News ID: 266060
Published: 0435 GMT February 23, 2020

Coronavirus China’s ‘largest health emergency’: President Xi

Coronavirus China’s ‘largest health emergency’: President Xi

Chinese President Xi Jinping says the coronavirus epidemic is China’s "largest public health emergency", warning that the country is still at a “crucial stage” of its battle despite Beijing’s “effective measures” to deal with the outbreak.

Speaking at an official meeting to coordinate the virus fight on Sunday, Xi said “the situation is showing a positive trend after arduous efforts but remains serious and complex”.

He also acknowledged “obvious shortcomings in the response to the epidemic,” adding that officials should “learn lessons” and improve the country’s ability to respond to public health emergencies, Presstv Reported.

The epidemic "has the fastest transmission, widest range of infection and has been the most difficult to prevent and control".

"This is a crisis for us and it is a big test," Xi said.

China has so far reported a total of 76,936 confirmed cases and 2,442 deaths due to the coronavirus, known as COVID-19. More than 1,150 people have also been infected outside China.

The virus has been fatal in two percent of reported cases, with a risk of death higher for older patients and relatively few cases among children, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The outbreak is reminiscent of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a virus from the same family that emerged in China in 2002 and killed almost 800 people around the world out of the 8,000 or so who were infected.

Recent figures have shown a slowdown in the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, prompting praise for China for its efforts to contain the epidemic.

Xi further said the outbreak will "inevitably have a large impact on the economy and society". However, he stressed the effects will be "short-term" and controllable.

The Chinese president pledged to step up policy support to help achieve economic and social development targets for 2020.

He also called for new fiscal measures including tax cuts to help smaller businesses that have been hit hard by the outbreak.

Third passenger from Japanese cruise ship dies

Meanwhile, a third passenger has died after contracting coronavirus on British cruise ship Diamond Princess which remains quarantined at the dockside of the Japanese port of Yokohama.

Japan’s health ministry said in a statement on Sunday the victim was a Japanese man in his 80s who was also suffering from other illnesses.

The statement said the man was removed from the Diamond Princess and taken to a local hospital after testing positive for COVID-19, without giving any further details.

The cause of death was given as pneumonia, the statement added.

The incident came after two passengers of the ship — a man and a woman in their 80s —died of the infection on Thursday.

More than 540 people have been infected on cruise ship Diamond Princess, which originally carried some 3,700 passengers and crew, most of whom have been transferred to hospitals.

Nearly 500 passengers are due to disembark the virus-hit Diamond Princess, docked at Yokohama near Tokyo, ending an ordeal that started on February 3.

Despite a quarantine imposed on the Diamond Princess, 621 of about 3,700 people on board — one sixth of the total — have tested positive for the virus.

In total, Japan has so far recorded four deaths linked to the new coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 130 people excluding those linked to the Diamond Princess.

The coronavirus can cause various symptoms, ranging from those of the common cold to more severe diseases such as pneumonia. Common signs include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and other respiratory complications.

France prepares in case of coronavirus epidemic

Separately on Sunday, French health Minister Olivier Veran said new cases of coronavirus were "very likely" in France, adding that health authorities were ready in case of an epidemic.

"Today, there is only one infected patient in France, who is hospitalized in Lyon. His health condition is not worrying. All the others, apart from an 80-year old man who died, were released cured and are not contagious," Veran said in an interview with Le Parisien/Aujourdhui en France-Dimanche newspaper.

"Other cases, it is very likely. An epidemic? We are getting ready for it," he said, adding that he was "particularly watchful" of the situation in Italy.

In Italy, cases of the new coronavirus have risen to more than 100 on Saturday, killing two people and prompting the government to close off the worst hit areas in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto.

Over 50,000 people have been asked to stay at home in the areas concerned, while all public activities such as carnival celebrations, church masses and sporting events have been banned for up to a week.

Veran further said that the number of laboratories in France equipped with diagnostic tests would be increased to reach a capacity of "several thousands" of tests a day, against 400 now.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has called up a meeting at 5:30 p.m. (1630 GMT) to review the coronavirus situation, his office also said in a statement.

Since December, the SARS-like virus has killed more than 2,200 people in China, the epidemic's epicenter.

Elsewhere in the world, it has killed over a dozen people and spread across some 27 countries and regions.

China has reported another decrease in the number of new coronavirus infections outside its epicenter in Hubei Province on Sunday, but world health officials have cautioned that it is still too early to make predictions about the outbreak as the flue-like disease continues to afflict other countries and regions.

 
 
   
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