BEIJING: The death toll from the novel coronavirus outbreak surged past 1,000 in China on Tuesday as the World Health Organization warned that the epidemic poses a “very grave” global threat.
The WHO is holding a conference in Geneva on combatting the virus as Beijing struggles to contain a disease that has now infected more than 42,000 and reached some 25 countries.
Another 108 deaths were reported on Tuesday — the first triple-digit daily rise since the virus emerged in late December.
“With 99 per cent of cases in China, this remains very much an emergency for that country, but one that holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Chinese authorities have locked down millions of people in a number of cities, while several governments have banned arrivals from China and major airlines have suspended flights in a bid to keep the disease away from their shores.
The death toll has now reached 1,016, although the mortality rate remains relatively low at 2.4 per cent.
But the case of a British man who passed on the virus to at least 11 other people has raised fears of a new phase of contagion abroad.
The 53-year-old — dubbed a “super-spreader” by some British media, said on Tuesday he had fully recovered, but remained in isolation.
Most cases overseas have involved people who had been in Wuhan, the quarantined central Chinese city where the virus emerged late last year, or people infected by others who had been at the epicentre.
But the Briton caught the virus while attending a conference in Singapore and then passed it on to several compatriots while on holiday in the French Alps, before finally being diagnosed back in Britain.
“The detection of this small number of cases could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire,” Tedros said on Monday, urging countries to seize on the “window of opportunity” to prevent a bigger outbreak. — AFP