A team of WHO experts visited China’s Wuhan city, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus, on Saturday as death toll due to the epidemic climbed to 2,345 with 109 more fatalities reported, while the confirmed cases of infection rose to 76,288, Chinese health officials said on Saturday.
A total of 397 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported on Friday, while 109 deaths were reported from 31 provincial-level regions, the health authority said.
By the end of Friday, a total of 2,345 people had died of the disease and 76,288 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection had been reported from all over the country. Among the deaths, 106 were from the Hubei province, the epicentre of the virus, one each from Hebei province, Shanghai and Xinjiang, it said, the National Health Commission (NHC) said.
The central Hubei province reported 366 new confirmed cases and 106 new deaths on Friday. The latest report brought the total confirmed cases in the hard-hit province to 63,454, the provincial health commission said.
The team of public health experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has visited Wuhan city, the capital of Hubei province, to conduct a detailed probe about the virus which reportedly originated from a sea food market in December last year.
The NHC said the WHO experts along with their Chinese counterparts who formed a joint investigation team have held talks with the local health authority in Wuhan and visited relevant healthcare institutions.
The UN team comprises specialists from the United States, Germany, Japan, Nigeria, Russia, Singapore and South Korea, Hong-Kong based South China Morning Post reported.
The 12-member team, which arrived in China on Monday, was initially designated to visit only Beijing, Guangdong and Sichuan provinces, while the worst-affected Hubei province and its capital Wuhan were missing from the list.
However, the team was finally given permission to visit Wuhan by the Chinese government.
Besides controlling the spread of the virus, a major task for the WHO team along with their Chinese counterparts was to come up with standard medicine to cure the disease.
The NHC said on Saturday that the team had met top Chinese respiratory disease expert Zhong Nanshan in Guangdong, and visited the centre for disease control and prevention in Guangdong and the city of Shenzhen, and Sichuan.
The specialists also discussed quarantine measures, the wild animal trade and community prevention measures with their Chinese counterparts, it said.
Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Washington-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations, said it was important for the team to see conditions on the ground and to offer advice.
“Fact-finding is important, especially doing risk assessments and evaluating the situation on the ground, and helping other countries better prepare for this outbreak,” Huang was quoted as saying in the media report.
“But in the meantime, I think they could do more in terms of helping China, for example, evaluate the effectiveness of containment measures, to guide their Chinese counterparts, the treatment protocols, helping them identify the origin of the virus,” he said.
On Saturday, the NHC said China has made progress in curing patients of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as it steps up epidemic prevention and control measures and medical reinforcements.
A total of 36,680 confirmed COVID-19 patients were still being treated in hospitals on Friday, compared with the peak number of 38,020 on February 18, Mi Feng, spokesperson for the NHC told the media here.
The rest of the Hubei province reported 10,967 confirmed cases on Friday, compared with the peak number of 13,886 on February 14, Mi said pointing that the number of cases were coming down in the epicentre.
Outside Hubei, the number of COVID-19 patients still hospitalised were 5,637 on Friday, dropping significantly from a peak of 9,141 on February 11, Mi said.
Only 31 new confirmed cases were reported outside Hubei on Friday, with all other provincial-level regions reporting less than 10 or zero new infections.
A total of 20,659 COVID-19 patients had been discharged from hospital after recovery by the end of Friday.
China has postponed the Boao Forum for Asia, its most prestigious annual meeting held in the picturesque Hainan province where it would invite top world leaders, CEOs to discuss economy, trade and related issues.
The forum was expected to take place from March 24-27. China also hinted at postponing the annual parliament session to be held in the first week of March.