Death tolls exceeds 100 as number of infections skyrockets.
The outbreak of a mysterious new virus is rapidly spreading, the Chinese authorities said on Tuesday, as the official account of known cases jumped nearly 60 percent overnight and the death toll exceeded 100 for the first time.
◆ China said on Tuesday that 106 people had died from the coronavirus that is believed to have originated in the central city of Wuhan and which is spreading across the country. The previous death toll on Monday was 81.
◆ The number of confirmed cases increased from 2,835 on Monday to 4,515 on Tuesday, according to the National Health Commission. The youngest confirmed case is a 9-month-old girl in Beijing.
◆ Most of the cases have been confirmed in the central Chinese province of Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak, where several cities, including Wuhan, have been placed under a veritable lockdown. Of the total cases, 2,714 are in Hubei.
◆ Thailand has reported 14 cases of infection; Hong Kong has eight; the United States, Taiwan, Australia and Macau have five each; Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia each have reported four; France has three; Canada and Vietnam have two; and Nepal, Cambodia and Germany each have one. There have been no deaths outside China.
Mystery virus strains China’s already broken health care system.
The sudden outbreak is straining China’s already overworked and underfunded health care system.
In major cities like Beijing and Shanghai, many people have to stand in line in the wee hours of the morning to secure appointments with doctors. When they do get an appointment, patients get only a couple of minutes with a doctor. During flu season, residents set up camp overnight with blankets in hospital corridors.
China does not have a functioning primary care system, so most people flock to hospitals. On an ordinary day, doctors are frustrated and exhausted as they see as many as 200 patients.
Those weaknesses are most pronounced in the poorer areas of China — like Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus. Panicked residents of the city are heading to the hospitals if they have any sign of a cold or cough. Videos circulating on Chinese social media show doctors straining to handle the enormous workload and hospital corridors loaded with patients, some of whom appear to be dead.
Despite having dealt with the SARS coronavirus nearly two decades ago, many Chinese hospitals in smaller cities are not fully prepared to deal with a major outbreak like the current virus. Wuhan hospitals have posted messages online urgently appealing for medical equipment. The situation is even more desperate in poorer, rural areas nearby.
Last week, eight hospitals in Hubei Province — where Wuhan is situated and where most of the cases have appeared — put out a call for N95 masks, goggles, surgical masks and surgical gowns. In the absence of proper equipment, some medical workers have resorted to cutting plastic folders to jury-rig goggles.
With medical facilities in short supply, the local government has also pledged to build a new 1,000-bed hospital in 10 days, and vowed that another new 1,300-bed hospital would be ready by the middle of next month. It is taking a page out of the government’s playbook during SARS, when it built a new hospital in Beijing in just a week.
C.D.C. urges travelers to avoid nonessential trips to China.
Health officials in the United States issued new guidance for travelers on Monday, recommending that they avoid all nonessential trips to China.
The warning, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that transportation in and out of Hubei Province, the center of the outbreak, is restricted and that there is “limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas.”
International health officials counseled travelers in China to avoid contact with sick people, animal markets and uncooked meats, and to talk to their health care provider and wash hands frequently.
Worries rise about the outbreak’s economic impact.
Fears of the virus’s impact on the global economy gripped investors in Asia for a second day as they continued a widespread sell-off in markets on Tuesday.
Investors dumped stocks that they thought would be worst hit by the outbreak and began trying to determine the long-term economic effects of the epidemic.
Many of the region’s stock markets were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday, but those that were open — Japan’s and South Korea’s — fell as futures trading in China slumped. Money poured into safe-haven assets like gold and pushed up the value of the United States dollar.
Japan’s economy minister said on Tuesday that the Chinese outbreak would affect Japan’s tourism industry and warned that it could also hurt Japanese exports and corporate profits. Chinese tourists traveling to Japan accounted for 30 percent of all tourists in 2019, he said at a news conference.
“There are concerns over the impact to the Chinese and global economy from the spread of infection in China, transportation disruptions, cancellation of group tours from China and an extension in the Lunar Holiday,” said the minister Hiroshi Kajiyama.
In Tokyo, investors pushed stocks down by nearly one percent. In Seoul, stocks fell by more than 3 percent. Hong Kong’s stock market will reopen on Wednesday. In China, where authorities have extended the New Year holiday by a week, the major exchanges in Shenzhen and Shanghai said they would remain closed until Feb. 3.
“The Coronavirus is the number one threat to financial markets currently as global investors are becoming jittery on the uncertainty,” said Nigel Gre, the founder of the investment group deVere Group.
“This is a worrying and serious situation and investors must be vigilant,” he said.
Reporting was contributed by Chris Buckley, Russell Goldman, Elaine Yu, Raymond Zhong, Austin Ramzy, Sui-Lee Wee, Alexandra Stevenson, Eimi Yamamitsu, Joseph Goldstein, Jeffrey E. Singer, Peter S. Goodman and Roni Caryn Rabin. Jin Wu, Zoe Mou, Albee Zhang, Amber Wang, Yiwei Wang and Claire Fu contributed research.