China counts 106 virus deaths as U.S., others move to evacuate city
Beijing (AP) — China on Tuesday reported 25 more deaths from a new viral disease, raising the total to at least 106, as the U.S. government prepared to fly Americans out of the city at the center of the outbreak.
The total includes the first death in Beijing, the Chinese capital, and 24 more fatalities in Hubei province, where the first coronavirus illnesses occurred in December.
The U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, where authorities cut off most access Jan. 22 in an effort to contain the disease, was preparing to fly its diplomats and some other Americans out of the city. Japan, France, Mongolia and other governments also were preparing evacuations.
China's increasingly drastic containment efforts began with the suspension of plane, train and bus links to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in central China. That lockdown has expanded to 17 cities with more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease-control measures ever imposed.
China extended the Lunar New Year holiday, the country’s busiest travel season, by three days to Sunday to keep the public at home and reduce the risk infection will spread.
U.S. health officials expanded their recommendation for people to avoid non-essential travel to any part of China, rather than just Wuhan and other areas most affected by the outbreak. Mongolia closed its vast border with China, and Hong Kong and Malaysia are barring visitors from Hubei province. Chinese travel agencies were ordered to cancel group tours nationwide.
There were 1,771 new cases confirmed on Monday, raising the national total to 4,515, according to the National Health Commission. It said 976 were in serious condition.
Also Tuesday, the Education Ministry canceled English-proficiency and other tests for students to apply to foreign universities were canceled. Public schools and universities have been ordered to postpone reopening following the Lunar New Year holiday until further notice.
Stock markets around the world were down sharply Monday as investors worried the outbreak could hurt the global economy.
More than 45 cases have been confirmed elsewhere in the world. Almost all involve Chinese tourists or people who visited Wuhan.
Sri Lanka confirmed its first case Monday. Infections also have been confirmed in the United States, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, France, Canada and Australia.
As of Monday, there were five Americans diagnosed with the virus in Washington state, Chicago, Southern California and Arizona, all of whom had recently traveled to central China. Health officials said they had no evidence the virus was spreading in the United States and they believe the risk to Americans remains low.
China also reported eight cases in Hong Kong and five in Macao.
The epidemic has revived memories of the SARS outbreak that originated in China and killed nearly 800 people. Then, Chinese authorities were criticized for reacting slowly and failing to disclose information. The government has responded more aggressively to the latest outbreak.
Wuhan is building two hospitals, one with 1,500 beds and another with 1,000, for the growing number of patients. The first is scheduled to be finished next week.
The virus is from the coronavirus family that includes the common cold but also more severe illnesses like SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. The new virus causes cold- and flu-like symptoms, including cough and fever, and in more severe cases, shortness of breath and pneumonia.
The virus is thought to have spread to people from wild animals sold at a market in Wuhan. On Sunday, authorities banned trade in wild animals and urged people to stop eating meat from them.
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