Feb 23, 2020 09:02 PM

Coronavirus Sunday Update: Iran Reports 8 Deaths; Chinese Researchers Doubt Virus Origin


China is grappling with an outbreak of infections from a new coronavirus that began in December. Caixin Global will continue covering this story as it develops. Please check back regularly for updates.

Caixin’s coverage of the new coronavirus


Sunday, Feb. 23, 9 p.m.

It has been one month since China locked down the 11 million-strong city of Wuhan, the outbreak’s epicenter, in an effort to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.

To some extent, disease control efforts seem to be paying off. Official data show that the country’s total number of infections has grown at a slower pace over the past few days compared to previous weeks. So far, around 30% of the more than 77,000 confirmed cases have recovered.

That said, the illness has still claimed more than 2,400 lives in China, most of which were in the central province of Hubei, where Wuhan is located. The situation there remains worrisome (link in Chinese), given that there were still more than 10,000 patients in serious or critical conditions on Saturday.

This will be a protracted battle against the virus, Xia Jian, a deputy chief of the emergency center of Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, told Caixin (link in Chinese).

Experts across the globe are continuing their efforts to trace the origins of the coronavirus. A newly published paper by Chinese researchers, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, said that the virus may not have originated at a seafood market in Wuhan as previously thought.

With more than 8.7 million university students set to graduate in China this year, multiple localities have rolled out (link in Chinese) policies to stabilize the job market. The moves come as some businesses impacted by the epidemic have stopped adding or even cut staff to save costs.

Overseas jitters

Japan, South Korea, Italy and Iran have made global headlines as the coronavirus has spread further or claimed more lives in the countries.

As of Sunday evening, Japan had reported 838 infections, including 691 diagnosed on the Diamond Princess cruise ship and at least four central government officials.

Paradoxically, 23 of the ship’s former passengers were not tested for the coronavirus while in onboard quarantine, Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said (link in Chinese) at a press briefing on Saturday. His speech fueled fears that the virus might spread further and sparked public criticism across the country.

In South Korea, the number of confirmed cases rose to 602 on Sunday afternoon, including five deaths. Many infections have been linked to members of a church in the major city of Daegu as well as a hospital near the city, where some of the church members attended a funeral.

The U.S. raised its travel advisory level for Japan and South Korea on Saturday, suggesting citizens “practice enhanced precautions.” Sustained community spreading has been reported in the two countries, which means how or where people became infected there is unknown, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Outside China, Iran (link in Farsi) has reported the most deaths from the virus. Eight people have died in the Middle Eastern nation, accounting for nearly one-fifth of the 43 infections it has confirmed.

In other coronavirus-related news

• As of Friday, China’s central government and regions outside Hubei had facilitated transporting almost 3 million N95 face masks and nearly 2 million protective gowns to Hubei, according to (link in Chinese) official data. As of Wednesday, more than 32,000 medical workers from other Chinese regions had arrived in the province to fight against the virus.

• One-size-fits all measures taken by some local governments to control the epidemic have affected business resumption, a commerce ministry official said (link in Chinese) Saturday.

• Multiple local governments, including the municipality of Beijing (link in Chinese), are aiming to both prevent the further spread of the epidemic and convince companies to resume business, an approach some economists say could be mutually contradictory.

Compiled by Lin Jinbing

Sunday, Feb. 23, 10 a.m.

Virus spreads in China

• By the end of Saturday, China had confirmed more than 77,000 infections, including 2,445 deaths and nearly 23,000 recoveries, according to the latest data (link in Chinese) from the country’s top health body.

There were nearly 650 new infections reported on Saturday. That number has remained below 1,000 since Tuesday, following weeks when hospitals across the country accelerated disease diagnoses in an effort to treat patients in a timely manner.

• About one-fifth of the 51,689 patients undergoing treatment on Saturday were in a severe condition.

• Suspected cases on the Chinese mainland fell to 4,148 on Saturday, the lowest level in four weeks.

• Hong Kong reported one additional confirmed case, bringing its total to 69. Infections in Macao and Taiwan remained unchanged at 10 and 26 respectively.

Overseas infections on the rise

Outside China, 28 countries have confirmed more than 1,700 infections combined, including 17 deaths.

Confirmed cases in Japan had risen to 769 (link in Japanese) as of Saturday night, including those diagnosed on the stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship, according to state broadcaster NHK.

South Korea, the third worst-hit country after China and Japan, reported a significant spike of 123 new infections on Sunday, bringing its total to 556 (link in Korean). It reported two new fatalities, bringing its death toll to four.

Singapore, the fourth worst-affected country, reported three additional infections on Saturday, bringing its total to 89.

In Europe, Italy has become the most impacted nation, reporting a total of 79 (link in Italian) confirmed cases, including two deaths.

Compiled by Lin Jinbing

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