By Waffi TV
More people have been killed by the new coronavirus than the 2003 SARS outbreak, according to latest figures.
Both are types of coronavirus which originated in China and virologists say they are genetically close. Coronavirus v SARS: How similar are the outbreaks?
The majority of deaths from the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak are concentrated in mainland China, although there has been one death in the Philippines and another in Hong Kong.
Outside of China, the virus has spread to 24 countries.Advertisement
France announced on Saturday that it would close two schools in the Alpsafter five British citizens, including a nine-year-old child, were confirmed to have caught the disease at a French ski resort.
“This cluster of cases in France illustrates how the coronavirus can spread to countries indirectly of China,” Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, said.
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“The French ski resort will have citizens from numerous other countries there, so there are implications for potential onward transmission.”
The latest key points on the global coronavirus outbreak:
The first victim to be officially identified was 34-year-old doctor Li Wenliang, who died on Friday after testing positive for the virus, Chinese state media said.
Dr Li had been one of the first to warn about the new virus but was punished by authorities for “rumour-mongering”.
He became ill after treating a patient with the virus at Wuhan Central Hospital.
Although the number of deaths from the Wuhan virus now outnumber SARS deaths, the fatality rate is lower for the Wuhan virus.
The fatality rate for SARS was 9.6%, while around 2% of those who contracted the Wuhan virus have died.
New infection cases on Saturday recorded the first drop since 1 February, falling back below 3,000 to 2,656 cases. Of those, 2,147 cases were in Hubei province.
Joseph Eisenberg, professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, said it was too early to say whether the epidemic was peaking due to the uncertainty in the number of cases.
“Even if reported cases might be peaking, we don’t know what is happening with unreported cases,” he said. “This is especially an issue in some of the more rural areas.”
A World Health Organisation-led international team investigating the outbreak will leave for China on Monday or Tuesday.
Hong Kong began enforcing a 14-day quarantine for arrivals from mainland China on Saturday. The territory has refused to completely seal its border but hopes the quarantine will dissuade travellers from the mainland.
China’s leaders are trying to keep food flowing to crowded cities despite anti-disease controls and to quell fears of possible shortages and price spikes following panic buying after most access to Wuhan and nearby cities was cut off.
Cities across the country have enforced travel bans and Beijing supermarkets have begun requiring customers register their personal information and have their temperatures taken before being allowed to enter.
Millions of people will return to China’s big cities on Monday after the biggest holiday of the year.
The Spring Festival holiday was extended over concerns about the virus’ spread, but many workplaces are expected to remain closed with many employees continuing to work from home.
The virus has been a blow to China’s already-slowing economy, with Goldman Sachs cutting its first-quarter GDP growth target to 4% from 5.6% previously and saying a deeper hit is possible.
Chinese president Xi Jinping spoke with his US counterpart Donald Trump on Friday and urged the US to “respond reasonably” to the outbreak, echoing complaints that some countries are overreacting by restricting Chinese travellers.