The death toll from the new coronavirus in China rose to six on Tuesday when new cases of the mysterious flu-like illness rose more than 300, raising concerns about a major outbreak during the New Year’s travel fever Lunar.
Anxiety grew both in the country and abroad after Zhong Nanshan, head of the National Health Commission, confirmed fears on Monday night that the virus can be transmitted from human to human.
Authorities have confirmed more than 300 cases in China, mainly in the central city of Wuhan, a major transportation hub, where the virus may have originated in a seafood market.
There have been six deaths in that city, Mayor Zhou Xianwang told Chinese state media on Tuesday.
But the virus has spread to other parts of China, including more than 20 cases in the capital of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong Province in the south and Zhejiang in the east. Fifteen medical workers are among those infected.
Abroad, Thailand has reported two cases and South Korea one, all related to Wuhan Chinese travelers. Japan and Taiwan also confirmed one case each, both nationals who had been in that city.
“Information on recently reported infections suggests that there may now be sustained transmission from person to person,” said Takeshi Kasai, regional director of the World Health Organization for the Western Pacific, Reuters reported.
So far, WHO has not recommended trade or travel restrictions, but such measures could be addressed during a meeting on Wednesday.
In the USA In the US, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are measuring the temperature of passengers at the JFK in New York and at the Los Angeles and San Francisco international airports arriving from Wuhan.
The airports of Australia, Japan and South Korea have also begun to control city passengers, where authorities have been using infrared thermometers to control passengers since January 14.
Images of long lines of people lining up to buy facial masks circulated widely on Chinese social networks during the Lunar New Year, an important holiday for the Chinese, many of whom travel to reunite with their family or have a holiday abroad. .
The Chinese government has estimated that people will make around 3 billion trips during the travel season, but some social media users have said they can stay at home amid concerns about the virus.
Some online vendors were limiting sales of masks and hand sanitizers as demand soared. Several online retailers were sold without masks, which were sold for more than 10 times their original price.
Users of the popular Weibo social media platform urged people to wash their hands and stay at home. Initial symptoms of the new coronavirus include fever, cough, chest tightness and trouble breathing.
The coronavirus has caused alarm due to its genetic similarities with SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which first infected people in southern China in late 2002 and spread to dozens of countries, killing nearly 800.
The Chinese government announced that it was classifying the new outbreak in the same category as SARS, which means mandatory isolation for those diagnosed with the disease and the potential to implement quarantine measures on travel.
Initially, China tried to hide the severity of the SARS epidemic, but its cover-up was exposed by a senior doctor.