Number of new coronavirus infections appears to be dropping, WHO says

GENEVA —The number of new coronavirus infections in China appears to be declining, the World Health Organization said on Monday, citing new data analyzing more than 44,000 COVID-19 cases in the epicenter of the epidemic.

WHO emergency operations chief Mike Ryan told a Geneva news conference, however, that “it’s too early to tell if this reported decline will continue.”

The new Chinese medical data shows that 80% of patients only show mild symptoms, while 14% suffer from severe complications such as pneumonia, 5% are in critical condition and 2% die from the disease.

Beyond the main COVID-19 area in China’s Wuhei province, infections have remained relatively rare, Ryan stressed. “Outside of Wuhei, this outbreak affects a very tiny, tiny, tiny proportion of people,” he said.

The new and deadly strain of coronavirus has spread to around two dozen countries worldwide and sparked a number of travel restrictions, including in China, where entire cities and regions have been cordoned off.

The virus has also strained businesses, halting production at car factories in China and prompting the cancellation of industry events and athletic competitions.

Organizers of the large Tokyo marathon announced a massive scaling back of the city’s sporting spectacle, set for March 1, over coronavirus fears.

The move, which follows the confirmation of new cases of coronavirus in the 2020 Olympics host city, means that from the originally 38,000 entered, only 176 elite runners and 30 wheelchair athletes can participate.

The global tourism industry has been especially hard hit after airlines canceled or reduced flights to China and Beijing banned outbound Chinese group tours.

Cruise ships in particular have come under scrutiny, the most high-profile of them the Diamond Princess.

Japan reported a jump in coronavirus infections on the ship, whose quarantine has grabbed international headlines.

The Health Ministry in Tokyo said 99 more people on the ship in the port of Yokohama have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases on the vessel to 454.

Japanese health officials have so far screened a total of 1,723 people on the ship, which was carrying about 3,700 passengers and crew members, broadcaster NHK reported.

Meanwhile, other countries were evacuating or preparing to evacuate passengers stranded on the Diamond Princess, which has been quarantined since Feb. 4.

The United States flew about 340 passengers back from Japan on Monday on two planes after they were screened for symptoms, U.S. officials said. Some of the passengers were later found to have tested positive for the virus and were hospitalized in the U.S.

At least 40 U.S. citizens who tested positive for the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus remained in Japan for treatment, while others have chosen to remain on the ship.

U.S. State Department officials said they were also tracking the case of the luxury cruise ship Westerdam after more than 2,200 passengers disembarked in Cambodia. At least one U.S. citizen was later found to have tested positive, raising concerns.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said more than 200 Australians and New Zealanders stranded on board the Diamond Princess ship will be flown to Australia on Wednesday.

Those evacuees will also spend another 14 days in quarantine in a camp in Darwin, where there are already more than 260 Australians being kept after arriving from Wuhan, China.

There have been 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia.

The Hong Kong government also announced that 300 people from the city currently on board the Diamond Princess would be repatriated, with 10 passengers already testing positive for the virus, according to the South China Morning Post.

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