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World on alert as China coronavirus spreads

Reuters/Beijing
Filed on January 21, 2020 | Last updated on January 21, 2020 at 06.08 am
novel coronavirus, china, virus, spread

(AFP file)

President Xi Jinping said curbing the outbreak and saving lives was a top priority.

An outbreak of a new coronavirus has spread to more Chinese cities, including the capital Beijing and Shanghai, national and local authorities confirmed on Monday, and a fourth case has been reported beyond China's borders.

President Xi Jinping said curbing the outbreak and saving lives was a top priority as the number of patients more than tripled and a third person died.

Adding to the difficulties of containing the virus, hundreds of millions of Chinese will be travelling domestically and abroad during the Lunar New Year holidays that start this week.

Authorities around the globe, including in the US and many Asian countries, have stepped up screening of travellers from Wuhan, the central city where the virus was first discovered.

"Wuhan is a major hub and with travel being a huge part of the fast approaching Chinese New Year, the concern level must remain high. There is more to come from this outbreak," said Jeremy Farrar, a specialist in infectious disease epidemics and director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity.

"People's lives and health should be given top priority and the spread of the outbreak should be resolutely curbed," President Xi was quoted as saying by state television.

The virus belongs to the same family of coronaviruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002-03 outbreak that also started in China. Its symptoms include fever and difficulty in breathing, which are similar to many other respiratory diseases and pose complications for screening efforts.

South Korea on Monday confirmed its first case, a 35-year-old Chinese national who had travelled from Wuhan, the fourth patient reported outside China. Last week, two cases were reported in Thailand and one in Japan.


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