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China coronavirus outbreak: Death toll approaches 500

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in China has approached 500, and more than 24,000 others have been infected with the rapidly spreading virus, which is also taking a toll on the world economy.

China’s National Health Commission confirmed that the death toll was now at 490, after Hubai Province reported 65 more fatalities on Tuesday.

The record is the biggest single-day tally since the illness emerged last December in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubai, which has since been on lockdown.

The confirmed infection cases across China have reached 24,324, an increase of 3,887 from the previous tally.

​Passengers wearing protective face masks sit on a commuter ferry boat on the San Saeb Canal in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, on February 5, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

The virus has so far infected nearly 230 people in 27 other countries and regions, according to a Reuters tally based on official statements from the authorities involved.

China says has ability to win war against virus

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi says his country has the ability to win the war against the virus.

“We have the ability and confidence to finally win this war of containment,” Wang told Thailand’s foreign minister during a call on Tuesday, according to China’s Foreign Ministry.

Iranians evacuated

A plane carrying 70 Iranian nationals from Wuhan arrived in Tehran on Wednesday, according to a senior health official, who said all the returnees were in good health.

Kianoush Jahanpour, the head of the Iranian Health Ministry’s public relations department, said on his Twitter account on Wednesday that the individuals would be put in quarantine as a precautionary measure and would be monitored for symptoms of the viral pneumonia.

Thousands trapped on cruise ship in Japan

Japan’s Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said 10 people on a cruise liner at the Japanese port of Yokohama had tested positive for the viral infection on Tuesday.

The patients will be transported to a medical facility, while the roughly 3,700 others on the ship will be quarantined on board the Carnival Corp ship Diamond Princess for 14 days, said the minister.

Japan, with the highest number of infections outside China, has already sent three flights to evacuate its citizens from Wuhan. Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on Wednesday that the government would send a fourth chartered flight to Wuhan on Thursday to take home about 200 Japanese nationals as well as their Chinese spouses.

Cruise ship denied entry to Taiwan

Another cruise ship, with 1,800 people on board, was denied entry to Taiwan on Tuesday and docked in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

All passengers and crew on board the cruise ship, World Dream, are undergoing health checks, Reuters reported.

The World Dream cruise ship is seen at the Kai Tak cruise terminal, Hong Kong, on February 5, 2020.

According to Hong Kong health officials, 30 crew members on the cruise ship have shown symptoms of the coronavirus. They said most of the passengers are Hong Kongers.

Medics continue strike in Hong Kong

Meanwhile, medical workers in Hong Kong have begun a third day of strike action against the semi-autonomous government of the Chinese region, which they accuse of not taking enough action to prevent an outbreak in the territory.

Dozens of medical representatives rallied to the government headquarters on Wednesday to press their demand that the border with mainland China be closed.

Staff members of Hong Kong Hospital Authority line up to sign a letter of petition in support of a strike by hospital workers, on February 4, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has kept open three routes to China, saying that closing them would be “impractical.”

Meanwhile, dozens of countries have suspended flights to and from China and rushed to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan.

Thailand evacuates citizens

Thailand has become the latest country to take its citizens home form Wuhan.

Officials said more than 130 Thais were evacuated from the Chinese city and would be quarantined for 14 days at the Sattahip Naval Base near the capital, Bangkok.

Uzbeks taken home

Uzbekistan also evacuated 84 people from Wuhan on Wednesday and will place them in quarantine on arrival in Tashkent, according to the Central Asian country’s state airline.

The airline said the passengers were being accompanied by doctors and specialists with protective equipment.

Economy, another victim of coronavirus

The coronavirus disease, with a mortality rate of about 2 percent, is also taking a toll on the economies of world countries, according to experts, as international factories and stores throughout China are closing.

Mary Lovely, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said, “Grounded flights and less tourism will weigh on Chinese airlines, potentially reducing their purchases of new American aircraft this year.”

Travel restrictions could cost US $10 billion in Chinese visitor spending

Travel restrictions could cost US $10 billion in Chinese visitor spending Travel restrictions related to the novel coronavirus from China could impact city and state economies across the United States, analysts say.

“How is the US going to handle this? We don’t really know,” she asked.

Beijing, however, is taking measures to support the Chinese economy, Reuters reported. China’s Central Bank is likely to lower its key lending rate — the loan prime rate (LPR) — later this month, the report said. The bank will also cut banks’ reserve requirement ratios (RRRs) in the coming weeks.

“Currently, monetary policy is being loosened, but the Central Bank will follow a step-by-step approach and watch the virus situation,” a source told Reuters.

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