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Coronavirus: Xi says situation grave as toll rises to 41

By K J M Varma
Last updated on: January 26, 2020 01:19 IST
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President Xi Jinping on Saturday said that China is facing a 'grave situation' but exuded confidence that the country will 'win the battle' against the coronavirus epidemic that has claimed 41 lives and infected nearly 1,300 people so far.

IMAGE: People wear face masks as they arrive at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

Stepping up all round efforts to contain the fast spreading SARS-like virus, China on Saturday announced that it will build another 1,300-bed makeshift hospital in Wuhan in the next 15 days in addition to the 1,000-bed hospital being built in the city in 10 days to treat more cases of the deadly virus.


The feverish pace at which the hospitals are being built indicate that China apparently is preparing to treat far more patients considering the speed at which the virus is spreading.

The virus has spread to Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Nepal, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and the US as of Thursday. Japan on Friday reported a second confirmed case.

The confirmed cases in China for the first time crossed the 1,000 mark and rose sharply to 1,287 as of Friday with 237 people in critical condition battling for their lives in China, the National Health Commission said on Saturday.

Almost all provinces, including Beijing, are reporting steady rise in the number of cases mostly of people who travelled from Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

The pneumonia situation has claimed 41 lives, including 39 in central China's Hubei province and one in north-eastern province Heilongjiang, the health commission said on Saturday.

Additionally, a total of 1,965 suspected cases have also been reported, it said.

China's Communist Party has set up a leading group to manage the coronavirus epidemic, state media reported on Saturday.

The decision was made at a meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee -- the party's top leadership tier -- chaired by President Xi.

In the meeting, Xi said that people from different ethnic groups and sectors should work together to support efforts to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

The country is facing a 'grave situation', he was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post.

'As long as the nation has strong confidence and makes joint efforts with scientific and targeted measures, the battle of the prevention and control of the contagion will be won,' Xi said, chairing meeting on the day of the Spring Festival or Lunar New Year.

Xi called for all-out efforts to prevent and control the coronavirus-related pneumonia and extended his heartfelt gratitude to the medical staff on the frontline.

He also called for strengthening the protection of medical staff, ensuring the market supply of materials in need, intensifying disclosure of related information to guide the public opinion as well as the mobilisation of social forces to uphold the overall stability of society.

The Communist Party of China meeting urged concrete efforts to ensure access to adequate supplies of materials to Wuhan.

The participants of the meeting also urged all-out efforts to treat infectious patients, and disclose disease-related information in an accurate, open and transparent manner to address concerns from both at home and abroad, it said.

While underscoring the need to strengthen people's awareness in disease prevention and boost the confidence of the public, they also called for timely communication with the World Health Organisation (WHO), organisations of relevant countries and regions, as well as Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions and Taiwan province, and stepping up cooperation to jointly uphold regional and global health security, the statement said.

A Chinese doctor reportedly died of the coronavirus on Saturday morning, the first fatality among health workers since the pneumonia-like illness first surfaced in late December, state-run China Daily quoted online news website as saying.

Wuhan, the city of 11 million people, is where the virus is believed to have first emerged.

The victims' average age is 73, with 89 being the oldest and 48 youngest.

Also China's National Health Commission has dispatched 1,230 medical staff to Wuhan to combat the coronavirus outbreak in the region.

Local media earlier reported that 450 military medical personnel have also landed in the city to offer support.

Also, the local government in Wuhan on Saturday has banned all vehicles, including private vehicles in downtown Wuhan to curb virus, a report by the Daily said.

The city along with 12 cities in Hubei province have already banned all public transport to prevent the virus from spreading.

The virus epidemic has triggered a cause of concern for India too as many of the around 700 Indian students studying in universities of Wuhan and Hubei provinces are still stuck up there.

The Indian Embassy has established hotlines to keep close contact with them.

According to sources in Beijing, India is understood to have requested China to permit over 250 Indian students stuck in Wuhan, the epicentre of the new SARS-like virus, to leave the city.

Authorities have prevented anyone from leaving Wuhan, the city of 11 million people at the heart of the viral outbreak.

While majority of the Indian students left for home on Chinese New Year holidays, over 250 to 300 students are said to be still in the city and its surrounding areas.

Besides the students, the fast spreading virus has become a major worry for their parents back home.

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K J M Varma
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