News ID: 265013
Published: 1013 GMT January 31, 2020

WHO declares global virus emergency as death toll hits 213

WHO declares global virus emergency as death toll hits 213
AFP

The World Health Organization declared a global emergency over the new coronavirus, as China reported Friday the death toll had climbed to 213 with nearly 10,000 infections.

The UN health agency based in Geneva had initially downplayed the threat posed by the disease, but revised its risk assessment after crisis talks, AFP reported.

"Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing in Geneva on Thursday.

"We must all act together now to limit further spread... We can only stop it together."

Tedros nevertheless said travel and trade restrictions with China were unnecessary to stem the spread of the virus, which has spread to more than 15 other countries.

Many countries have already urged their citizens not to visit China, while some have banned entry for travelers from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus first surfaced.

The US reported its first case of a person catching the virus from another person on American soil — a man in Chicago who contracted the illness from his wife, who had traveled to Wuhan.

Airlines began cancelling flights servicing China on Wednesday, and more followed suit on Thursday.

Israel barred all flights from China, while Russia said it was closing its far eastern border with China over the outbreak.

More than 6,000 tourists were temporarily put under lockdown aboard a cruise ship at an Italian port after two Chinese passengers were isolated over fears they could be carrying the virus. They later tested negative for the illness.

 

Deadliest day

 

Beijing has taken extreme steps to stop the spread of the virus, including effectively quarantining more than 50 million people in Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province.

The government on Thursday reported 38 new deaths in the preceding 24 hours, the highest one-day total since the virus was detected late last year.

On Friday, the government reported 43 new deaths, bringing the total to 213.

All but two of the confirmed deaths on Thursday and Friday were in Hubei.

The National Health Commission said there were 1,982 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to just under 10,000.

Another 102,000 people were under medical observation with possible symptoms of the respiratory ailment.

The pathogen is believed to have emerged in a market that sold wild game, and spread during a Lunar New Year holiday season in which hundreds of millions of Chinese travel at home or abroad.

 

'Truly new situation'

 

Thousands of foreigners have been trapped in Wuhan since it was sealed off last week.

Japan and the United States on Wednesday became the first countries to organize airlifts from Wuhan for their citizens. A second US flight is planned in the coming days.

Britain was planning an evacuation of around 200 of its citizens early Friday, after receiving the necessary clearance from Beijing.

A French plane also left Wuhan on Friday, according to an AFP journalist on board the flight.

Australia and New Zealand were among others organizing similar operations.

Tokyo on Thursday reported that three people who were aboard the first evacuation flight had tested positive for the virus after landing back in Japan.

Two of the three infected passengers showed no symptoms, underscoring the difficulty detecting the coronavirus.

Compounding fears, Japan was allowing the arrivals — more than 400 have been repatriated after a second flight on Thursday — to "self-quarantine".

In contrast, other countries organizing evacuations said they were all planning to quarantine.

   
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