Coronavirus outbreak: Death toll officially surpasses Sars

South China Morning Post

China's health authorities reported a further 97 deaths from novel coronavirus pneumonia

South China Morning Post |

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Passengers at a train station in Shanghai have their travel history checked.

After China’s health authorities reported a further 97 deaths over the course of Sunday, the death toll of the coronavirus has officially surpassed that of Sars.

The latest daily increase - the deadliest day so far - took the total number of confirmed deaths to 910. All but two of those had occurred in mainland China.

The disease has also be officially named “novel coronavirus pneumonia” by China’s National Health Commission (NHC). 

The commission on Monday morning reported 3,062 new cases of infection as of Sunday at midnight, taking the total to date to 40,171. Of those in hospital, almost 6,500 are severe cases, according to the data.

Sars – or severe acute respiratory syndrome – killed 813 people as it swept through China and other parts of Asia in 2002-03, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) figures. Sars had a much higher fatality rate (around 10 per cent) than that of the new coronavirus, which has killed around 2 per cent of all those infected.

Also on Monday, health authorities in the province of Hubei, where the disease first broke out in December, reported 2,618 cases overnight, as its total number of infections rose to almost 30,000.

The major events of the coronvirus timeline

Of the 97 deaths reported nationwide on Sunday, 91 were in Hubei. Almost 1,800 of the province’s cases have recovered and been released from hospital.

Amid a steady rise of cases overseas, numerous governments, including those of Japan, the United States and Singapore, have implemented restrictions barring entry to those with recent travel history to China. Countries have also evacuated their citizens from Wuhan, the contagion’s epicentre and one of the many cities in China to have been put under lockdown.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Twitter on Sunday that a WHO team of international experts had left for China to help investigate the outbreak.

“I’ve just been at the airport seeing off members of an advance team for the @WHO-led #2019nCoV international expert mission to #China, led by Dr Bruce Aylward, veteran of past public health emergencies,” he said in a tweet from Geneva. Tedros met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing in late January, and the two sides agreed an international mission would be sent.

Aylward, a Canadian epidemiologist and emergencies expert, has previously led the WHO’s response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, as well as initiatives on immunisation, communicable diseases control and polio eradication.