China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic, reported 1,933 new cases and 100 new deaths on Feb 16, the local health authority said today.
The Hubei Health Commission said the total number of cases in the province had reached 58,182 by the end of yesterday, with 1,696 deaths.
Also, yesterday, the province announced tough new measures to try to curb the outbreak, ordering its cities to block roads to all private vehicles.
Within China, authorities reported 2,009 new cases on Sunday, noting that this was down from more than 2,600 the previous day. They said this showed their efforts to halt the spread of the virus were bearing fruit.
“The effect of the coronavirus controls is appearing,” Mi Feng, spokesman for the Health Commission, told reporters.
The new cases brought the total to 70,445 in mainland China, with 1,765 deaths, including 143 fatalities reported on Sunday. Outside China, more than 600 cases have been confirmed, mostly of people who travelled from Chinese cities, with five deaths.
The coronavirus is thought to have emerged at a wildlife market in China’s central province of Hubei. China’s response has included putting Hubei and its capital Wuhan – a city of 11 million people – on virtual lockdown.
Mi said the proportion of confirmed cases who were critically ill had fallen to 21.6 percent last Saturday, from 32.4 percent on Jan 27. He said this showed the authorities were able to treat patients more quickly, preventing cases from becoming critical.
Mark Woolhouse, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Britain’s University of Edinburgh, said if the numbers suggested the epidemic has peaked in Hubei, “then this would be encouraging news for the rest of the world too”.
But he added: “We should be cautious though; it could simply be that reporting is not keeping up with events in circumstances where the health services are under enormous pressure.”
Declining numbers of reported new infections could mean the virus was being contained but could also mean it was simply running out of susceptible new hosts in Wuhan, Woolhouse said.
Restrictions were tightened further in Hubei yesterday with vehicles, apart from essential services, banned from the roads and companies told to stay shut until further notice.
After an extended Lunar New Year holiday, China urgently needs to get back to work. But in some cities, the streets are still deserted.
On board the Diamond Princess, American passenger Matthew Smith posted a photo on Twitter showing buses parked on the shore to take US nationals to the airport. American officials in hazmat suits and masks had visited his room to check if he would disembark. He said he wanted to stay.
The ship, owned by Carnival Corp, has been held in the port of Yokohama and those with the disease have been taken to hospital onshore. No one from the ship has died.
Countries that have announced plans to fly their citizens home from the ship say they will take them only if they are symptom-free, and quarantine them on arrival.
The US Department of Defence is preparing to receive two flights with passengers – one to land at Travis Air Force Base, California, and the other at Kelly Field/Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
The evacuees will be subject to a 14-day quarantine.
Another cruise ship, Holland America’s MS Westerdam, docked in Cambodia last Thursday after being rejected by ports elsewhere. An 83-year-old American passenger tested positive upon arriving in Malaysia, authorities there said. A second test requested by the cruise operator confirmed the finding.
Taiwan reported its first fatality on Sunday. The first fatality in Europe was reported on Saturday, an 80-year-old Chinese man who died at a Paris hospital.