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Medical workers disinfect an ambulance transferring infected patients at Wuhan’s Huoshenshan Hospital, a 1,000-bed facility built in 10 days. Photo: Xinhua

Coronavirus death toll equals Sars as fatalities hit 813

  • Chinese government is to increase procurement of medical equipment and drugs following acute shortages
  • Taiwan reports its 18th infection, while major cruise lines ban travellers with Chinese, Hong Kong and Macau passports
There were 89 new deaths in mainland China on Saturday caused by the coronavirus – another daily record, up from 86 fatalities on Friday – according to figures released early on Sunday by the country’s health authority.

The newly reported fatalities brought mainland China’s total death toll to 811, and the global figure to 813, matching the number attributed to the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic of 2002-03 by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Newly confirmed coronavirus cases in the mainland rose by 2,656 on Saturday, down from 3,385 new cases on Friday, according to China’s National Health Commission. Accumulated cases in the mainland stood at 37,198.

Most of the deaths and newly confirmed cases were in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, which reported 81 new deaths from the disease and 2,147 newly confirmed cases in the previous 24 hours, according to the provincial health authority. That took the province’s total fatalities from the outbreak to 780 and total cases to 27,100 as of Saturday.

Shortage of medical supplies addressed

Government procurement of the medical equipment and drugs of which there have been acute shortages is to be increased, according to the National Development and Reform Commission, a macroeconomic planning agency under the State Council, the country’s cabinet.

Makers of health screening equipment, and drugs and vaccines, were being pushed to produce more of them as soon as possible, the NDRC said on Sunday. The government would help companies to secure funding, licences, facilities and raw materials if needed, and would buy any unsold products, it said.

The list of supplies covered by the move would include medical overalls, masks, eye shields, testing kits, infrared thermometers and related drugs, it said.


Hubei deputy governor Cao Guangjing said on Saturday night that, as of Friday, protection gear for medics in the province remained nearly 20 per cent short of what was needed.

Chen Da, NDRC deputy director general, said production lines accounting for about 73 per cent of the country’s medical mask manufacturing capacity had resumed production as of Friday.

Provincial party boss’ testing target

Hubei’s Communist Party chief Jiang Chaoliang has called on officials to complete the testing of all of Wuhan’s suspected cases “in two days”. state newspaper Hubei Daily reported on Sunday.

It quoted Jiang as saying on Saturday that finishing the testing of outstanding suspected cases in the provincial capital would allow medical personnel and resources to be redirected to treat patients with confirmed infections.

Among the confirmed new cases announced early on Sunday morning, 1,379 were in Wuhan, where the virus was first discovered at a seafood and meat market.

Another case in Taiwan

Taiwan on Sunday reported its 18th confirmed case, with a second son of an infected Taiwanese couple being placed in quarantine, according to health minister Chen Shih-chung.


The retired couple in their 50s were admitted to hospital on Thursday, after returning from a trip to Italy via Hong Kong along with their two sons. One son was sent to quarantine on Saturday, before the second son, who showed no symptoms, tested positive for the virus overnight.

“We will change our policy of examination by checking close relatives of the infected even if they do not show any symptoms of the disease,” Chen said.

Cruises suspended

As the disease continued to spread around the world, some major cruise lines have joined airlines in suspending certain routes to and from China as well as barring some travellers in an attempt to curb the contagion.

Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Lines announced on Friday they would ban all travellers with Chinese, Hong Kong and Macau passports, regardless of when or whether they had recently been to mainland China.

Four passengers on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas ship were sent to a New Jersey hospital on Friday morning after 27 travellers on board were screened for the coronavirus when the ship docked in Bayonne, New Jersey, just south of New York.

The Japanese Health Ministry reported on Saturday that another three passengers on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan, had tested positive for the virus, taking the number of infected passengers to 64. Including those on the cruise ship, the number of confirmed virus cases in Japan stood at 90 as of Saturday, the largest number of any country outside China.
The coronavirus emerged from China two months ago. The first non-Chinese fatality from the virus was reported on Saturday, with the US embassy confirming that an American citizen had died in a Wuhan hospital on Thursday.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry also reported on Saturday that a Japanese citizen had died in Wuhan, possibly from the coronavirus, the Yomiuri newspaper reported. The patient had initially tested positive for the virus, but the hospital that treated them said it could not make a definite diagnosis and reported the cause of death as virus-related pneumonia, the report stated.

WHO sending mission to China

The WHO said it had received a response from China on Saturday about a WHO-led international mission being sent to the country.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the team leader would leave on Monday or Tuesday and the rest of the experts would follow. Asked whether members of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention would be part of the team, he replied: “We hope so.”


Tedros would not name the leader or the rest of the team, or give further details, saying that the WHO would “publicise everything as soon as we’re ready”.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg and Associated Press