The death toll in China from the new coronavirus reached 213 on Friday, with overall cases worldwide rising rapidly in an outbreak that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global health emergency.
The death toll in Hubei, the Chinese province at the centre of the epidemic, had risen to 204 and there were 9,692 cases of infection nationally as of Thursday, Chinese health authorities said. About 100 cases have been reported in at least 19 other countries, with no deaths outside China.
Even as the WHO said cases had spread to at least 19 countries, Italy announced its first confirmed cases, in two Chinese tourists. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the government had decided to close all air traffic between Italy and China, a more drastic measure than most countries have undertaken.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said the organization “doesn’t recommend – and actually opposes” restrictions on travel or trade with China.
Nonetheless, foreign governments have been flying home their citizens from Hubei and holding them in quarantine, while airlines including Air France, American Airlines and British Airways have stopped flying to mainland China. Airlines are facing mounting pressure by cabin crew to stop all flights due to unease about exposure to the virus.
Stocks around the world have tumbled on fears of the economic fallout from the outbreak in the world’s second-biggest economy.
Some 60 million people in Hubei province are living under virtual lockdown. China has taken some grave steps to help contain the spread.