Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday ordered resolute efforts to curb the spread of a new coronavirus that has infected more than 220 people and resulted in the death of three persons in the country as an expert warned that the virus is contagious between people.
Chinese authorities said a third person died over the weekend from coronavirus infection in Wuhan city where the virus was first reported.
As public concerns mounted specially ahead of the Chinese New Year festival starting from January 24 during which millions travel within and outside the country to avail weeklong public holidays, Xi said the government and departments at all levels should put the health and safety of the people first.
He said it’s “extremely crucial” to take every possible measure to contain the virus, especially during a time when China is experiencing huge mobility in the Chinese New Year which is also known as the Spring Festival.
Xi asked the health officials to take effective measures to stop the spread of the virus, find out its origins and how it has been spreading, official media reported.
So far, a total of 224 cases of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus had been reported in China. Of them, 217 had been confirmed and seven remained suspected, state run news agency Xinhua reported on Monday.
Reports say two cases of the virus was identified in Beijing, eight in Shanghai and one in Shenzhen.
The mysterious virus was first reported in Wuhan City in December 2019, where it originated at a seafood market.
Meanwhile, the virus has reached a third Asian country. One case has been confirmed in Japan, two in Thailand and one in South Korea, Xinhua said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said there was an indication that the pneumonia-like virus – thought to have originated in a seafood and animal meat market in Wuhan – could spread through human-to-human transmission, the Hong Kong based South China Morning Post reported.
China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday that the infection was “preventable and controllable”. The virus was not severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) which originated in China in 2002-03. More than 700 people died in the outbreak.
“An animal source seems the most likely primary source of this novel coronavirus outbreak, with some limited human-to-human transmission occurring between close contacts,” WHO said on Twitter.
Zhong Nanshan, a prominent scientist at the national health commission, said that human-to-human transmission is “affirmative”, according to state-run CCTV.
Earlier, China’s health authorities said they had found no evidence of human-to-human transmission but could not rule it out.
WHO said in a written response to the Post on Monday that it had no information on medical staff being infected by the virus.
The agency attributed the jump to “increased searching and testing” for the virus among people showing symptoms of respiratory illness.
Chinese official highlighted tips for public to avoid contracting the virus which included wearing masks, washing hands time to time, keeping a distance from other patients and other ways of lowering the risk of getting infected.
China in the past has made major breakthroughs in responding to infectious diseases including establishing a system for the early detection of 300 known pathogens and the screening, identifying and detection of unknown pathogens, the Ministry of Science and Technology said highlighting China’s ability to cope up with the new virus.
China has also set up the world’s largest network of laboratory for pathogen spectrum monitoring of infectious disease symptoms, including 12 core labs, 91 provincial-level key labs and 800 hospital labs, focusing on detecting the cause of illness of the respiratory tract, diarrhoea, fever with a rash, fever and bleeding, encephalitis meningitis, the ministry said.
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