The new deadly coronavirus has spread to every Chinese region as death toll rose to 170 people Thursday.
Remote Tibet Autonomous Region was the last region in China to confirm its first case of the virus.
Thursday’s figures cover the previous 24 hours and represent an increase of 38 deaths and 1,737 cases for a total of 7,711. Of the new deaths, 37 were in the epicenter of the outbreak in Hubei province and one in the southwestern province of Sichuan.
The news comes as the 195 Americans evacuated from Wuhan, the Hubei province city of 11 million where the outbreak originated, are undergoing three days of testing and monitoring at a Southern California military base to make sure they do not show signs of the virus.
A group of 210 Japanese evacuees from Wuhan landed Thursday at Tokyo’s Haneda airport on a second government chartered flight, according to the foreign ministry. Reports said nine of those aboard the flight showed signs of cough and fever. Three of the 206 Japanese who returned on Wednesday tested positive for the new coronavirus, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said during a parliamentary session. Two of them showed no symptoms of the disease.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said Thursday Russia will shut its border with China over coronavirus.
Turkey, France, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and other countries are also pulling out their citizens or making plans to do so.
As foreign countries evacuated their citizens from Wuhan concern over the economic impact has steadily intensified. Airlines have suspended services to China and companies from Starbucks to Tesla have shuttered stores and production lines. Chinese authorities have taken extraordinary steps to arrest the virus's spread, including effectively locking down more than 50 million people in Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province.
The World Health Organization has come under fire after it last week declined to declare a global health emergency. The global health body's chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed regret for what he called a "human error" in the WHO's assessment.
WHO's Emergency Committee will meet Thursday to decide whether to declare an emergency — which could lead to travel or trade barriers.
"The whole world needs to take action," Michael Ryan, head of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, told reporters in Geneva.
To date, about 99% of the cases are in China. Ryan estimated the death rate of the new virus at 2%, but said the figure was very preliminary. With fluctuating numbers of cases and deaths, scientists are only able to produce a rough estimate of the fatality rate and it’s likely many milder cases of the virus are being missed.
In comparison, the SARS virus killed about 10% of people who caught it. The new virus is from the coronavirus family, which includes those that can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as SARS and MERS.
Scientists say there are many questions to be answered about the new virus, including just how easily it spreads and how severe it is.
In a report published Wednesday, Chinese researchers suggested that person-to-person spread among close contacts occurred as early as mid-December.
“Considerable efforts” will be needed to control the spread if this ratio holds up elsewhere, researchers wrote in the report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
More than half of the cases in which symptoms began before Jan. 1 were tied to a seafood market, but only 8% of cases after that have been, researchers found. They reported the average incubation period was five days.
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