Coronavirus: First victim outside China dies; Wuhan enforces quarantine for all suspected patients

South China Morning Post

Philippines reports death of 44-year-old visitor from China, as total number of fatalities rises to 361, with more than 17,000 confirmed cases

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The first coronavirus death outside China was confirmed at the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, Philippines on Sunday.

On Sunday, the Philippines became the first country outside China to report a death from the new coronavirus, as authorities in Wuhan accounced plans to quarantine all suspected patients and those known to have been in close contact with confirmed cases. 

The victim in the Philippines was identified only as a 44-year-old man from Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei province at the heart of the outbreak.

On Saturday, Wuhan confirmed 894 new cases, in line with a sharp upwards trend, after 576 were reported on Friday, 378 on Thursday, 356 on Wednesday and 315 on Tuesday.

Debunking fake news about the coronavirus 

Despite the spike, a study by scientists from the University of Hong Kong published in The Lancet on Saturday said that as of Tuesday, as many as 75,815 people in Wuhan may have been infected with the new coronavirus.

The research was based on the assumption that each infected person could have passed the virus on to 2.68 others.

Two weeks after China confirmed that the coronavirus could pass from human to human, and 10 days since Wuhan was placed on an almost total lockdown, authorities in the city on Sunday ramped up their efforts to contain the virus.

Passengers wearing facemasks arrive from different provinces at the Beijing Railway Station on February 1.
Photo: AFP

Under a new rule that took immediate effect, the government said anyone suspected of being infected with the virus or having been in close contact with a confirmed case would be relocated to a dedicated quarantine centre, whether they liked it or not.

“Patients shall cooperate,” it said in a statement. “Whoever refuses to cooperate will be subject to enforcement by the police.”

It did not say how many quarantine sites there were, where they were located or how many people would be affected.

However, while in the centres, patients would not be charged for their medical treatment, food or accommodation, but would be required to remain for as long as was deemed necessary by the medical staff looking after them, the statement said.

A timeline of the coronavirus 

Meanwhile, hospitals and medical centres in Wuhan and across Hubei are coming under huge pressure as patient numbers continue to soar.

To help offset some of the demand, the new Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, which took just eight days to build, is set to open on Monday. It will be staffed by 1,400 medical workers deployed by the military at the direct order of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Medical staff of Concorde hospital transfer medical supplies from a helicopter in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.
Photo: EPA

In another development, a 40-year-old man in the northern China region of Inner Mongolia was confirmed as being infected with the virus despite having no known exposure to any other patients, apart from living upstairs from one.

The man, from the city of Erdos, had also not been in contact with any wild animals or wet markets, nor had he travelled to Hubei, the region’s health authority said.

Hong Kong schools close until March 2 over coronavirus fears 

Elsewhere in the country, authorities in Huanggang in Hubei and Wenzhou, a coastal city in Zhejiang province about 900km (560 miles) southeast of Wuhan, tightened their restrictions on people’s movements over the weekend, allowing only one resident per household to go out every two days to buy necessities.

The United States, European Union, Russia, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore have all banned or restricted the entry of Chinese citizens, as well as foreigners who have recently visited China, to curb the spread of the virus.
The Philippines expanded its travel ban on Sunday to include all foreigners coming from China, widening an earlier restriction that covered only those from Hubei. Similarly, Indonesia has barred all visitors who have been in China at any time over the 14 days before their arrival.