Beijing (AFP) – The number of people infected in China by the coronavirus outbreak jumped on Wednesday to nearly 500, after Hong Kong reported its first death from the disease and millions more in China were ordered to stay indoors.
The confirmed toll in mainland China rose to 490 after hardest-hit Hubei province reported 65 more people had died — the biggest single-day tally since the first fatalities emerged last month.
More than 20 countries have confirmed cases of the virus, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a global health emergency, several governments to institute travel restrictions, and airlines to suspend flights to and from China.
The WHO said Tuesday that the dramatic measures taken by China had provided a “window of opportunity” to halt transmission, while calling for more global solidarity to combat the virus.
The novel coronavirus has continued to spread with Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand on Tuesday reporting new infections that were not imported from China.
In a sign of growing concern about a spread to other densely-populated Chinese metropolitan areas, authorities in three cities in eastern Zhejiang province — including one near Shanghai — limited the number of people allowed to leave their homes.
Three districts in Hangzhou — including the area where the main office of Chinese tech giant Alibaba is based — now allow only one person per household to go outside every two days to buy necessities, affecting some three million people.
The city is only 175 kilometres (110 miles) southwest of the financial hub of Shanghai, which has reported more than 200 cases, including one death.
Zhejiang has confirmed 829 cases — the highest number outside the central province of Hubei, whose capital Wuhan is the epicentre of the outbreak.
The disease is believed to have emerged in December in a Wuhan market that sold wild animals, and spread rapidly as people travelled for the Lunar New Year holiday in January.