/China reports third straight drop in virus cases

China reports third straight drop in virus cases

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Over 1,660 have died in China since the coronavirus outbreak began

China has announced a drop in new cases from the coronavirus outbreak for a third consecutive day.

On Sunday, authorities reported 2,009 new cases and 142 more deaths nationwide.

New cases spiked earlier in the week after a change in the way they were counted but have been falling ever since.

In total more than 68,000 people have been infected in China, with the death toll at 1,665.

Outside of China there have been more than 500 cases in nearly 30 countries. Four people have died – in France, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Japan.

Speaking before the latest figures were released Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the drop in new cases showed “that overall the epidemic is controllable”.

“We’ve taken such complete prevention and control efforts, efforts that are so comprehensive, that I can’t see any other country that can do this,” he said.

In other developments:

  • China’s central bank is to disinfect and store used banknotes before recirculating them in a bid stop the virus spreading
  • French officials said on Saturday that a Chinese tourist died in France after contracting the new coronavirus – the first fatality from the disease outside Asia
  • The US says it is sending a plane to Japan to evacuate around 400 Americans stuck on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which is being held in quarantine in a Japanese port
  • On another cruise ship docked in Cambodia, an 83-year-old American woman has tested positive for the virus after arriving by air in Malaysia
  • In the UK, all but one of nine people being treated have been discharged from hospital
  • Five new cases have been confirmed in Singapore, bringing the total there to 72. Eighteen have fully recovered and have left hospital.

On Saturday, World Health Organisation (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised Beijing’ response to the outbreak.

“China has bought the world time. We don’t know how much time,” he said. “We’re encouraged that outside China, we have not yet seen widespread community transmission.”

How is China coping?

Tens of millions of Chinese still face heavy restrictions on their day-to-day life as part of the government’s efforts to halt the spread of the virus, which has been officially named Covid-19.

Much of the response has focused on the hard-hit province of Hubei and its capital Wuhan, where the outbreak began. The city is all but sealed off from the rest of the country.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that along with a drop in infections within Hubei, the number of new cases outside the province has fallen for 11 consecutive days.

He said there had also been a rapid increase in the number of people who had recovered.

As part of measures to contain coronavirus, Beijing has ordered everyone returning to the city to go into quarantine for 14 days or risk punishment.

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Media captionMedics in Wuhan resort to shaving their heads in a bid to prevent cross-infection of the coronavirus

But local authorities have struggled to provide protective equipment such as respiratory masks, goggles and protective suits to hospitals in Hubei. Six health workers have died since the outbreak began.

In another development a Communist Party outlet published an internal speech given by Chinese President Xi Jinping, dated 7 January.

In the speech to the Politburo Standing Committee – the party’s highest council – he gave unspecified orders to help curb the spread of coronavirus in the country.

By publishing the speech, Chinese authorities have, for the first time, acknowledged that the president was aware of the outbreak nearly two weeks before his first public address about it.

The internal speech was made at a time when local officials in the city of Wuhan were downplaying the severity of the epidemic.

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