China opens 1000-bed hospital as coronavirus death toll passes 361

China opens 1000-bed hospital as coronavirus death toll passes 361
Labours working in full swing during the construction of 1,000-bed hospital. (File)
BEIJING/WUHAN/HONG KONG, FEB 3 (AFP) | Publish Date: 2/3/2020 10:11:27 AM IST

China on Monday opened a 1,000-bed hospital built in record nine days in Wuhan city, the epicentre of the coronavirus, and started clinical trials for a drug to treat the virulent virus as the death toll in the outbreak soared to 361, with 17,238 confirmed cases.

A noted Chinese health expert Zhong Nanshan said that based on the fresh evidence, the novel coronavirus which is spreading rapidly in China and the world may reach its peak in the next 10 to 14 days, contrary to earlier estimates of climaxing sooner.  

This means that the cases would drastically increase in the next two weeks before slowing down. 

The death toll in China’s coronavirus epidemic soared to 361 with 57 deaths on Sunday while the number of confirmed cases climbed to 17,238, Chinese health officials announced on Monday.

Among Sunday’s deaths, 56 were reported from Hubei Province, the epicentre of the virus outbreak, and one from southwest China’s Chongqing, the commission said.  

The Philippines already reported the first overseas death of the virus while 148 cases have been reported from abroad. India has reported three cases of the coronavirus, all of them in Keralites who returned from Wuhan. China opened a 1,000-bed makeshift hospital in Wuhan built in record nine days to exclusively treat the coronavirus patients.  

On Wednesday, another 1,300 bed makeshift hospital will be opened adjacent to it. Together, they will open up 2,300 bed hospitals exclusively to treat the coronavirus patients.  

The new facility will ease the shortage of beds in the city resulting from an increasing number of patients infected with the virus, official media reported. 

Medical personnel from the People’s Liberation Army will take over the new Huoshenshan Hospital.

Official media publicised the construction of the hospitals in tearing hurry as major strength of the ruling Communist Party of China’s ability to deal with such epidemics.  

Also, China has begun clinical trials to test a drug to treat the patients of the coronavirus which till now has no cure. Currently, patients are being treated with a combination of antivirals and other measures, as scientists race to find a vaccine. 

Some reports said drugs to treat HIV too was being tried to treat the patients.  

China accuses US of spreading global ‘panic’ over coronavirus 

 China on Monday accused the US of spreading “panic” through its actions like travel bans and evacuation of diplomats and said there was no “substantial help” from Washington to contain the virus that has killed 361 people and infected 17,205 others in the country. The deadly virus - first emerged in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province - has spread to 25 countries, including India, the US and the UK.

Joining a growing list of nations to impose travel restrictions, the US has announced a 14-day travel ban on all visitors from China, regardless of their nationality. The US citizens arriving from China’s virus-hit Hubei province will have to undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine on arrival, while those travelling to other parts of China will face screening and monitoring.

A CNN report said the mandatory quarantine is the first time the US has issued such an order in 50 years. “What the US has done could create and spread panic,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said addressing the first online media briefing.

“The US government has not provided any substantive help to the Chinese side yet. On the contrary, it was the first to withdraw its consulate staff from Wuhan, the first to suggest the partial withdrawal of embassy staff, the first to announce a ban on entry by Chinese citizens after the WHO made it clear that it doesn’t recommend or even opposes travel and trade restrictions against China,” she said.

Coronavirus in China may have come from bats: Studies

 The novel coronavirus that has claimed over 350 lives and infected thousands in China may have originated from bats, according to two latest studies published in the journal Nature on Monday.

In the first study, the researchers carried out a genome sequence of the virus associated with the respiratory disease outbreak in China, isolated from a patient working in the seafood market linked to the initial cases.

The study found that the virus was closely related to a group of SARS-like coronaviruses previously identified in bats in China.

The first patient was admitted to a hospital on December 12 last year, and investigations have identified a seafood market, which also sold wild animals, in Wuhan, capital of Hubei, as the potential source of the outbreak.

Yong-Zhen Zhang and colleagues from Fudan University in China studied a 41-year-old male market worker admitted to a hospital in Wuhan on December 26, who experienced symptoms of respiratory illness, including fever, chest tightness and cough.

A combination of antibiotic, antiviral and glucocorticoid therapy was administered. 

However, the patient exhibited respiratory failure and his condition did not improve after three days of treatment.

The researchers performed genome sequencing on a sample of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid - a lung secretion - collected from the patient.

They identified a novel virus and found that the viral genome shared 89.1 per cent nucleotide similarity with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-like coronaviruses from bats.

Another study, published in Nature, carried out the identification and characterisation of the coronavirus associated with the recent outbreak, revealed similarities with SARS coronaviruses.

The analysis uncovers evidence that the coronavirus has an origin in bats, although the animal source of this outbreak has not been confirmed.

Coronaviruses have been a source of infectious disease epidemics in humans, such as SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

SARS-related coronaviruses are mainly found in mammals such as bats and are a potential threat to public health.

Full-length genome sequences obtained from five of these patients are found to be almost (over 99.9 per cent) identical to each other, and share 79.5 per cent sequence identity with SARS coronaviruses.

The researchers also found that the virus sequence was 96 per cent identical at the whole-genome level to a bat coronavirus, suggesting that bats are a probable source of this coronavirus.

HK shuts most China crossings as medics strike
Hong Kong announced it was closing all but two land crossings with the Chinese mainland on Monday to slow the spread of a deadly new coronavirus as medics staged strikes calling for the border to be completely sealed. On Monday afternoon city leader Carrie Lam said all land crossings would be closed at midnight except for two bridges, the first connecting Hong Kong to Shenzhen and the second linking it with Zhuhai and casino hub Macau. The city’s airport -- one of the world’s busiest -- would remain open to mainlanders, although there are already restrictions on people from central Hubei province where the epidemic began. Lam said the latest closures -- which came after four crossings were shuttered last week -- would reduce the number of Chinese mainlanders and allow officials to focus resources on two land entry points as well as the airport.

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