Philippines coronavirus death becomes first outside China
2 February 2020, 12:54
The outbreak has been declared an international public health emergency.
A man in the Philippines has become the first person outside China to die from the coronavirus outbreak, while the overall death toll has risen above 300 and the number of confirmed cases of infection increased to more than 14,000.
The 44-year-old man from Wuhan, the Chinese province where the outbreak is believed to have originated, was admitted to a Manila hospital on January 25 with a fever, cough and a sore throat, the Philippine Department of Health said in a statement.
He developed severe pneumonia but “showed signs of improvement” in the days before his death, and the 38-year-old woman he was with has tested positive for the virus and remains in hospital isolation.
President Rodrigo Duterte approved a temporary ban on all travellers, except Filipinos, from China and its autonomous regions.
The US, Japan, Singapore and Australia have imposed similar restrictions despite criticism from China and an assessment from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that they were unnecessarily hurting trade and travel.
The death toll in China climbed by 45 to 304 and the number of cases by 2,590 to 14,380, according to the National Health Commission.
The number of confirmed cases in China has surpassed the number in the 2002-03 outbreak of Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).
With the outbreak showing little sign of abating, authorities in Hubei and elsewhere have extended the Lunar New Year holiday, due to end this week, well into February.
The annual travel crunch of millions of people returning from their hometowns to the cities is thought to pose a major threat of secondary infection at a time when authorities are encouraging people to avoid public gatherings.
Despite imposing drastic travel restrictions at home, China has criticised those imposed by foreign governments.
Beijing has criticised Washington’s order barring entry to the US to most foreigners who visited China in the past two weeks.
New Zealand announced on Sunday it is temporarily banning travellers from China to protect the South Pacific region from the virus.
The 14-day ban applies to foreigners leaving China but not to New Zealand residents.
New Zealand also raised its travel advice for China to “Do not travel”, the highest level.
Among a growing number of airlines suspending flights to mainland China was Qatar Airways.
The Doha-based carrier said on its website that its flights would stop on Monday.
It blamed “significant operational challenges caused by entry restrictions imposed by a number of countries” for the suspension of flights.
Indonesia and Oman also halted flights to China, as did Saudi Arabia’s flagship national carrier, Saudia.
Saudi Arabia’s state-run TV reported that 10 Saudi students were evacuated from Wuhan on a special flight.
It said the students would be screened upon arrival and quarantined for 14 days.
This weekend, South Korea and India flew hundreds of their citizens out of Wuhan. They went into a two-week quarantine.
On Sunday, South Korea reported three more cases for a total of 15.
They include an evacuee, a Chinese relative of a man who tested positive and a man who returned from Wuhan. India reported a second case, also in southern Kerala state.
South Korea also barred foreigners who have stayed or travelled to Hubei province within the last 14 days from entering the country.
Indonesia flew back 241 nationals from Wuhan on Sunday and quarantined them on the remote Natuna Islands for two weeks.
A Turkish military transport plane carrying 42 people arrived in Ankara from Wutan on Saturday night.
The 32 Turkish, six Azerbaijani, three Georgian nationals and an Albanian will remain under observation for 14 days, together with 20 personnel who participated in the evacuation, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.
Vietnam counted its seventh case, a Vietnamese-American man who had a two-hour layover in Wuhan on his way from the US to Ho Chi Minh City.
The virus’ rapid spread in two months prompted the WHO on Thursday to declare it a global emergency.
That declaration “flipped the switch” from a cautious attitude to recommending governments prepare for the possibility the virus might spread, said the WHO representative in Beijing, Gauden Galea.
Most cases reported so far have been people who visited China or their family members.
WHO said it was especially concerned that some cases abroad involved human-to-human transmission.
“Countries need to get ready for possible importation in order to identify cases as early as possible and in order to be ready for a domestic outbreak control, if that happens,” Mr Galea told The Associated Press.
Both the new virus and Sars are from the coronavirus family, which also includes those that cause the common cold.
The death rate in China is falling, but the number of confirmed cases will keep growing because thousands of specimens from suspected cases have yet to be tested, Mr Galea said.
“The case fatality ratio is settling out at a much lower level than we were reporting three, now four, weeks ago,” he said.
Although scientists expect to see limited transmission of the virus between people with family or other close contact, they are concerned about cases of infection spreading to people who might have less exposure.