Global fears rise as more China virus cases found on cruise ship

Beijing: China’s coronavirus crisis deepened on Thursday with the death toll soaring to 563, as thousands of people trapped on quarantined cruise ships added to the global panic about the epidemic.
More than 28,000 people have now been infected across China as authorities struggle to contain the outbreak despite compelling millions to stay indoors in a growing number of cities.
Two dozen countries have confirmed cases of the respiratory disease which emerged from a market selling exotic animals in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
Thousands of people on cruise ships in Hong Kong and Japan now face an agonising wait to find out if more among them have been infected.
At least 20 people on board the Diamond Princess have tested positive so far, while some 3,700 passengers and crew from over 50 countries have been confined to quarters aboard the cruise ship off Yokohama since Monday night.
In Hong Kong, 3,600 people were preparing to spend a second night confined aboard the World Dream as authorities conducted health checks after eight former passengers tested positive for the virus.
On Thursday, health officials in the financial hub said they were also asking some 5,000 Hong Kongers who had taken trips on the ship since mid-January to contact them.
Hong Kong has been particularly nervous as the disease has revived memories of another coronavirus, the one that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 300 people in the city and another 349 in the Chinese mainland in 2002-2003.
Panic buyers in the semi-autonomous city left shelves of toilet paper empty at supermarkets following false online claims of shortages, prompting authorities to appeal for calm.
One person has died after contracting the virus in Hong Kong so far.
While the death toll continues to rise in China, health experts have stressed that at two percent, 2019-nCoV is far less deadly than the SARS pathogen, which killed around 10 percent of the people it infected 17 years ago.
But the outbreak has been declared a global health emergency, prompting several governments to warn against travel to China and ban new arrivals from the country, while airlines have halted flights.
In the latest international actions, Saudi Arabia banned its citizens and resident foreigners from travelling to China, while Air France-KLM decided to extend its flight suspension by another month until March 15. AFP

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