China coronavirus outbreak death toll now hits 170
The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has risen to 170, and a confirmed case in Tibet means it has reached every region in mainland China.
Chinese health authorities said there were 7,711 confirmed cases in the country as of 29 January.
Infections have also spread to at least 15 other countries.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) was scheduled to meet last evening to again consider whether the virus constitutes a global health emergency.
“In the last few days the progress of the virus, especially in some countries, especially human-to-human transmission, worries us,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.
He named Germany, Vietnam and Japan, where there have been cases of people catching the virus from others who have been to China.
“Although the numbers outside China are still relatively small, they hold the potential for a much larger outbreak,” the said.
More people have now been infected in China than during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in the early 2000s, but the death toll remains far lower. SARS, also a coronavirus, caused acute respiratory illness.
Researchers are racing to develop a vaccine to protect people from the virus. One lab in California has plans for a potential vaccine to enter human trials by June or July.
Voluntary evacuations of hundreds of foreign nationals from Wuhan are under way to help people who want to leave the closed-off city and return to their countries.
The UK, Australia, South Korea, Singapore and New Zealand are expected to quarantine all evacuees for two weeks to monitor them for symptoms and avoid any contagion.
Although questions have been raised about transparency, the WHO has praised China’s handling of the outbreak. President Xi Jinping has vowed to defeat what he called a “devil” virus.
Meanwhile, Russia said Thursday it was closing the border with China to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus and would stop issuing electronic visas to Chinese nationals.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin told a government meeting that the order had been signed “to take measures to close the border (with China) in the Far East”. “We have to do everything to protect our people,” he said. -Agencies