business hub.

The drastic jump comes after official figures showed coronavirus cases had dropped for two days in a row.

One patient in Hong Kong, three in Macao and one in Taiwan have been discharged from hospital after recovery.

Many countries, including Turkey, have evacuated their citizens from the city of Wuhan - the epicenter of the virus - and other affected areas of China, placing them under quarantine and monitoring.

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On Friday, some of the ship's passengers were allowed to disembark - with priority for older passengers confined to windowless cabins - and complete their quarantine on shore.

"We understand that most of these cases relate to a period going back over days and weeks and are retrospectively reported as cases, sometimes back to the beginning of the outbreak itself".

In Cambodia, another cruise ship, the Westerdam, finally docked after being turned away by several Asian and Pacific governments. It had anchored offshore early in the morning to allow Cambodian officials to board and collect samples from passengers with any signs of ill health or flu-like symptoms.

Separately, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd said it had canceled 18 cruises in southeast Asia and joined larger rival Carnival Corp in warning that its full-year earnings would be hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

Chinese health authorities said the sudden rise is due to inclusion of clinically-diagnosed cases in Hubei.

The new confirmed cases included 3,095 clinically diagnosed cases and the new deaths included eight who were clinically diagnosed.

"This is not a sign that the outbreak is suddenly exploding", said World Health Organization official Simeon Bennett.

China's economy will grow at its slowest rate since the global financial crisis in the current quarter, according to a Reuters poll of economists who said the downturn will be short-lived if the outbreak is contained.

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