Health

China reports sharp rise in new cases of pneumonia, 3rd death as coronavirus spreads

An outbreak of coronavirus in China has spread to more cities, with a third death reported and the total number of people infected topping 200, Chinese authorities said on Monday.

Beijing says it will increase efforts to contain outbreak ahead of holiday travel rush

Medical staff transfer patients to Jin Yintan hospital in Wuhan, China, on Friday. A new coronavirus strain that was first discovered in Wuhan has since spread to different regions of China and abroad. (Getty Images)

An outbreak of coronavirus in China has spread to more cities, with a third death reported and the total number of people infected topping 200, Chinese authorities said on Monday.

The Daxing health commission in the capital Beijing said it had confirmed two cases of coronavirus, while the southern Guangdong province's health commission confirmed one case in Shenzhen.

The new cases, the first inside China outside the central city of Wuhan where the virus was first reported, come as the country gears up for the Lunar New Year holidays later this week, when hundreds of millions of Chinese travel domestically and abroad.

China's eastern province of Zhejiang, meanwhile, reported that five patients are in quarantine for respiratory illness — but the diagnosis is not confirmed yet.

The province has found five people travelling from Wuhan with respiratory symptoms since Jan. 17, Zhejiang's health commission said in a statement on its website. The statement also said the patients are in stable condition and their close contacts have been placed under medical observation.

Passengers walk past a sign at Narita Airport in Chiba, Japan last week pass a sign advising of the virus that first emerged in China and is from the same family as the deadly SARS pathogen. (JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)

The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said in a statement that 136 new cases of coronavirus had been discovered in the city on Saturday and Sunday.

As of late Sunday, 198 cases in total had been reported in Wuhan, including three deaths. Some 170 people were still being treated in the hospital, while 25 had been cured, it said.

The statement gave no further details of the latest death toll.


What are public health officials saying in Canada?

  • The virus belongs in the same family of coronaviruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) told CBC News Sunday that "the overall risk of disease spread to Canada is considered low." 
     
  • Canada has no direct flights from Wuhan, and the volume of travellers arriving indirectly from Wuhan is low, PHAC said. 
     
  • PHAC said it will be "implementing additional measures" in the coming week, including warning signs at airports in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.
     
  • U.S. officials have said they will begin screening travellers coming from Wuhan at three major airports — New York City's JFK International Airport, San Francisco International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport.

Outside China, two cases have been reported in Thailand and one in Japan, all involving people from Wuhan or who recently visited the city. South Korea on Monday reported its first confirmed case, a 35-year-old  female Chinese national who had travelled from Wuhan.

Beijing said on Sunday it will increase efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak, while health authorities around the world are working to prevent its spread.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Monday the country would curb the spread of the outbreak, state television reported.

"People's lives and health should be given top priority and the spread of the outbreak should be resolutely curbed," it quoted Xi as saying.

A traveller wears a facemask at the Beijing Railway Station on Friday. (Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press)

Bundled up in winter clothes as they head home for the Lunar New Year holiday amid a health scare over the mysterious new virus, Chinese travellers on the teeming concourse of Beijing West station were evenly split between the masked and the barefaced.

Covering up was clearly the best decision for many of the passengers waiting to board the packed train carriages for the five hour journey to Wuhan, the epicentre of an outbreak that has sent shivers through the world's most populous country.

Going back to her hometown, 28-year-old Tan Jie has been ribbed at work about the danger of contracting the new coronavirus, but the blue surgical mask on her face shows she is taking the risk seriously.

Travellers pass by a health checkpoint before entering immigration at the international airport in Beijing last week. (Ng Han Guan/Associated Press)

"My Beijing colleagues joked and said 'when you come back to work, we'll have to quarantine you for two weeks,'" Tan said, trying to make light of the dampener the scare has put on the most important holiday for Chinese families.

Liao Guang and her husband are looking forward to being reunited with their two-year-old child in Yichang, a city in the same province as Wuhan, and rushed to buy masks before travelling, as alarm spread on social media after the number of confirmed cases tripled over the weekend. "All the trending items were about this pneumonia outbreak, so I thought we should buy a mask and take some kind of a preventative measure," said Liao, a 26-year-old, trailing a wheelie bag.

"I think during this [holiday], we're not going to go out too much, and probably won't go to places with a lot of people, like the movie theatre."

The virus belongs in the same family of coronaviruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002/03 outbreak that also started in China. In Canada, 44 people died, many of them healthcare workers.

Though some experts say the new virus may not be as deadly as SARS, there is still little known about it, including its origin and how easily it can be transmitted between humans.

With files from The Associated Press and CBC News

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