A new, rapidly constructed 1,000-bed hospital for victims of the coronavirus outbreak is set to open today as the number of deaths caused by the virus has risen to 362.
The specially built Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, has been equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment and ventilation systems and was built in just eight days.
A second hospital with 1,500 beds is also under construction in the city and is due to open soon.
Leading Chinese epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan, who played a major role in overcoming China’s 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS, told state broadcaster CCTV that the additional beds and space were crucial to stopping the spread of new infections because sick patients could now stay in hospital rather than being sent home.
The total number of deaths in China rose to 361 as of Sunday, up 57 from the previous day, the National Health Commission said.
The number of new confirmed infections in China rose by 2,829, bringing the total to 17,205.
The flu-like virus has spread to at least 25 other countries, affecting around 150 people, with the first death outside of China reported on Sunday, that of a 44-year-old Chinese man who died in the Philippines after travelling from Wuhan.
In a sign of the economic toll of the outbreak, China’s Shanghai Composite index plunged 8.7%, wiping almost $370bn off the market value, as financial markets reopened Monday following the Lunar New Year holiday.
The yuan opened at its weakest level this year and slid 1%, past the symbolic 7-per-dollar level in onshore trade.
China’s central bank sent a powerful message about its intent to support the economy, with a larger than expected injection of funds into markets and Beijing also said it would help firms that produce vital goods resume work as soon as possible, CCTV reported.
Lian Weiliang of China’s National Development and Reform Commission said during a press briefing the impact from the outbreak will be for the short term and that China is fully capable of minimising the economic impact from the outbreak.
It comes as China is facing mounting isolation in the face of increasing travel restrictions and flight suspensions.
The epidemic has led to countries including the UK and the US evacuating their citizens from China.
New Zealand is barring all foreign nationals arriving from mainland China from Monday – following the US, Singapore and Australia after they took the same action.
South Korea says it will stop people who have visited Hubei province from entering the country from Tuesday, while Vietnam has suspended all flights to and from China.
The US confirmed its eighth case – a student at the Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts – while the Pentagon has said it will provide housing for people arriving from overseas who might need to be quarantined.
Japan confirmed an additional three cases of the new coronavirus among evacuees from Wuhan, bringing the country’s total to 20 cases.
Vietnam has confirmed an additional three cases of coronavirus, bringing the country’s total to eight cases.
Meanwhile, six officials in the Chinese city of Huanggang, neighbouring Wuhan, have been fired over “poor performance” in handling the outbreak, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The agency cited the mayor as saying the city’s “capabilities to treat the patients remained inadequate and there is a severe shortage in medical supplies such as protective suits and medical masks”.
The WHO, which declared the outbreak a global public health emergency last week, has said global trade and travel restrictions are not needed.
But the list of international airlines suspending all or some flights to China is growing.
The latest were the Australian airline Qantas Airways Ltd and Air New Zealand, which said travel bans forced them to suspend their direct flights to China from 9 February.
United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, the three major US carriers, said on Friday that they would cancel flights to mainland China.
The commander of US forces in the Pacific has banned travel to China for all service members and civilian personnel under his authority and ordered those now in China to leave immediately, officials said.
US Defence Secretary Mark Esper has approved a request from the Department of Health and Human Services for the possible use of military facilities to accommodate 1,000 people who may have to be quarantined upon arrival from overseas due to the coronavirus.
The US, from Sunday, began directing all flights from China to seven major airports where passengers can be screened for illness.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn has called for calm and warned against hysteria as more than 100 Germans and family members landed in Frankfurt, with none showing any symptoms of the virus.
Germany had eight confirmed cases as of Saturday evening. German newspaper Der Spiegel reported on Sunday that a further two people who flew into the country from Wuhan were infected.
Britain, which has had two confirmed cases, said it was withdrawing some staff from its embassy and consulates in China.
One of the British people infected with the coronavirus is a student at the University of York.
Health authorities are rushing to identify anyone who has come into contact with the pair.
The Russian military will start evacuating Russian citizens from China on Monday and Tuesday, the Interfax and TASS news agencies reported.
Russia, which has already restricted direct flights with its biggest trading partner, also said it was suspending visa-free travel for Chinese visitors and halting work visas.
Most international cases have been in people who had recently travelled to or were visiting from Hubei province.
The province has been under a virtual quarantine for the last week, with roads sealed off and public transport shut down.
Chinese authorities have placed restrictions on travel and business in other parts of the countries.
The provincial government in Hubei has extended a holiday break in the country to 13 February in a bid to contain the outbreak, the Hubei Daily reported.
Infections have jumped in two cities flanking Wuhan, where the new virus is believed to have originated, raising concerns that new hot spots are emerging despite strict transport restrictions.
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