Coronavirus: Death toll in China surges past 1,500

Grant Boone
February 16, 2020

France's health minister has announced the first coronavirus death in Europe.

One person has died in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.

Authorities also said the latest 2,641 daily new cases of the virus represented a "major drop" and due to the widespread implementation a new diagnostic method.

The biggest cluster outside China is on a quarantined cruise ship off Japan, with 285 infections now as dozens more cases were confirmed. Meanwhile, the United States was preparing to fly home Americans passengers quarantined aboard a cruise ship in Japan. But it was not immediately clear how that would be enforced, or whether the restrictions would apply to non-residents or foreigners arriving from overseas.

The deceased patient, a Chinese tourist from the province of Hubei, had a serious lung infection caused by the COVID-19 virus. So far it has killed 1,500 people, the overwhelming majority in China.

A worker sprays disinfectant outside the Beijing Railway Station in China on Saturday.

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In his speech, Xi also revealed that he ordered a lockdown of the virus epicenter: "On Jan. 22, in light of the epidemic's rapid spread and the challenges of prevention and control, I made a clear request that Hubei province implement comprehensive and stringent controls over the outflow of people".

The number, however, was nearly half those reported the previous day, and World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the body has asked China for details on how diagnoses were being made. The Global Times reported that China's banks have offered $77bn in lines of credit to help combat the epidemic.

Big projects, especially those in manufacturing, should start construction on time, he said, adding that boosting consumption was an important hedge against the epidemic's impact.

"We ask all governments, companies, and news organisations to work with us to sound the appropriate level of alarm without fanning the flames of hysteria".

But he said the agency is "concerned by the continued increase in the number of cases in China", and by reports about the number of health workers who have been infected or died.

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