Coronavirus outbreak: China stutters back to work as death toll exceeds 900

There have been 97 new deaths from the virus -- with 91 in hardest-hit Hubei province -- bringing the national toll to 908.

Published: 10th February 2020 07:41 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th February 2020 08:11 AM   |  A+A-

A woman wearing a protective face mask sits in a park in Hong Kong on February 9, 2020, as a preventative measure after a coronavirus outbreak which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

A woman wearing a protective face mask sits in a park in Hong Kong on February 9, 2020, as a preventative measure after a coronavirus outbreak which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan. (Photo | AFP)

By AFP

BEIJING: The number of confirmed infections in China's coronavirus outbreak has reached 40,171 nationwide with more than 3,000 new cases reported, the National Health Commission said Monday.

In its daily update, the commission said there had been 97 new deaths from the virus -- with 91 in hardest-hit Hubei province -- bringing the national toll to 908.

Millions of people in China were returning to work Monday after an extended holiday designed to slow the spread of the new coronavirus

And although the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said there are tentative signs the epidemic is stabilising in China, the agency's director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned that the number of cases recorded overseas could be just "the tip of the iceberg".

His comments came as an advance team of WHO international experts left late Sunday for China, led by Bruce Aylward, a veteran of previous health emergencies.

In an attempt to contain the virus, cities in Hubei have been locked down and transport routes across the country cut to stop the movement of hundreds of millions of people who usually visit family during the annual Lunar New Year holiday.

The unprecedented measures included an extension of the holiday, with citizens told to stay inside as much as possible.

Officially the holiday was extended by only three days, but many cities and provinces pushed the deadline until February 10.

The measures have left businesses, shops, factories and tourist sites closed and turned many cities into ghost towns, sparking concerns about the impact of the outbreak on the economy.

But there were some signs Monday of the country beginning to make a return to normality.

Roads in Beijing and Shanghai had significantly more traffic than in recent days and the southern city of Guangzhou said it would start to resume normal public transport from Monday.

The city had been running a partial service due to the epidemic, said city authorities -- who reminded people to continue avoiding crowded places.

The death toll from the novel coronavirus has overtaken global fatalities in the 2002-03 SARS epidemic.

China drew international condemnation for covering up cases during the SARS outbreak, but the WHO has praised the measures Beijing has taken this time.

However, the health body has warned that the figures could still "shoot up".

Ian Lipkin -- a professor at Columbia University who worked with China on the SARS outbreak -- also warned of the risk of a "bump" in infection cases when people return to work.



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