The toll of the coronavirus continues to climb in China, which counted Sunday 56 dead and nearly 2,000 people infected, according to the authorities, the day after the warning of President Xi Jinping on an acceleration of the spread of the coronavirus.
The epidemic has reached France and Australia, despite the strengthening of measures taken to try to stop its spread.
The crisis comes at the crossroads of New Year, when the Chinese take advantage of their seven days off to travel from one end of their country to the other. As of Monday, Chinese travel agencies will no longer be able to sell hotel reservations or group stays, the CCTV television station said.
Military doctors have been dispatched to Wuhan, the city in central China where the virus, which is currently de facto quarantined, appeared in December, and construction of a second emergency hospital has started.
Fifteen new deaths have been recorded, including a first death in Shanghai, and at least 688 new cases of coronavirus infections have been confirmed, for a total of 1,975 in the country, according to the national health commission.
A first Chinese city, Shantou, more than a thousand km south of Wuhan, will set up Sunday from midnight (4:00 p.m. GMT) measures to restrict access for all vehicles not essential to this megalopolis of more than 5 million inhabitants.
Authorities in Tianjin, 15 million residents, for their part announced the suspension from Monday of long distance bus connections, becoming the second major city to take such action after Beijing.
"An accelerating epidemic"
China is therefore multiplying initiatives to try to halt the progression of the coronavirus now present on four continents. Half a dozen countries in Asia are now affected and a second case has been confirmed in the United States. A suspected case was first detected in Canada.
"In the face of the serious situation of an accelerating epidemic (...) it is necessary to strengthen the centralized and unified leadership of the Central Party Committee," said President Xi Jinping during a committee meeting. of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party, the seven-member body that heads China.
The study of the first cases, however, tends to show that the mortality rate of this virus named 2019-nCoV, of the coronavirus family, is quite low.
This rate "is currently less than 5 percent," says French professor Yazdan Yazdanpanah, an expert with the WHO and who has treated patients in France.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, with 774 deaths worldwide in 2002/03, had a death rate of 9.5%.
China entered the year of the Rat under the sign of the coronavirus. For New Year's Day, the streets of Wuhan are as dead, the few passers-by covering their faces with a protective mask whose wearing is mandatory, found an AFP team.
Cut off from the world
In town, you have to wait hours to be able to see a doctor. At the limits of the prohibited zone, about twenty kilometers east of the city center, vehicles attempting to cross a motorway toll must turn around.
Trains and planes are in principle no longer allowed to leave Wuhan since Thursday. Western countries are mobilizing to organize in the coming days the evacuation of their nationals.
The United States announced on Sunday it would organize the departure of its diplomatic staff and American citizens, hoping to send a direct flight from Wuhan to San Francisco on Tuesday.
Besides Wuhan, virtually the entire province of Hubei is cut off from the world, bringing the total number of confined inhabitants to over 56 million, almost the population of South Africa.
The army sent three planes to the prohibited area from which 450 military doctors and other medical personnel landed on Friday.
Some of them have experience in the fight against Ebola and SARS, a strain similar to the new coronavirus, which had killed 650 people in mainland China and Hong Kong between 2002 and 2003.
With hospitals overwhelmed, construction of a second site to accommodate more than a thousand beds has started in Wuhan. It must be completed ... within two weeks, according to public media.
All but three deaths have been recorded in this city or elsewhere in Hubei.
In Hong Kong, where five cases of contamination were recorded, the maximum alert was decreed, leading in particular to school and Disneyland closings.
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