The coronavirus death toll in China has risen to 132 and the total number of confirmed cases has reached just shy of 6,000, making it more widespread on the mainland than the notable SARS outbreak of 2002 and 2003.
Twenty-six people have died in the last 24 hours, health authorities said on Wednesday – and there has been been an increase in confirmed cases of 1,459, taking that total to 5,974.
The latest figures emphasise just how quickly the virus has spread in mainland China, where severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) infected 5,327 people and killed 349 between November 2002 and July 2003.
Image: Passengers take measures to protect themselves in Tokyo
Image: Face masks are becoming a more common sight at Heathrow airport
All but one of the newly recorded deaths came in Hubei province, which is where the city of Wuhan is located.
Wuhan is the epicentre of the virus and was placed under lockdown by the Chinese government, prompting other countries including Britain and the US to start evacuating their nationals from the city.
Governments around the world are advising people not to travel to China as uncertainty remains over how dangerous the mystery virus is and how easily it spreads between humans.
It is from the same family as the common cold as well as more serious illnesses like SARS.
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There have been confirmed cases in countries across Asia, North America and Europe, although there have been no fatalities outside China.
Despite spreading, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has not classified the virus as a global emergency.
Image: There are confirmed cases of the virus in Macau
Image: There have not been any fatalities outside China so far
On Tuesday, UK health officials said 97 had been tested for the virus but all were negative, but England’s director for health protection later warned it may still be present in the country.
People who have recently returned from Wuhan recently have been urged to “self-isolate”.
Some nations are taking more drastic action than others in their bid to avoid any major outbreaks among their citizens, with the Philippines having issued a temporary blanket ban on tourist visas for Chinese nationals.
Hong Kong will cut all rail links to mainland China and halve the number of flights, South Korea will send a plane for its citizens and many other governments have also planned evacuations.
Australia is among them, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said those who are flown out of Hubei province will be quarantined on Christmas Island.
British officials believe up to 200 citizens currently in Wuhan will want to return to the UK, and the Foreign Office is advising people in other parts of China to “make decisions based on their own personal circumstances”.
Image: The first new hospital will provide around 1,000 bed when it opens
Image: New hospitals are being built in Wuhan
Wuhan is one of 17 cities in Hubei province that China has cut off access to, trapping more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease control measures ever imposed.
Wuhan is building two hospitals in a matter of days to add 2,500 beds for treatment of patients with the virus, with authorities having warned that the virus is getting stronger and that they are unclear on its potential to mutate.
China responded similarly to the SARS outbreak, which eventually killed nearly 800 people around the world.
Image: Australia has been welcoming people back from Wuhan
Image: Governments are working to evacuate their nationals from Wuhan
While anxiety continues to grow in tandem with the number of confirmed cases, there is already hope among some scientists that there could be a vaccine in the offing.
Researchers from The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne have said they have grown a version of the virus that could be used to develop a vaccine.
It was grown from a patient sample received last week and will be used to generate an antibody test, which allows detection of the virus in patients who have not yet displayed any symptoms.
Dr Julian Druce said: “The virus will be used as positive control material for the Australian network of public health laboratories, and also shipped to expert laboratories working closely with the WHO in Europe.”
Source : Sky News