New coronavirus cases in China fall for second day as death toll passes 2,000
The death toll from the new coronavirus in mainland China passed 2,000 on Wednesday although the number of new cases fell for a second straight day, as authorities tightened already severe containment measures in the worst-hit city of Wuhan.
China's National Health Commission reported 1,749 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections, the lowest daily rise since Jan 29, while Hubei province - the epicentre of the outbreak - reported the lowest number of new infections since Feb 11.
The latest figures bring the total number of cases in China to over 74,000 with 2,004 deaths, three quarters of which have occurred in the Hubei provincial capital of Wuhan. The city of 11 million people, where the virus first appeared last year, is under virtual lockdown.
Chinese officials have said the apparent slowdown in infection rates is evidence the flu-like virus is being brought under control but global health officials say it is still too early to predict how the epidemic will play out. The head of a leading hospital in Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated, died of the disease on Tuesday, the seventh health worker to have succumbed to the disease, known as COVID-19.
Chinese state media reported that Hubei would adopt more forceful measures to find patients with fever to help contain the epidemic, on top of steps already taken to isolate the province.
The province will check records of all fever patients who have visited doctors since Jan 20, and people who have bought over-the-counter cough and fever medications at both brick-and-mortar and online drug stores, Xinhua reported, citing a notice by the province's epidemic control headquarters.
The World Health Organization's (WHO) emergencies programme chief, Mike Ryan, said China had success with "putting out the fire" first in Hubei and ensuring that people returning to Beijing from the Lunar New Year holiday were monitored.
"Right now, the strategic and tactical approach in China is the correct one," Ryan said.
The number of new cases in mainland China excluding Hubei has now fallen for 15 straight days. The number of new infections ex-Hubei totalled 56 on Feb 18, down from a peak of 890 on Feb 3.