A Chinese family wearing masks in Beijing on January 20, 2020. - Koki Kataoka / AP / SIPA
An 89-year-old man has become the fourth person to succumb to the new virus that has spread across China, authorities said on Tuesday. The elderly man died on Sunday after having difficulty breathing in Wuhan, the city in the center of the country where the epidemic that infected more than 200 people started, the local health commission said in a statement. .
More than a month after its appearance on a market in Wuhan, the virus, of the SARS family (severe acute respiratory syndrome), now affects several major cities in the country - including Beijing and Shanghai - and three other countries in Asia: Japan, South Korea and Thailand.
The Chinese New Year crossover, an additional risk factor
The virus is causing growing concern in China and surrounding countries, in the middle of a crossover on transport before the Chinese New Year on Saturday. This period, which traditionally sees crowded stations and airports, is an additional risk factor for the spread of the virus.
Zhong Nanshan, a renowned Chinese scientist with the National Health Commission, told state television CCTV on Monday that contagious transmission between people was "proven". The offending strain is a new type of coronavirus, a family with a large number of viruses. They can cause mild illnesses in humans (like a cold) but also other more serious ones like Sras.
This expert had helped assess the scale of the SARS epidemic in 2002-2003. It had killed 774 people worldwide (including 349 in mainland China and 299 in Hong Kong) out of 8,096 cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO announced the holding of an emergency meeting on Wednesday to determine whether to declare a "public health emergency of international concern", a qualification which is used only for the most serious epidemics.