The Wuhan coronavirus has now killed more people than the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2003 after 89 more deaths in mainland China on Saturday brought the global death toll to 813.
It is the deadliest day yet for the coronavirus, which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan and has continued to spread rapidly across the country and around the world.
China’s National Health Commission announced the new death toll on Saturday, adding that the country’s total number of infections had risen to 37,198.
Out of the 813 people who have been killed by the virus, 811 were in mainland China, with one death each recorded in Hong Kong and the Philippines.
In comparison, during the SARS outbreak, a total of 774 people died and just over 8,000 were infected.
But the death rate for the coronavirus is still far below the 9.6% rate for SARS. The coronavirus death rate stands at around 2.2% globally, less than a quarter of SARS.
Several other countries announced new infections over the weekend, including Thailand, France and Singapore, which now has 40 cases of the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Saturday it would be sending a team to China, beginning from Monday or Tuesday, to investigate the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking at a news conference, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said they were fighting not only the virus but also the growing tide of incorrect information around it.
“While the virus spreads, misinformation makes the job of our heroic health workers even harder. It is diverting the attention of decision makers. And it causes confusion and spreads fear to the general public,” he said.
Wuhan opens second new hospital
As the virus continues to spread, Wuhan announced Saturday its second rapidly constructed new hospital was ready to welcome patients.
Built from scratch to hold victims of the coronavirus, in total the Leishenshan hospital can hold up to 1,500 patients and will have 32 wards, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said.
CCTV said that the first team of medical staff had arrived at the hospital on Saturday.
The National Health Commission also announced at a news conference on Saturday that it had chosen a temporary official name for the virus — Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia, or NCP.
It came as China is strengthening its approach to tackling the coronavirus.
In a joint statement Saturday, China’s National Health Commission, Supreme Court and Ministry of Public Security announced seven “medical-related crimes” that would be severely punished during the epidemic.
They include attacking medical personnel, refusing medical checks and damaging or destroying property at medical facilities.
According to the statement, anyone who violates new virus control regulations will be quickly prosecuted and could face arrest, jail or even the death penalty.
But despite Beijing’s tough attitude, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that US disease experts still hadn’t been invited to help China deal with the outbreak.
He said that US teams were “ready, willing and able” to go to China to help if called upon.