Coronavirus updates: China works on Wuhan quarantine faacilities


● The global death toll from the novel coronavirus reached more than 810 on Sunday, surpassing the 774 fatalities attributed to the outbreak of the SARS coronavirus in 2002 and 2003. Among the dead was the first American, a 53-year-old citizen who died Thursday in Wuhan.

● A World Health Organization-led international team is planning to leave for China on Monday or Tuesday to conduct an investigation of the coronavirus outbreak, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Saturday.

● Chinese authorities have labeled masks a “strategic resource” and experts call for the most protective masks to be reserved for medical workers amid global shortages.

● Hong Kong expands its quarantine orders to more than 160 people who arrived from the Chinese mainland. People who violate the quarantine face up to six months in jail, said Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

BEIJING — China pushed ahead Sunday with emergency measures to isolate coronavirus patients in specialized facilities at the disease-ravaged epicenter, Wuhan, as the number of patient deaths in the two-month epidemic surged past the total of 774 killed by the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak that lasted eight months in 2002 and 2003.

The country’s National Health Commission reported that 89 people had died Saturday — the highest daily toll to date — as coronavirus fatalities reached more than 810 in China. Officials have also warned about the possibility of limited airborne transmission.

Medical experts say the emerging data show the disease — officially named “novel coronavirus pneumonia,” or NCP, by Chinese health officials on Saturday — is much more contagious than SARS, but the probability of death for those infected is much lower. To date, more than 37,000 have been infected by the new coronavirus in mainland China.

A significant proportion of those cases remain in the epicenter, Wuhan, where officials rushed to build three quarantine facilities with 4,000 beds to alleviate a severe shortage of space inside the city’s overwhelmed hospitals. Hotels and university dorms were being requisitioned and converted into spaces for “centralized quarantine” for patients showing symptoms.

A Communist Party official leading a response group ordered local officials on Saturday to “take in every one that should be taken” into the quarantine facilities as officials in Shanghai warned for the first time that the coronavirus could be transmitted by moisture droplets suspended in air.

The “centralized quarantine” order may carry risks. Doctors from Wuhan’s Zhongnan Hospital reported that 41 percent of coronavirus patients at their hospital became infected inside the hospital by other patients and medical staff. The doctors announced their findings in a paper published by the Journal of the American Medical Association on Friday.

But many increasingly desperate, virus-stricken households in Wuhan say they can no longer hold out at home and badly need to enter a medical facility.

Li Lina, a resident in a Hanyang district high rise, beat a gong on her balcony to attract her neighbors’ attention and cried for help for her and her mother. A video of her went viral on Weibo, where numerous Wuhan residents stuck at home have been posting pleas for help.

Speaking by telephone, Li said her mother’s condition was steadily worsening but she has not been able to secure a hospital bed since Jan. 29, because city regulations allow only confirmed coronavirus patients to get spots in hospitals.

Li was finally able to administer a nucleic acid test on Friday; the result returned positive for coronavirus but ambiguous; doctors gave her mother a second exam and are waiting for the result Tuesday.

“I don’t even know if she’ll hold out that long,” Li said as she tended to her mother, who is too feeble to speak and communicates by ringing a bell. “I can’t watch my mother die.”


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