China reports fourth virus death as infection spreads overseas

Asia

21 January 2020, 10:15

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A fourth person has died from pneumonia in the central Chinese city of Wuhan following the outbreak of a new coronavirus, authorities have confirmed.

The 89-year-old man, who had underlying health diseases including coronary heart disease, suffered with symptoms for nearly a week, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said in a statement. He died on Sunday.

A separate statement said that 15 medical workers had been diagnosed with pneumonia, with one in critical condition. In total, 217 cases have been reported since the outbreak began in December.

Since first being identified in Wuhan, the disease has now spread to Beijing and Shanghai. Cases have also been reported outside China, in South Korea, Thailand and Japan.

The outbreak coincides with the biggest travel time in China, with hundreds of thousands expected to travel for the Lunar New Year celebrations set to begin later this week.

As the disease spreads beyond China, the World Health Organization (WHO) has called an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis.

WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on Twitter that the meeting was being called to determine whether the new virus “constitutes a public health emergency of international concern,” and to decide on “what recommendations should be made to manage the outbreak.”

In response, Australia announced Tuesday that it would begin screening passengers on flights from Wuhan in an effort to stop the virus from spreading.

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy confirmed that new screening measures would only offer “limited protection.”

“You cannot absolutely prevent the spread of disease into the country. The incubation period is probably a week,” Murphy told reporters in Canberra. “It’s about identifying those with a high risk and making sure those who have a high risk know about it and know how to get medical attention.”

More tourists visit Australia from China than from any other country, with more than 1 million people arriving in 2019.

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