Coronavirus toll soars to 563; more cases reported on cruise ship off Japan
The virus has shut down cities and factories in China and disrupted global air travel and this week brought chaos to the sedate world of luxury ocean cruises.
The death toll from the coronavirus has hit 563 in mainland China, with almost 3,000 new cases reported. Health experts are racing against time to find a vaccine for the disease even as 10 more people on a quarantined cruise liner in Japan tested positive for the virus, officials said on Thursday.
The virus has spread to more than two dozen countries and territories, infecting over 28,000 people – the majority of them in China. It has shut down cities and factories in China and disrupted global air travel and this week brought chaos to the sedate world of luxury ocean cruises.
About 3,700 people on Carnival's Diamond Princess, docked off a Japanese port, face quarantine for at least two weeks on the ship, which has 20 virus cases, with testing continuing. Japan now has 45 virus cases.
In Hong Kong, a cruise ship with 3,600 passengers and crew was quarantined for a second day pending testing after three positive cases on board.
Taiwan, which has 13 cases, banned international cruise ships from docking.
Several countries, including the United States, have banned entry to visitors who have been in China over the previous two weeks.
News of another virus hot spot emerged, linked to a mid-January company meeting in Singapore. At least three people contracted the disease after a conference held with 94 overseas staff, including one from China's central city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the epidemic.
Authorities have not identified the company but the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was investigating.
Singapore has reported 28 infections, some involving person-to-person transmission.
Health officials in the US and China have set ambitious goals for getting a vaccine to initial human testing within the next few months, although drugmakers cautioned that they have a long way to go.
Hundreds of experts will gather in Geneva on February 11-12 to try and find a way to battle the outbreak by speeding research into drugs and vaccines, the WHO said, adding that a multinational WHO-led team would also visit China.
No end in sight
Tens of millions of people in China's central province of Hubei, the capital of which is Wuhan, have been living under virtual lock-down for nearly two weeks, with train stations and airports shut, roads sealed off, and no end in sight. National health officials said another 3,694 coronavirus cases were reported throughout China on Wednesday.
The two deaths outside mainland China, in the Philippines and Hong Kong, have both involved visits to Wuhan, where more than 400 people have died.
Nearly 260 cases have been reported in 31 countries and regions outside mainland China, according to a Reuters tally based on authorities' figures.
More than two dozen airlines, including Air India and IndiGo have suspended or restricted flights to China and hundreds of foreigners evacuated from Wuhan and placed in quarantine around the world.
China lodges diplomatic protests
Meanwhile, China on Thursday lodged diplomatic protests with countries whose airlines have cancelled flights to Chinese cities alleging that they are spreading panic in the wake of deadly coronavirus.
Beijing said that the move is against the WHO guidelines.
Several countries including India and the US have also announced travel bans.