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Coronavirus death toll rockets to EIGHTY with 24 new fatalities reported at the outbreak’s epicentre

The coronavirus death toll has skyrocketed to eighty, with 24 new fatalities reported at the outbreak’s epicentre in Wuhan in China and nearly 400 new cases – as experts warn it can spread before symptoms show.

Speaking at a press conference this morning, health minister Ma Xiaowei said ‘it seems like the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger’ and that it can be passed from person-to-person during its 14-day incubation period.

The announcement before a packed briefing hall of face-masked reporters sparked concern in Britain, where cases of the disease are likely.

More than 2,000 people have now been infected worldwide and 80 have been killed in China, as top scientists from British universities provided snap reaction to the news coronavirus is contagious during incubation.

Professor Paul Hunter, at The Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia said: ‘If person to person spread from people without symptoms became common then this would be extremely worrying. It would also be very surprising.

‘The consensus from the SARS outbreak was that only patients with symptoms spread the infection. 

Medical staff wearing clothing to protect against the coronavirus walk outside a hospital in Wuhan, which was where the infection broke out

Members of the media have their temperature checked before attending a news conference by the State Council Information Office about the outbreak of the new coronavirus in Beijing

Members of the media have their temperature checked before attending a news conference by the State Council Information Office about the outbreak of the new coronavirus in Beijing

A woman wearing a protective facemask returns from a market in Wuhan which is on lock-down following the spread of cornnavirus

A woman wearing a protective facemask returns from a market in Wuhan which is on lock-down following the spread of cornnavirus

This map shows all the areas where coronavirus has been identified so far, including Canada

‘Patients with influenza can transmit the infection before becoming ill but only for a day at most before symptoms develop.

‘The primary way that coronaviruses are spread is by aerosols generated by coughs and sneezes.’

‘By definition once a patient is coughing and sneezing they have already developed symptoms.

‘A description of the early cases suggest that on the current outbreak affected patients are less likely report upper respiratory symptoms such as sore throats and runny noses which may even reduce the risk of person to person spread early in the illness.’ 

And Professor Sheila Bird, Honorary Professorship at Edinburgh University’s College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine said: ‘If transmission does occur pre-symptoms or is suspected to do so, at some point soon-ish it may be instructive and important for the Chinese health authorities to try to measure within-household transmission, taking account of household size and ages of members of the household.

‘Little has been said as yet about the estimated fatality-rate for patients whose clinical course is completed (ie recovered alive, or deceased) but I’m sure that public health official know how important it is to do so – even if only for hospitalized cases in the first instance.’

It comes as the mayor of the disease-plagued city Zhou Xianwan said officials are stepping up construction of specialised hospitals to deal with infection victims. 

An ambulance driver, wearing protective clothing to help stop the spread of a deadly SARS-like virus which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan

An ambulance driver, wearing protective clothing to help stop the spread of a deadly SARS-like virus which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan

Top health official Gao Fu (pictured) said the coronavirus was 'not as powerful' as the SARS outbreak which rocked China in 2003

Top health official Gao Fu (pictured) said the coronavirus was ‘not as powerful’ as the SARS outbreak which rocked China in 2003

Medical team members heading to Wuhan to reinforce hospitals fighting the coronavirus outbreak prepare to board the train at Nanjing South Railway Station in Nanjing City

Medical team members heading to Wuhan to reinforce hospitals fighting the coronavirus outbreak prepare to board the train at Nanjing South Railway Station in Nanjing City

Tourists from an Air China flight from Beijing wear protective masks as they arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France, which has confirmed three cases

Tourists from an Air China flight from Beijing wear protective masks as they arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France, which has confirmed three cases

Beijing’s health minister assured face-masked reporters that authorities have cranked up efforts to stop the spread of disease after conceding their knowledge of how it mutates is limited.

Ma Xiaowei said ‘it seems like the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger’ and added that the administration will continue to curb transport links and scrap planned public gatherings.

More than 2,000 people have now been infected worldwide and 80 have been killed in China, sparking President Xi Jinping to yesterday issue an unprecedented warning of a ‘grave situation’.

Yet top health official Gao Fu said the coronavirus was ‘not as powerful’ as the SARS outbreak which rocked China in 2003, although it is becoming more contagious.

While SARS-infected people were only contagious when their symptoms were showing, coronavirus victims can infect others during their incubation period which can be up to 14 days.

Director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention Gao Fu speaks during a State Council Information Office press conference

Director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention Gao Fu speaks during a State Council Information Office press conference

Professor Paul Hunter, The Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia said: 'If person to person spread from people without symptoms became common then this would be extremely worrying. It would also be very surprising'

Professor Paul Hunter, The Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia said: ‘If person to person spread from people without symptoms became common then this would be extremely worrying. It would also be very surprising’

Professor Sheila Bird, Honorary Professorship at Edinburgh University's College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine and formerly Programme Leader at MRC Biostatistics Unit, Cambridge

Professor Sheila Bird, Honorary Professorship at Edinburgh University’s College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine and formerly Programme Leader at MRC Biostatistics Unit, Cambridge

Medical staff wearing clothing to protect against the coronavirus walk outside a hospital in Wuhan, which was where the infection broke out

Medical staff wearing clothing to protect against the coronavirus walk outside a hospital in Wuhan, which was where the infection broke out

Members of the media have their temperature checked before attending a news conference by the State Council Information Office about the outbreak of the new coronavirus in Beijing

Members of the media have their temperature checked before attending a news conference by the State Council Information Office about the outbreak of the new coronavirus in Beijing

Casting a large shadow over this morning’s press conference was a video of nurse battling the outbreak who claimed the government is playing down the volume of the infections and said the true figure is 90,000.

But regime authorities batted back accusations of a cover-up and insisted it had ‘followed the principles of openness and transparency’ since the coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, Hubei province, last week. 

And in a move to further project transparency, they announced daily press briefings on the threat posed by the virus starting tomorrow.  

Can tourists still travel to China? 

Flights to and from the China are still available, but tourists will be hamstrung in their ability to travel. 

The UK Foreign Office has advised against all travel to the Hubei province where the coronavirus spawned.

The eastern city of Wuhan is under lock-down and the government has enforced an effective travel ban. 

Four cities – including Beijing, Shanghai, and the eastern province of Shandong – announced bans on long-distance buses from entering or leaving their borders. 

Cruise operators including Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Costa Cruises said they had cancelled a combined 12 cruises that had been scheduled to embark from Chinese ports before Feb 2.  

Many cinemas across China were closed with major film premieres postponed. 

Shanghai Disneyland, which expected 100,000 visitors daily through the holiday period, has already closed.

Airports around the world have stepped up screening of passengers from China, although some health officials and experts have questioned the effectiveness of these efforts. 

Ma said he has ‘maintained close communication with the World Health Organisation’ and invited inspectors to examine the country’s response.

He also revealed Beijing is sharing information with other nations after the United States, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Australia, France and Canada all confirmed cases. 

As governments in China, Britain and around the world double down efforts fend off the virus:

  • Home Secretary Priti Patel did not deny UK plans to airlift stranded British nationals in quarantined Wuhan;
  • Shanghai became the latest Chinese city to halt long-distance bus services over contagion fears; 
  • The Chinese government ordered a temporary ban on the trade in wild animals fearing the virus spawned in a food market;
  • Health authorities in China said it was suffering a protective suit shortage and was importing stock from other countries; 
  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he was working with Chinese authorities to arrange a charter flight for any Japanese nationals who wish to return from Wuhan;
  • Hong Kong closed Disney land over fears it could spread the virus;
  • Paris-based Chinese associations have cancelled a Lunar New Year parade following the coronavirus epidemic, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said Sunday;
  • A patient in California’s Orange County was Saturday confirmed as the third person on US soil infected with the new deadly virus.

Ma’s  insistence of transparency came after the unnamed woman’s warning from the heart of the outbreak.

Top scientists from British universities provided snap reaction to the news coronavirus is contagious during incubation.

Professor Paul Hunter, at The Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia 

He said: ‘If person to person spread from people without symptoms became common then this would be extremely worrying. It would also be very surprising.

‘The consensus from the SARS outbreak was that only patients with symptoms spread the infection. 

‘Patients with influenza can transmit the infection before becoming ill but only for a day at most before symptoms develop.

‘The primary way that coronaviruses are spread is by aerosols generated by coughs and sneezes.’

‘By definition once a patient is coughing and sneezing they have already developed symptoms.

‘A description of the early cases suggest that on the current outbreak affected patients are less likely report upper respiratory symptoms such as sore throats and runny noses which may even reduce the risk of person to person spread early in the illness.’ 

Professor Sheila Bird, Honorary Professorship at Edinburgh University’s College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine

She said: ‘If transmission does occur pre-symptoms or is suspected to do so, at some point soon-ish it may be instructive and important for the Chinese health authorities to try to measure within-household transmission, taking account of household size and ages of members of the household.

Professor Wendy Barclay, Department of Infectious Disease, Imperial College London

‘Many of the respiratory viruses that spread amongst humans do transmit even in the absence of symptoms, including influenza and other cold viruses. 

‘They are carried into the air during normal breathing and talking by the infected person. 

‘It would not be too surprising if the new coronavirus also does this. If this does prove to be the case then controlling the spread does become more of a challenge, and measures like airport screening are unlikely to stem the virus effectively.’

‘Little has been said as yet about the estimated fatality-rate for patients whose clinical course is completed (ie recovered alive, or deceased) but I’m sure that public health official know how important it is to do so – even if only for hospitalized cases in the first instance.’

Michael Head , Senior Research Fellow in Global Health,Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton

‘If ‘symptomless spreading’ is confirmed, it would not be too surprising. Other respiratory infections such as measles and influenza can both be spread, without the infected person showing symptoms. 

‘A key factor would be the extent of the person-to-person transmission. If transmission between people is not too extensive, then the impact of symptomless spreading would not be too great. 

‘If there is significant levels of person to person transmission, this would make containment of the outbreak harder.’

Nathalie MacDermott, NIHR Academic Clinical Lecturer, King’s College London

‘While the suggestion that the (coronavirus) may be contagious during the incubation period, as reported by a doctor in Zhejiang province in relation to a cluster of cases linked to an individual who had yet to show any symptoms, is concerning it is not surprising. 

‘It is known that several other coronaviruses and respiratory viruses from other virus families can be spread during the incubation period, the period during which a person is infected but has not yet developed symptoms. 

‘This was taken account of in some of the modelling exercises undertaken by colleagues recently, and was likely given the degree of spread of the outbreak within China. 

‘There is often the question of whether individuals who may be infected with the virus but never show any symptoms (asymptomatic or subclinical cases) may also be contagious to others.’

Speaking in video footage seen online, the unnamed woman says: ‘I’m in the area where the coronavirus started. I’m here to tell the truth. At this moment, Hubei province, including Wuhan area, even China, 90,000 people have been infected by coronavirus.’

Despite China being initially praised for its transparency in managing the situation, critics have now claimed that officials are scrubbing the internet of videos that reveal the true situation.

However, the nurse’s report has been viewed almost two million times on YouTube. In the footage, she warns people not to go outside and to refrain from celebrating the Chinese New YearShe said: ‘I would like to say that everyone who is currently watching this video should not go outside. Don’t party. Do not eat out. Once a year, we celebrate Chinese New Year. If you are safe now, you will be able to meet your family again healthy next year.’

Making a desperate plea for supplies, she said: ‘We don’t care what the government says. I will tell you through social media. Everyone, please donate masks, glasses and clothes to Wuhan.

‘Please help us. Please donate disposable goggles, disposable masks and disposable clothing. Currently our resources are not enough.’

Today, the health ministry admitted it needed 100,000 protective suits, but currently only had 13,000 in Wuhan.

It said stock was being reallocated to the crisis-hit region from the country’s central reserve, as well as buying suits from other countries. 

Horrifying clips have been posted online by shocked citizens only to be deleted shortly after. In one, the sick are seen sitting between drips and oxygen tanks next to three dead bodies covered in white sheets. The footage was deleted from social media channel Weibo.

Last week, in rare public dissent, a senior journalist at a Hubei provincial newspaper run by the ruling Communist Party called for an ‘immediate’ change of leadership in Wuhan on Weibo. The post was later removed. 

The People’s Daily, a state-owned newspaper, posted a video of an apparently cured patient flashing the peace sign alongside four medics. 

But the Global Times revealed that vital resources, including masks and goggles, were urgently needed.

Critics have also claimed that many health experts who would have been able to warn the government at an early stage of the dangers of coronavirus have been detained or had their research stopped because they were not working within the Chinese state.

The accusations of a cover-up echo the furore surrounding the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic in 2002 when the government concealed the existence of the illness not just from the outside world but from its own people.

But Chinese officials told reporters that the new disease was less powerful than SARS – though it was becoming more contagious.

‘From what we see now, this disease is indeed…not as powerful as SARS,’ said Gao Fu, head of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, at a press briefing in Beijing.

Taiwan’s vice president-elect on Sunday offered help to rival China to fight the new coronavirus outbreak, as authorities in the island further tightened restrictions on visitors from China to prevent its spread.

Taiwan has close economic and cultural links with China and has so far reported four cases of the virus, which started in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province and where most of the 80 deaths to date have been.

But political relations are tense. China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan, which it considers its own territory to be taken by force if needed, including holding military drills near the democratic island.

This month, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen won a landslide re-election after campaigning on a platform to stand up to China and defend Taiwan’s freedoms.

Writing on his Facebook page, however, Tsai’s Vice President-elect William Lai said both Taiwan and China had common enemies, including infectious diseases and disasters.

Lai said the spread of the coronavirus in China was an opportunity for cooperation, calling on Beijing to have an ‘open attitude’ towards accepting international help.

‘It is incumbent upon Taiwan to take part, and help China to solve this serious epidemic, so as not to allow it to continue to spread, and that the sick can get appropriate treatment to return to help,’ he added, without elaborating on what help Taiwan may be willing to help.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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