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China coronavirus fatalities pass 2,000 as infection cases decline

The death toll from the coronavirus epidemic in mainland China has surpassed the 2,000 mark, despite a decline in new infection cases for the second straight day amid stricter containment measures by local authorities in the hardest-hit city of Wuhan.

According to the latest figures announced by China’s National Health Commission on Wednesday, fatalities rose by 136, reaching 2,004 as of the end of Tuesday. The commission further reported 1,749 new infection cases, reflecting the lowest daily increase since January 29, bringing the total number of those infected to 74,185.

At least 132 of the deaths were registered in Hubei Province, where Wuhan is located. Moreover, 1,693 of the 1,749 new confirmed infection cases reported nationwide were from Hubei, bringing the total number of infections across China to 74,185.

However, the latest number of new infections in the province on Tuesday was down from 1,807 the previous day, while the number of the deaths there climbed by 132 to 1,921.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has formerly said that any visible trend “must be interpreted very cautiously.”

China epidemic slows, prompting cautious optimism

China epidemic slows, prompting cautious optimismFigures show a slowdown in the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, prompting praise for China for its efforts to contain the epidemic.

Iran expresses sympathy with China

Meanwhile, in an expression of sympathy by Iranians for the Chinese in the struggle against the new coronavirus, the municipality of Iran’s capital of Tehran projected light beam images of the Chinese flag and other Chinese symbols on the tower of the city’s landmark Azadi (freedom) Square.

​Light beam images are seen in Tehran’s landmark Azadi (freedom) Square in a show of support for the Chinese government and nation in their struggle against the coronavirus. (Photo by IRNA)

The development came after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif offered a message of support in Chinese language to the people of China and the hardest-hit city of Wuhan, for their efforts to overcome the epidemic.

Over 800 cases in other countries

Five deaths and 827 cases have so far been reported in countries beyond China, more than half of which were attributed to infections on a cruise ship quarantined off Japan.

More than 540 people have been infected on cruise ship Diamond Princess, which originally carried some 3,700 passengers and crew, most of whom have been transferred to hospitals.

Nearly 500 passengers are due to disembark the virus-hit Diamond Princess, docked at Yokohama near Tokyo, ending an ordeal that started on February 3.

The Canadian government reportedly aims to evacuate its nationals aboard the cruise ship on either Thursday or Friday.

Meanwhile, a senior Chinese health official further announced that 1,716 health workers had so far been infected by the virus, six of whom have died.

A recovered patient (C-in wheelchair), 83, is discharged from Leishenshan Hospital, the newly-built makeshift hospital for the new coronavirus patients, in Wuhan, China. (Photo by AFP)

Also in Hong Kong, authorities recorded the second fatality caused by the virus on Wednesday. Furthermore, nearby South Korea reported 15 new cases, bringing the total number of people infected in the country to 46.

Countries worldwide evacuating citizens

The developments come as Russia announced Tuesday that it would suspend entry of Chinese citizens to the country effective February 20.

A growing number of countries around the globe have been evacuating or planning to evacuate citizens and diplomatic staff from parts of China and the cruise ship in Japan.

Australia said there were 220 nationals on the ship. While 169 of them would be evacuated, 36 infected would remain on the ship. Another 15 have chosen to stay on board. Those evacuated will be flown to Darwin and quarantined.

A planeload of New Zealanders, Australians, and Pacific Islanders evacuated from Wuhan arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, on February 5, according to officials.

Taiwan announced on Tuesday that it would charter a plane to evacuate its citizens from the Diamond Princess Cruise liner in Japan. It also evacuated 247 of the estimated 500 Taiwanese stranded in Wuhan on February 3.

The US flew back over 300 Americans who had been stuck on the cruise ship. They are due to face two more weeks of quarantine after spending the previous 14 days docked in Japan.

The UK’s Foreign Office also stated on Tuesday that it was working to organize a flight to Japan to evacuate its nationals from the cruise ship. Britain’s final evacuation flight from Wuhan, carrying more than 200 people, landed at a Royal Air Force base in central England on February 9.

Uzbekistan has evacuated 251 people from China and quarantined them on arrival in Tashkent, the Central Asian country’s state airline said on February 6.

Moreover, Singapore’s Foreign Ministry also announced that a second evacuation flight was bringing back another 174 Singaporeans and their family members from Wuhan.

The Philippine Foreign Ministry said 30 citizens returned to the Philippines from Wuhan on February 9, adding that the returning passengers and a 10-member government team would be quarantined for 14 days.

Meanwhile, Japan’s machinery orders fell at their fastest pace since 2018 and exports posted a 14th straight month of decline as the world’s third-largest economy struggled with the widening impact of the outbreak and a recent sales tax hike.

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