Beijing, Jan 26 (IANS) The death toll due to the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak in China has increased to 56, while the number of infected persons were 1,975, the National Health Commission said on Sunday.
The Commission said that 15 deaths and 688 new cases were reported on Saturday, reports Efe news.
Some 324 patients were said to be serious, while 49 have been discharged from hospitals after recovery.
Shanghai, one of the biggest cities in China, reported its first death due to the pandemic that has triggered panic across the country with authorities scrambling to stop its further outbreak.
Hubei, the central province where the disease was first reported, accounts for 52 of the 56 deaths, while one person each has died in Hebei (around Beijing), Heilongjiang (northeast), Henan (center-east) and Shanghai (east).
Health authorities have carried out checkups on nearly 23,500 people who have come into close contact with infected persons.
Out of these, over 21,500 continue to be monitored for any symptom.
At least 25 of China’s 34 provincial divisions have been put on the highest-level health alert.
The disease has already spread to a dozen other countries with Canada confirming its first case on Saturday after a patient in Ontario tested positive. The man is said to have travelled from China recently.
Five cases have been reported in Thailand, four in Australia, three each in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and France and two each in Japan, South Korea, the US, and Vietnam. Nepal has confirmed one case.
The WHO has decided not to declare an international health emergency due to strict measures carried out in China that include complete suspension of transport in and around a dozen cities in Hubei province, the epicentre of the pandemic, and cancelling Chinese New Year celebrations.
Hubei’s capital Wuhan, a city of 11 million inhabitants where the first infections originated, has suspended all transport.
More travel restrictions were announced on Sunday in other cities as the outbreak of the virus continues to be widening.
Beijing authorities announced that they were indefinitely suspending all interstate bus services to check the spread.
Passengers at 55 metro stations, including those linked to railway stations and the Beijing International Airport, will be subjected to temperature screening to detect potential suspect cases.
State news agency Xinhua reported that passengers with abnormal body temperatures would be hospitalized.
Cleaning and disinfection efforts had begun in metro and bus terminals covering each bus and train car in Beijing, where at least 51 cases of the so-called “Wuhan pneumonia” have been reported, according to official daily Global Times.
The symptoms of the new coronavirus, provisionally designated by the World Health Organization as 2019-nCoV, are similar to those of cold but may be accompanied by fever and fatigue, dry cough and dyspnea (shortness of breath).
China has deployed around 600 personnel, including doctors and other health professions, to Wuhan to help fight the disease.