Coronavirus spreads to more than 800 in China: First death outside epicentre | Stuff.co.nz

’s National Commission said Friday afternoon (NZ ) the confirmed cases of the coronavirus had risen to 830 with 25 deaths.

The was also confirmed outside the central province of Hubei, where the capital, Wuhan, has been the epicentre of the outbreak.

The health commission in Hebei, a northern province bordering , said an 80-year- man died after returning from a two-month in Wuhan to see relatives.

The vast majority of cases have been in and around Wuhan or with connections the . cases have been confirmed in the , , , and . and reported their first cases Thursday, and cases have also been confirmed in the Chinese territories of and Macau.

Many are travellers from China for symptoms of the virus, which can cause , coughing, breathing difficulties and .

The has decided against declaring the outbreak a global , a that can bring more and resources to fight a threat but that can also cause and restrictions and other economic damage, making the decision a politically fraught one.

The decision “should not be taken as a sign that WHO does not think the situation is or that we’re not taking it seriously. Nothing could be further from ,” WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “WHO is following this outbreak every minute of every day.”

The coronaviruses are a of that originate in animals before making the to .

Chinese authorities moved to lock down at least three with a combined population of more than 18 million in an unprecedented effort to contain the deadly new virus that has sickened hundreds of people and spread to other parts of the during the busy Lunar New Year travel period.

Chinese officials have not said how the shutdowns of the cities last. While sweeping measures are typical of China’s -led , large-scale quarantines are around the world, even in deadly , because of concerns about infringing on people’s liberties. And the effectiveness of such measures is unclear.

“To my , trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to ,” said Gauden Galea, ”s in China. “It has not been tried before as a measure. We cannot at this say it will or it will not .”

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People wear face masks as they wait at Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan

Jonathan Ball, a of virology at molecular virology at the University of in , said the lockdowns appear to be justified scientifically.

“Until ’s a better understanding of what the situation is, I think it’s not an unreasonable thing to do,” he said. “Anything that limits people’s travels during an outbreak would obviously work.”

But Ball cautioned that any such should be strictly time-limited. He added: “ have to make sure communicate effectively about why this is being done. Otherwise will lose the goodwill of the people.”

GETTY IMAGES
A resident wears a to buy vegetables in the market in Wuhan.

During the devastating outbreak in 2014, Sierra Leone imposed a national three-day quarantine as health went to , searching for hidden cases. Burial teams collecting corpses and people taking the sick to Ebola centres were the only ones allowed to move freely. Frustrated residents complained of .

In China, the illnesses from the newly identified coronavirus first appeared last month in Wuhan, an and hub. Local authorities demanded residents wear masks in and urged civil servants wear them at work.

After the city was closed off Thursday, images showed long lines and empty shelves at supermarkets, as people stocked up. Trucks carrying supplies into the city are not being restricted, although many Chinese recall shortages in the years before the country’s recent economic boom.

Analysts predicted cases will continue to multiply, although the jump in numbers is also attributable in part to increased monitoring.

FRAYER/GETTY IMAGES
A Chinese passenger that just arrived on the last bullet from Wuhan to Beijing is checked for a fever by a health at a Beijing railway station.

“Even if (cases) are in the thousands, this would not surprise ,” the WHO’s Galea said, adding, , that the number of infected is not an indicator of the outbreak’s severity so long as the death rate remains low.

The coronavirus family includes the common as well as viruses that cause more serious illnesses, such as the SARS outbreak that spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002-03 and killed about 800 people, and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, or MERS, which is to have originated from camels.

China is keen to avoid repeating with its handling of SARS. For months, even after the had spread around the world, China parked in hotels and drove them around in ambulances to conceal the true number of cases and avoid WHO experts. This time, China has been credited with sharing rapidly, and has emphasised that as a priority.

Health authorities are taking extraordinary measures to prevent the spread of the virus, placing those believed infected in tubes and wheeled boxes, with air passed through filters.

The first cases in the Wuhan outbreak were connected to people who worked at or visited a seafood market, closed for an . Experts suspect that the virus was first transmitted from animals but that it also be mutating. Mutations can make it deadlier or more contagious.

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