Health

China reports 25 more coronavirus deaths as Germany reports its 1st case

China reported 25 more deaths in its coronavirus outbreak on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to at least 106.

Death toll in China rises to at least 106

This photo of medical staff attending to patients was uploaded to the Weibo social media platform by the Central Hospital of Wuhan on Saturday. The city of Wuhan is the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak. (The Central Hospital of Wuhan via Weibo/Reuters)

China reported 25 more deaths in its coronavirus outbreak on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to at least 106.

Authorities said 24 of the deaths were in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak that first began in December, and one in Beijing.

While a new national total number of deaths was not provided, the count was last at 81, which would make the total now at least 106. 

Shortly before the new figures from China were released, Germany confirmed its first case of the virus. Bavaria's health department said a man in the town of Starnberg, 30 kilometres southwest of Munich, has been confirmed as having the virus.

The patient is in "good condition" and isolated under medical observation, Bavaria's health department said in a statement posted on its website. It did not disclose any details of the patient's age or nationality.

On Monday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said he will "inspect and direct" efforts to control a coronavirus outbreak in the central city of Wuhan and promised reinforcements, state media reported, as provincial authorities faced accusations from the public of a failure to respond in time.

Li, clad in a blue protective suit and mask, thanked medical workers in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province.

"Li ... thanked frontline medical workers for their all-out efforts in treating patients and urged them to pay attention to their own protection," Xinhua news agency said.

"He required efforts to guarantee medical resources supply, race against time to treat patients and ensure adequate market supply and stable prices."

He said 2,500 more medical workers would arrive in the next two days.

Li is the most senior Chinese leader to visit Wuhan since the outbreak began. He inspected efforts to contain the epidemic and was shown on state television leading medical workers in chants of "Wuhan jiayou!" — an exhortation to keep their strength up.

He also visited the construction site of a new hospital due to be built in days. Wuhan is building two hospitals, one with 1,500 beds and another with 1,000, for the growing number of patients. 

WATCH | Chinese officials attempt to quell public anger over handling of virus outbreak:

As the death toll from the coronavirus increases, officials are trying to stem the public outcry over what some see as mishandling of the ongoing crisis. 2:08

On China's heavily censored social media, where dissent is typically suppressed, local officials have borne the brunt of mounting public anger about the handling of the virus.

Some lashed out at the Hubei governor, who had to correct himself twice during a news conference over the number of face masks being produced in the province.

"If he can mess up the data multiple times, no wonder the disease has spread so severely," said one user on the Weibo social media platform.

Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang told state broadcaster CCTV the city's management of the crisis was "not good enough" — rare public self-criticism for a Chinese official — and said he was willing to resign.

The city of 11 million people is in virtual lockdown and much of Hubei, home to nearly 60 million people, is under some kind of travel curb.

People from Hubei have come under scrutiny within mainland China as well, with many facing suspicion from officials about their recent travels.

"Hubei people are getting discriminated against," a Wuhan resident complained on the Weibo social media platform.

A small number of cases linked to people who travelled from Wuhan have been confirmed in more than 10 countries, including Thailand, France, Japan, the United States and Canada. 

On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it had no new confirmed cases, but 110 potential cases are under investigation.

No deaths have been reported outside China.

A medical official takes the body temperature of a man at the departure hall of the airport in Changsha, Hunan province on Monday. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Canada's first two cases are a man and his wife who had travelled to Wuhan and recently returned to Toronto. The husband is being treated in hospital and the wife is in isolation at home, Ontario health officials said Monday. The wife's case is still considered "presumptive." 

The total number of confirmed cases in China is more than 2,750, but some experts suspect the number of infected people is much higher. Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, which has had eight confirmed cases, banned entry to people who had visited Hubei province in the past 14 days.

The youngest patient is a nine-month-old girl in Beijing.

China's health minister, Ma Xiaowei, said the country was entering a "crucial stage" as "it seems like the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger."

President Xi Jinping has called the outbreak a grave situation and said the government was stepping restrictions on travel and public gatherings while rushing medical staff and supplies to Wuhan.

Economic fallout 

World shares slipped to their lowest in two weeks as worries grew about the economic impact of the coronavirus on China, the world's second-biggest economy.

Investors are worried about the impact on travel, tourism and broader economic activity. The consensus is that in the short term, economic output will be hit as Chinese authorities impose travel restrictions and extend the week-long Lunar New Year holiday — when millions traditionally travel by rail, road and plane — by three days to limit the spread of the virus.

Hong Kong announced it would bar entry to travellers from Hubei, starting Monday. Hong Kong residents returning from the area will be allowed into the territory but were told to quarantine themselves at home.

Two of Hong Kong's most popular tourist attractions, Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park, are closed.

The U.S. State Department raised its travel advisory for China to Level 3, asking its citizens to "reconsider" travel to China. It issued a Level 4 alert, its highest, specifically for Hubei province, telling citizens: "Do not travel to Hubei province."

Late Monday afternoon, Ottawa followed suit, warning Canadians to "exercise a high degree of caution" in China and to "avoid all travel" to Hubei province.

Asian and European shares tumbled on Monday, with Japan's Nikkei average sliding two per cent, its biggest one-day fall in five months. Demand spiked for safe-haven assets such as the Japanese yen and treasury notes. European stocks fell more than two per cent.

During the 2002-2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a coronavirus that originated in China and killed nearly 800 people globally — including 44 Canadians — air passenger demand in Asia plunged 45 per cent. The travel industry is more reliant on Chinese travellers now than it was then.

Some of China's biggest companies have been affected, with hotpot restaurant chain Haidilao International Holding shutting branches nationwide from Sunday until Friday.

Gaming giant Tencent Holdings Ltd advised staff to work from home until Feb. 7, and e-commerce firm Alibaba removed vendors' offers of overpriced face masks from its online Taobao marketplace as prices surged.

WHO director arrives in China

The director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had arrived in China and would meet officials working on the response, his agency said.

The newly identified coronavirus is believed to have originated late last year in a Wuhan market illegally selling wildlife. Much is not known, including how easily it spreads and just how deadly it is.

A child wears mask in a Disneyland hotel in Hong Kong on Sunday after the park was closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

China's health minister said on Sunday the incubation period could range from one to 14 days, and the virus is infectious during incubation, unlike SARS.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated an incubation period of two to 10 days.

'Masks don't protect you from getting this infection all that well,' says Dr. Isaac Bogoch.   6:44

With files from The Associated Press and CBC News