Mainland China has reported another rise in coronavirus cases after a sharp decline the previous day, while the number of deaths has grown by 97 to 908, with at least two more outside the country.
- Monday’s rise was a turnaround from Sunday’s reduction in new cases
- Sunday’s figures prompted optimism that “control measures had worked”
- The WHO has sent a team of experts to Beijing to help investigate coronavirus
On Monday, China’s health ministry said another 3,062 cases were reported over the previous 24 hours, while Johns Hopkins reported a total of 40,510 cases globally.
Earlier, France closed two schools after five British visitors contracted the virus at a ski resort. Malaysia, South Korea and Vietnam reported one new case each.
More than 360 cases have been confirmed outside mainland China.
Monday’s rise was a turnaround from a significant reduction in new cases reported on Sunday, 2,656, down by about 20 per cent from the previous 24-hour period.
That had prompted optimism that the “joint control mechanism of different regions and the strict prevention and control measures had worked”, in the words of a spokesman for the National Health Commission, Mi Feng.
“Dramatic reductions” in the pace of the disease’s spread should begin this month if containment works, Dr Ian Lipkin, director of Columbia University’s Centre for Infection and Immunity, said in an online news conference on Sunday.
He assisted the World Health Organization and Chinese authorities during the outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.
Warmer weather will reduce the virus’s ability to spread and bring people out of enclosed spaces where it is transmitted more easily, Dr Lipkin said.
However, he said if new cases spike as people return to work after the Lunar New Year holiday, which was extended to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, then “we’ll know we’re in trouble”.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong began enforcing a 14-day quarantine for arrivals from mainland China. The territory’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has refused demands by some hospital workers and others to seal the border completely.
‘We won’t give up until they give us an explanation’
The mother of a physician who died last week in Wuhan said in a video released Sunday she wants an explanation from authorities who reprimanded him for warning about the virus in December.
The death of Li Wenliang, 34, prompted an outpouring of public anger at Wuhan officials. Some postings left on his microblog account said officials should face consequences for mistreating Li.
“My child was summoned by the Wuhan Police Bureau at midnight. He was asked to sign an admonishment notice,” Lu Shuyun said in the video distributed by Pear Video, an online broadcast platform.
“We won’t give up until they give us an explanation.”
The video shows flowers in her home with a note that says, “Hero is immortal. Thank you.”
A 1,500-bed hospital built in two weeks in Wuhan, the city of 11 million people at the centre of the outbreak, accepted its first patients on Saturday, the Government announced.
Another 1,000-bed hospital built in 10 days opened last week.
The outbreak has caused huge disruptions in China with usually teeming cities becoming virtual ghost towns during the past two weeks as Communist Party rulers ordered virtual lockdowns, cancelled flights, closed factories and shut schools.
China’s leaders are trying to keep food flowing to crowded cities despite anti-disease controls and to quell fears of possible shortages and price spikes following panic buying after most access to Wuhan and nearby cities was cut off.
Elsewhere in China, the industrial metropolis of Chongqing in the southwest told residential communities to close their gates and check visitors for fever.
The Government said the spread of the virus through “family gatherings” had been reported in Chongqing but gave no details.
WHO team heads for China
An advance team of international experts led by the World Health Organization (WHO) left for Beijing to help investigate China’s coronavirus epidemic.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who made a trip to Beijing for talks with President Xi Jinping and Chinese ministers in late January, returned with an agreement on sending an international mission.
But it has taken nearly two weeks to get the Government’s green light on its composition, which was not announced, other than to say that WHO veteran Dr Bruce Aylward, a Canadian epidemiologist and emergencies expert, was heading it.
“I’ve just been at the airport seeing off members of an advance team for the @WHO-led #2019nCoV international expert mission to #China, led by Dr Bruce Aylward, veteran of past public health emergencies,” Mr Tedros said in a tweet from Geneva on Sunday.
The WHO declared the outbreak a global emergency on January 30, days after the Chinese central Government imposed a lockdown on 60 million people in Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus that emerged in December in a seafood market.
The virus has spread to at least 27 countries and territories, according to official reports.
Two deaths have been reported outside mainland China — both of them Chinese nationals.
More on the coronavirus outbreak: