Wuhan (China), Jan 27 : Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Wuhan, epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, on Monday as health officials warned the spread of the deadly disease was accelerating, with new infections and deaths continuing to rise.
A brief report released by the Chinese government on Monday said Li, who is heading the high-level group charged with fighting the outbreak, met patients and medical personnel, while also directing virus prevention work in the city, capital of Hubei province, the South China Morning Post newspaper said in a report.
“You are trying every means to save lives,” LI told medical staff at Jinyintan hospital, one of the designated institutions in Wuhan for treating infected patients.
“When you are putting your efforts to save lives, you have to protect yourselves too.”
China’s National Health Commission said on Monday said that 80 people have died due to the virus so far in the country, with 2,744 confirmed cases, including 461 in critical condition.
Addressing the media in Beijing, He Qinghua, first-degree inspector of the Commission’s Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, said the large number of migrant workers returning to the countryside for Lunar New Year celebrations had been a major challenge in containing the spread of the disease.
According to Feng Luzhao, researcher with the China Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the most effective way to stop the transmission would be to reduce travel and avoid meetings.
China has announced the extension of the Spring Festival holiday until February 2, amid its efforts to curb the spread, Xinhua news agency reported.
Universities, primary and secondary schools, and kindergartens across the country will postpone the start of the semester, said a State Council General Office circular.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention released an image of the new coronavirus strain on Monday, said the South China Morning Post report.
The strain was isolated from environmental samples taken from the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan where the virus, known as 2019-nCoV, originated.
The virus was detected in 35 of the 585 environmental samples collected on January 1 and January 12, with 33 of the positive samples taken from the market’s western zone, where the wildlife trading business was concentrated.
The findings indicate the virus originated from the wild animals sold at the market.
Outside of China, there are currently eight confirmed cases in Thailand (five of which have been discharged from hospital) and Hong Kong; five in the US and Macao; four each in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, France and Japan (one cured); three in South Korea; two in Vietnam; and one each in Nepal and Canada.
Pakistan has five suspected cases who are all under observation.