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Coronavirus: China official says efforts working as infections dip

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2,009 new cases yesterday, down from over 2,600 on Saturday

SHANGHAI/BEIJING: The number of new coronavirus cases in China fell yesterday, and a health official said intense efforts to stop its spread were starting to work.

The National Health Commission reported yesterday 2,009 new cases, down from 2,641 the previous day, and 142 more deaths, one lower than the previous day. All but four of the new deaths were in Hubei.

Figures showed at least 68,500 people have been infected in China and the death toll has passed 1,660, most of them in Hubei. The province and its capital, Wuhan, have been virtually sealed off and locked down since Jan 23, with schools, offices and factories shut and most travel suspended.

The virus is believed to have an incubation period of 14 days, which would appear to indicate it has been spreading since the lockdown was imposed. But health commission spokesman Mi Feng said the campaign was beginning to show results.

"The effect of the coronavirus controls is appearing," Mr Mi told reporters.

Increased medical support and preventive measures in Hubei had headed off more critical cases, and the proportion of critical cases among confirmed cases had fallen to 21.6 per cent on Saturday, from 32.4 per cent on Jan 27, Mr Mi said.

Mild cases are also being treated more quickly, preventing them from becoming critical.

Nevertheless, restrictions were tightened in Hubei yesterday with a ban on vehicles, apart from essential services, and companies were told to stay shut until further notice.

Taiwan has reported a death. There have also been fatalities in the Philippines, France, Hong Kong and Japan.

Taiwan Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said yesterday the deceased was a 61-year-old who had diabetes and hepatitis B.

Taiwan has to date confirmed 20 cases.

The man had not travelled abroad recently and was a taxi driver whose clients were mainly from Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China.

One of the his family members also has the virus.

The pair constituted Taiwan's first local transmission cases, Mr Chen said, adding that the authorities were trying to find out as soon as possible the source of contraction.

"So far, we are not able to gather his contact history, so we are actively making investigations, hoping to find out the source of the contraction."

World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Saturday it was impossible to tell where the epidemic will spread.

"We are concerned by the continued increase in the number of cases in China," he said.

The sickness, Covid-19, has killed about 2 per cent of those infected.

Cases have spread faster than other respiratory viruses this century. - REUTERS