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China: Wuhan medics assess coronavirus
Image: Imago Images/Xinhua

New coronavirus infections fall for third day

February 16, 2020

The number of deaths and confirmed cases, though continuing to increase, is rising at a slower rate for the third day in a row. China's central bank is taking measures to stem the outbreak by disinfecting money.


China's National Health Commission reported a fewer number of new coronavirus cases for the third day in a row on Sunday, with 2,009 new infections reported, bringing the total to 68,500 confirmed cases since the outbreak began in December.

The death toll on mainland China from COVID-19, a disease stemming from a new form of coronavirus, now stands at 1,665, officials said.

Read more: Africa has been spared so far from coronavirus. Why?

This toll did not include the first death reported in Europe. France reported the death of a Chinese tourist from Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Late on Sunday, Taiwan confirmed its first death from the virus — the fifth outside the mainland.

The territory's health minister said the 61-year-old taxi driver, who had diabetes and hepatitis B, had not traveled abroad recently but had driven clients mainly from Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China.

Cruise ship evacuations

People aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship make up the largest cluster of infections outside China. Japanese Health Minister said Sunday that 70 more people were diagnosed with the coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections onboard to 355 cases.

Canada, the United States and Hong Kong have all announced they will fly their nationals home from the cruise ship, which has been quarantined in Yokohama, Japan since February 3.

The first Americans left the vessel late Sunday to board chartered flights home, where they will face another 14 day isolation period in addition to the one they endured on the ship.

Cambodia takes on new case

Nearly 1,000 people remaining aboard another cruise ship docked in Cambodia are set to undergo additional coronavirus checks before being allowed to disembark, an official said on Sunday, after one passenger who left the ship tested positive for the virus in Malaysia.

"The temperature checks must be done again before leaving," Kheang Phearum, a provincial government spokesman, told DPA news agency. 

Malaysian health authorities said that one of the ship's passengers, an 83-year-old American woman, had been infected with the Sars-Cov-2 virus, a result which was confirmed by a second set of tests which were sought by the cruise company, Holland America.

The passenger, who had been on board the MS Westerdam operated by a unit of Carnival Corp, had tested positive for the virus after arriving in Kuala Lumpur from Cambodia. Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Waz Azizah Wan Ismail said on Sunday the retest was carried out on the woman late on Saturday night, and that her husband tested negative. 

The company said 236 guests and 747 crew remained on board after more than 1,200 people disembarked on Friday and Saturday.

International cooperation to combat coronavirus outbreak: Mike Ryan (WHO) speaks to DW

Prior knowledge

Xi gave instructions on fighting the virus as early as January 7, according to Chinese state media. The disclosure indicates that top leaders knew about the potential severity of the outbreak weeks before such dangers were made known to the public. It was not until late January that officials publicly announced that the virus could spread between humans. 

Tightening the reins in Hubei

The government of Hubei, China's hardest-hit province, said on Sunday that a ban will be imposed on private vehicle traffic to curb the spread of the virus.

Police cars, ambulances, vehicles carrying essential goods and other vehicles related to public service would be exempted from the ban, according to a statement issued by the provincial government.

It added that the province will carry out regular health checks on all residents, and said companies cannot resume work without first receiving official permission. 

Clean cash

Meanwhile, China's central bank said over the weekend that to control the outbreak spreading, used banknotes were being disinfected and stored for up to 14 days before they are reintroduced to public circulation.

jsi/sms (AP, Reuters, dpa)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

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