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Covid-19 death toll in China rises by 105

The increase was lower than the 142 reported on Sunday, although the number of new cases rose slightly for the first time in four days.


A security guard wearing a face mask walks through a quiet Qianmen Street, a usually crowded tourist spot in Beijing on Sunday (Andy Wong/AP)

A security guard wearing a face mask walks through a quiet Qianmen Street, a usually crowded tourist spot in Beijing on Sunday (Andy Wong/AP)

A security guard wearing a face mask walks through a quiet Qianmen Street, a usually crowded tourist spot in Beijing on Sunday (Andy Wong/AP)

Mainland China has reported a slight upturn in new coronavirus cases but a lower daily death toll than 24 hours earlier.

Chinese health authorities said there were 105 deaths from Covid-19 in the 24 hours to Monday morning, down from the 142 announced a day earlier.

The new figure brought the death toll in the country to 1,770.

The 2,048 new cases announced on Monday came after three days of declines but was up by just 39 cases from the previous day’s figure.

China Outbreak
A masked cleaner walks past closed shops in downtown Beijing (Andy Wong/AP)

Another 10,844 had recovered from Covid-19, a disease caused by the new coronavirus, and had been discharged from hospitals, authorities said.

The new figures came as the Chinese military sent 1,200 more medical workers and extra supplies to the city hit hardest by the outbreak, Wuhan.

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Wuhan has rapidly built two prefabricated hospitals and converted gymnasiums and other spaces into wards for those showing milder symptoms, but residents still say they are being wait-listed for beds and even ambulance rides.

With fears of the virus spreading further, Chinese residents and people from nearby countries and territories have begun hoarding supplies of everything from masks and other personal protective gear to instant noodles, cooking oil and toilet paper.

Meanwhile, China said it may postpone its annual congress in March, its biggest political meeting of the year, because of the outbreak.

The standing committee for the National People’s Congress said it believes it is necessary to postpone the gathering to give top priority to people’s lives, safety and health.

Xinhua News Agency said the committee will meet on February 24 to further deliberate the proposed postponement. The annual meeting brings together 3,000 delegates from around the country.

In Hong Kong, local media reported police had arrested two men and were seeking three others who allegedly stole a load of 60 packs of toilet paper at knifepoint early early Monday morning.

Supplies of the commodity have become extremely scarce, with often only low-quality imports still available.

Monday’s updates also came after a recent speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping was published by state media in an apparent attempt to demonstrate the Communist Party leadership acted decisively from the beginning of the crisis.

However, this has also opened Mr Xi up to criticism over why the public was not alerted sooner.

Mr Xi’s speech indicated for the first time that he was leading the response to a new virus outbreak from early on in the crisis.

He said he gave instructions on fighting the virus on January 7 and ordered the shutdown that began on January 23 of cities at the epicentre of the outbreak.

His remarks were published by state media late on Saturday.

Taiwan on Sunday reported its first death from the virus, the fifth fatality outside of mainland China.

Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) reported the person who died was a man in his 60s living in central Taiwan.

He had not travelled overseas recently and had no known contact with virus patients, CNA said, citing Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung.

Hong Kong China Outbreak
In densely populated Hong Kong as well, the number of people venturing out in public remains low (Vincent Yu/AP)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe convened a meeting of experts to discuss measures to contain the virus in his country, where more than a dozen cases have emerged in the past few days without any obvious link to China.

“The situation surrounding this virus is changing by the minute,” Mr Abe said.

Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said the country was “entering into a phase that is different from before,” requiring new steps to stop the spread of the virus.

Japan now has more than 500 confirmed cases, including 454 from a quarantined cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, and one death from the virus.

Hundreds of Americans from the cruise ship took charter flights home, and Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and Italy were planning similar flights.

The 300 or so Americans flying on US-government chartered aircraft back to the US will face another 14-day quarantine at Travis Air Force Base in California and Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

The US Embassy said the departure was offered because people on the ship were at a high risk of exposure to the virus. People with symptoms were banned from the flights.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a Qantas flight was being arranged to evacuate Australian passengers, who would be quarantined at a facility near Darwin upon arrival on Wednesday. The flight will take return some New Zealand evacuees to their home country as well, he said.

About 255 Canadians and 330 Hong Kong residents are on board the ship or undergoing treatment in Japanese hospitals. There are also 35 Italians, of which 25 are crew members, including the captain.

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