WHO flies to Beijing as coronavirus cases spike


Over the weekend, the number of cases of coronavirus onboard a cruise ship in Japan have spiked, and deaths in China hit a record high on Sunday

According to various media outlets, the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which is quarantined in Yokohama in Japan, has confirmed that an additional 66 of its passengers have contracted the new coronavirus, bringing the ship’s total to 136. Japan’s health ministry has not publicly confirmed this sharp rise in cases.

Elsewhere, China’s National Health Commission confirmed on Monday (10 Feb) that the coronavirus death toll has risen to 908, following a record 97 deaths on Sunday (9 Feb). According to official data, this figure surpasses the SARS epidemic death toll of 2002-03. And as of Sunday, 3,062 new cases of the virus were reported in China – marking a 15-per-cent increase from the day before.

According to a study published on 7 February, researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland believe that the true number of people exposed to the coronavirus in Wuhan ‘may be vastly underestimated’.

People in China are now returning to work following the end of the extended Lunar New Year break, although many businesses are still urging their staff to work from home.

A team of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), led by SARS expert Dr Bruce Aylward, are arriving in Beijing on Monday (10 Feb) to help assess the latest outbreak.

Outside of mainland China, two deaths have so far been recorded – one on Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.

In the UK, Matt Hancock, Secretary of State, has announced that the spread of the coronavirus is a ‘serious and imminent threat’ to the British public. This comes after eight people in the UK contracted the virus.

In response, Hancock has appointed Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirrall and a centre in Kents Hill Park in Milton Keynes as specially designated facilities for isolating and treating Britons evacuated from Wuhan. Authorities worry that a British man who was infected in Singapore and is linked to at least seven confirmed cases in England, France and Spain could be a ‘super spreader’.

Commenting on the onward transmission of the virus outside of mainland China, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Head of WHO, tweeted: “There’ve been some concerning instances of onward 2019nCoV spread from people with no travel history to [China]. The detection of a small number of cases may indicate more widespread transmission in other countries; in short, we may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg.”