The death toll in China from the new coronavirus rose to 170 on Thursday, with 7,711 confirmed cases, as repatriation flights for foreign nationals continued.
According to the daily report of the National Health Commission, updated at 00.00 (local time) the number of patients in serious condition stands at 1,370, while 124 people have recovered and were discharged.
On Wednesday, 356 new cases were detected and 25 deaths were confirmed in the city of Wuhan, the outbreak’s city of origin. Access to and from the city has been cut off since last Thursday in order to contain the spread of the virus. According to local authorities, 9 million people remain within the city.
So far, 12,167 suspected cases have been detected – which means they have symptoms, but it has not yet been confirmed whether or not they have contracted the coronavirus – and about 82,000 people have been in contact with patients and remain under medical observation.
Most of the new cases and deaths have been registered in the province of Hubei, where the outbreak originated. On Wednesday, Hubei registered 1,032 confirmed cases and 37 deaths, bringing the total number of deaths to 162, according to the Health Commission of the province.
There have been no deaths recorded outside of China.
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Emergency Committee is set to reconvene behind closed doors in Geneva later on Thursday to decide whether the rapid spread of the virus now constitutes a global 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 told a news conference on Wednesday, naming Germany, Vietnam and Japan.
“Although the numbers outside China are still relatively small, they hold the potential for a much larger outbreak.”
The United States flew about 200 Americans out of Wuhan, capital of Hubei where most of the cases are concentrated. They were being screened on arrival in California.
France, Britain and Canada also have organised evacuations.
The effects of the virus are already weighing heavily on China’s economy, the world’s second-biggest, with companies cutting corporate travel and tourists cancelling trips.
Various airlines are cutting flights, from British Airways and Lufthansa to Air Canada and American Airlines.