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20 February, 2020 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 20 February, 2020 01:40:27 AM
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Coronavirus outbreak

Death toll hits 2,000

First deaths in Iran
AFP, Beijing, Tehran
Death toll hits 2,000

The death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak surged to 2,000 yesterday, as Chinese and international health officials warned against excessive measures to contain the epidemic. More than 74,000 people have now been infected by the virus in China, with hundreds more cases in some 25 countries. The situation remains serious at the epicentre, with the director of a hospital in the central city of Wuhan becoming the seventh medical worker to succumb to the COVID-19 illness.

Meanwhile, two persons died in Iran after testing positive yesterday for the new coronavirus, the health ministry said, in the Islamic republic's first cases of the disease. They are also the first deaths from the COVID-19 virus in the Middle East and only the seventh and eighth outside China where the outbreak has killed more than 2,000 people.

State news agency IRNA quoted Kianoush Jahanpour, a ministry spokesman, as saying the virus was detected in two elderly people with immunity problems in the holy city of Qom, south of the Iranian capital. "Following the recent cases of chronic respiratory diseases in Qom, two of the patients tested positive in preliminary tests," it quoted him as saying. "Unfortunately both passed away in the intensive care unit due to old age and issues with their immune system."

However, Chinese officials released a study showing most patients have mild cases of the infection, and World Health Organisation (WHO) officials said the mortality rate was relatively low. The outbreak is threatening to put a dent in the global economy, with China paralysed by vast quarantine measures and major firms such as iPhone maker Apple and mining giant BHP warning it could damage bottom lines. Several countries have banned travellers from China and major airlines have suspended flights—something that Beijing’s ambassador to the EU warned was fuelling panic and threatening attempts to resume business.

Russia on Tuesday said no Chinese citizens would be allowed to enter its territory from February 20. The epidemic has triggered panic-buying in Singapore and Hong Kong, concerns about cruise-ship travel and the postponement of trade fairs, sports competitions and cultural events in China and abroad. Authorities have placed about 56 million people in hard-hit central Hubei and its capital Wuhan under an unprecedented lockdown.

The city was carrying out “very good public health practice” with door-to-door surveillance, said Michael Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies programme. Other cities far from the epicentre have restricted the movement of residents, with a 14-day self-quarantine for people returning to Beijing.

President Xi Jinping, in a phone call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said China’s measures were achieving “visible progress”, according to state media.

The official death toll in China hit 2,000 after another 132 people died in Hubei, where the virus emerged in December. Liu Zhiming, the director of Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan, became its latest victim, sparking an outpouring of grief online.

Earlier this month, the death of Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang—who had been punished by authorities for sounding the alarm about the virus in late December—triggered anger and calls on social media for political reform.

Official figures, meanwhile, showed there were nearly 1,700 new COVID-19 cases yesterday in Hubei. New infections have been falling in the rest of the country for the past two weeks.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned that it was too early to tell if the decline would continue.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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