The number of deaths from China’s coronavirus outbreak has risen to 722 on Saturday, surpassing the death toll from the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak on the mainland and Hong Kong almost two decades ago.
The total number of infections across China has now reached 34,546.
A total of 4,214 new suspected cases were reported and 1,280 patients became seriously ill, and 510 people were discharged from hospital after recovery, according to the commission.
It added that 6,101 patients remained in severe condition, and 27,657 people were suspected of being infected with the virus. As many as 2,050 people have been discharged from hospital after recovery.
The commission said 3.45 lakh ‘close contacts’ have been traced, adding that among them, 26,702 were discharged from medical observation on Friday. Over 1.89 lakh others are still under medical observation.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a disease in the same family as the new coronavirus, left nearly 650 people dead in mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003. More than 120 others died around the world.
China has struggled to contain the current virus despite having placed some 56 million people under effective lockdown in Hubei and its provincial capital, Wuhan. Other cities far from the epicentre have also taken measures to keep people indoors, limiting the number of individuals who can leave their home.
The virus has also killed two people outside mainland China, one in Hong Kong and another in the Philippines, and at least 25 countries have confirmed cases.
On Friday, the death of 34-year-old Wuhan doctor, Li Wenliang, who sounded the alarm about the virus in December only to be punished, sparked an outpouring of grief and anger over the government’s handling of the crisis.
The virus has prompted several governments to ban arrivals from China and urge their citizens to avoid travelling to the country. Some have recommended that their citizens leave China.
Major airlines have suspended flights to and from China.
At least 64 people aboard a cruise ship off Japan have tested positive for the new coronavirus, with thousands of passengers and crew facing a two-week quarantine.