Coronavirus: Death Toll nearing 500

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Chinese health authorities said on Wednesday that 490 people had died and more than 24300 had been infected in the country by the novel Coronavirus outbreak until last midnight. As of Wednesday morning, the global death toll stood at 492 with two deaths reported from the Philippines and Hong Kong.

The surging toll of the epidemic comes in the backdrop of several countries banning visitors from China, several more putting restrictions on those traveling from the worst-hit Hubei province and dozens of airlines canceling flights to and from the Chinese mainland.

China’s national health commission (NHC) said Wednesday that as of February 4 midnight, China had a total of 24324 confirmed country-wide cases of the infection. Of the 490 deaths on the mainland, 479 were from Hubei, the central Chinese province where tens of millions of people in at least 15 cities are living in a lockdown with strict restrictions on their exit and entry across the city borders.

All new 65 deaths on Tuesday were reported from Hubei. The good news is that as many as 892 patients infected with the novel coronavirus had been discharged from hospital after recovery by the end of Tuesday, the NHC said.

“Tuesday saw 262 people walk out of the hospital after recovery (125 in Hubei)”, the National Health Commission said in its daily report. The province is scrambling to treat patients and contain the outbreak amid a shortage of hospital beds and medical supplies.

A dire shortage of intensive care specialists and hospital beds has contributed to the higher mortality rate in Wuhan, state-controlled China Daily reported on Wednesday. Among measures to provide more beds to patients, a number of hotels, venues, and training centers will now be used as sites to carry out centralised treatment of suspected infections and patients showing mild symptoms or medical observation over close contacts, Chinese state media reported.

This was decided in a meeting on Tuesday chaired by Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing to enable more patients infected with the novel coronavirus in Hubei province and especially Wuhan to obtain treatment, improve recovery rates and reduce fatalities. A number of mobile hospitals and an additional 2,000 medical and nursing workers will be organised to support Hubei.

The mortality rate for known cases of the novel coronavirus is significantly higher in Wuhan, Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, than other parts of the country. The mortality rate — total deaths as a proportion of the number of confirmed cases are running at 2.1 percent on the Chinese mainland, down from 2.3 percent at the onset of the outbreak.

In Hubei province, the death rate of confirmed infections averages at 3.1 percent, while in Wuhan, the provincial capital, where the disease first surfaced, the mortality rate is estimated to be around 4.9 percent, according to the NHC. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said the deadly outbreak of the novel coronavirus does not constitute a “pandemic”. Sylvie Briand, director of global Infectious Hazard Preparedness at the WHO, said on Tuesday: “Currently we are not in a pandemic, we are at a phase where we have an epidemic of coronavirus with multiple foci and we try to extinguish the transmission in each of these foci.”

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