The death toll in the coronavirus outbreak in China has risen to 25 and the number of confirmed cases now stands at 830, the Chinese government has said.
It comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak an emergency but said it was “too early” to consider it a “public health emergency of international concern”.
Speaking at a press conference, WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Make no mistake, though, this is an emergency in China.
“But it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one.”
Image: Medical staff carry a box as they walk at the Jinyintan hospital in Wuhan, China
Image: Passengers wear face masks at the Ninoy Aquno Iternational Airport in Manila, Philippines
An 80-year-old patient with coronavirus died in China’s Hebei province on Thursday – the first confirmed death outside Hubei province where the outbreak began.
He had shown symptoms of the virus upon his return from a two-month stay in Wuhan to see relatives.
Wuhan is the capital of Hubei and has been the epicentre of the outbreak of the coronavirus first detected last month. The virus has since spread to Chinese cities including Beijing and Shanghai, as well as the US, Thailand, South Korea and Japan.
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Four cases have been found in Thailand, two in Hong Kong and the autonomous region of Macau, and one each in the US, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Singapore.
In the UK, 14 people have been tested for coronavirus with five confirmed negative and nine still waiting for results, Public Health England (PHE) said.
On Thursday, Chinese authorities moved to lock down at least three cities with a combined population of more than 18 million in an unprecedented effort to stop the virus from spreading to other parts of the world.
The airport and train station in the city of Wuhan have been shut down, while ferry, subway and bus services have been halted.
The city’s 11 million residents have been ordered to wear masks in public places and at work.
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People were pictured stocking up on fuel and there were empty shelves in supermarkets ahead of what could be weeks of relative isolation.
Similar measures are being enforced in the city of Huanggang, which has a population of six million, as bus and train services were suspended and cinemas and internet cafes were told to shut.
Meanwhile, nearby Ezhou has shut its train stations, and the Chinese capital Beijing has cancelled major public events including two new year temple fairs, as part of the action to control the outbreak.
Millions of people in China are preparing to travel domestically and abroad for its lunar new year celebrations this weekend.
Image: Several people are being tested for the coronavirus in the UK
Overnight, the Chinese government had released a breakdown of the then 17 people known to have been killed by the deadly virus.
All but two of the 13 men and four women were aged over 60. Ten of the victims had a pre-existing condition.
There is no vaccine for the new viral infection, which can cause pneumonia and can be passed from person to person.
The symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.
Image: People in Hong Kong are wearing masks on the streets to protect themselves against the spread of the virus
Though the origin of the virus has yet to be identified, the WHO has said the primary source is probably an animal.
The emergency committee on the new coronavirus considered that it is still too early to declare a public health emergency of international concern given its restrictive and binary nature.
Sky’s Asia correspondent Tom Cheshire, who has been in Wuhan, said: “What had previously been a quiet, tense atmosphere in Wuhan, is now a lot edgier.
“Now the city, cut off, must cope on its own.”
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China has stepped up its co-operation with WHO, which is holding an emergency meeting to determine whether the outbreak of the new coronavirus constitutes a global health emergency.
The virus originated in the central city of Wuhan in Hubei province at the end of last year and has since spread to 25 provinces across mainland China.
Airports around the world – including in Dubai, Australia and South Africa – have stepped up screening of travellers arriving from affected regions.
City of Wuhan in China is ‘like a ghost town’
Measures are also in force in the UK to guard against the virus, including taking aircraft to a special designated area of Heathrow’s Terminal 4.
The Foreign Office is advising against all but essential travel to Wuhan.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses ranging from the common cold to severe diseases such as SARS – which killed nearly 800 people during the 2002-03 outbreak.
When a new strain emerges that has not yet been identified, as with the current outbreak, it becomes known as a novel coronavirus (nCoV).
Source : Sky News