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Coronavirus: Number of new cases drop in China but S Korea sees spike

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Chinese officials say the flu-like virus is under control, but experts say it's too early to tell

BEIJING : The death toll from the new coronavirus in China passed 2,000 yesterday although the number of new cases fell for a second straight day.

China's National Health Commission reported 1,749 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 infections, the lowest daily rise since Jan 29, while Hubei province - the epicentre of the outbreak - reported the lowest number of new infections since Feb 11.

The latest figures bring the total number of cases in China to more than 74,000, with more than 2,000 deaths, three-quarters of which have occurred in the Hubei provincial capital of Wuhan. The city of 11 million people, where the virus first appeared last year, is under virtual lockdown.

Chinese officials have said the apparent slowdown in infection rates is evidence the flu-like virus is being brought under control, but global health officials say it is still to early to predict how the epidemic will play out.

Chinese state media reported that Hubei would adopt more forceful measures to find patients with fever to help contain the epidemic, on top of steps already taken to isolate the province.

The World Health Organisation's (WHO) emergencies programme chief Mike Ryan said China had success with "putting out the fire" in Hubei, and in ensuring people returning to Beijing from the Chinese New Year holiday were monitored.

"Right now, the strategic and tactical approach in China is the correct one," Mr Ryan said.

The number of new cases in China excluding Hubei has now fallen for 15 straight days. The number of new infections outside of Hubei totalled 56 on Tuesday, down from a peak of 890 on Feb 3.


But the virus is continuing to impact countries outside of China as Hong Kong recorded its second death, South Korea reported a spike in infections and Iran reported its first cases.

"A 70-year-old male patient who was infected with the novel coronavirus deteriorated and succumbed in Princess Margaret Hospital this morning," the Hong Kong's Hospital Authority said in a statement.

Officials said the man was taken to hospital on Feb 12 after a fall at home. He had a fever and tested positive for the virus, dying a week later.

Hong Kong has confirmed the virus in 62 patients.

In Korea, an unprecedented spike saw 20 new infections reported yesterday, including 14 people involved in an outbreak traced to several church services in the central city of Daegu.

The spike brings the number of people infected in the country to 51.

Iran confirmed it has two cases, a government spokesman said in a tweet.

The cases were in the city of Qom and the patients have been put in isolation.

The spokesman did not give the nationality of the two people infected, but some reports suggested they are Iranian nationals. - REUTERS, AFP