Coronavirus death toll mounts in China as U.S. braces for long fight, more cases

The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the new coronavirus, which has killed almost 1,400 people and is still spreading in China, could be around for at least another year. With the Chinese government reporting 121 more deaths and more than 5,000 new confirmed and suspected cases Thursday alone, the illness dubbed COVID-19 doesn’t appear to have peaked.

Chinese health officials in the epicenter province of Hubei changed the way they officially diagnosed the disease this week, leading early Thursday to a sudden, alarming jump of about 14,000 new confirmed and suspected cases recorded in the region. But the person in charge of managing emergencies for the World Health Organization said that jump in the Chinese statistics did not indicate “a significant change in the trajectory of the outbreak.”

It wasn’t necessarily the “tip of an iceberg,” said the WHO’s Mike Ryan.

While the disease takes a fast-mounting toll and sparks increasing scenes of draconian control measures being enforced in mainland China, there have been only three deaths blamed on it elsewhere; one each in Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan. The U.S. has 15 confirmed cases, but none are said to be suffering serious symptoms.

A couple wears masks as the embrace, following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus on Valentine's Day in Hong Kong
A couple wear masks as they embrace amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus on Valentine’s Day in Hong Kong, China, February 14, 2020.


Meanwhile, in the U.S. and around the world, evacuees flown back to their countries from Hubei province and put under immediate two-week quarantines continue to be released back into public life after being cleared of the disease.

Passengers from a cruise ship that was denied entry by five countries over fears of the virus finally disembarked Friday in Cambodia, expressing deep gratitude to the country’s leader as he welcomed them with roses.

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