HK reports its first coronavirus death, the second outside China
39-year-old diabetic had travelled to Wuhan; other cases include suspected local transmissions
HONG KONG Hong Kong yesterday became the second place outside mainland China to report the death of a coronavirus patient as officials said they feared local transmissions were increasing in the densely populated city.
The coronavirus has killed more than 425 people in China, spreading from the central city of Wuhan late last year.
It has also spread to more than 25 countries.
Most of the deaths in China have been in Wuhan and the rest of surrounding Hubei province, much of which has been under lockdown for almost two weeks.
But yesterday, Hong Kong doctors confirmed a 39-year-old man being treated for the virus had died.
He was a Hong Kong resident who had travelled last month to Wuhan, returning home on Jan 23 via a high-speed rail link.
Officials said the man also had diabetes, but had been stable until his condition suddenly deteriorated.
They said the precise cause of death was unclear and the case would be passed to the coroner.
So far the only other reported fatality outside of the Chinese mainland has been in the Philippines.
Hong Kong now has 17 confirmed infections, and most people were infected in mainland China. But four cases are suspected to be local transmissions, including two people confirmed yesterday afternoon with no history of recent travel to the mainland.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
Mr Chuang Shuk Kwan, from Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection, said the local transmissions were a cause for concern as it could suggest the city's outbreak was becoming self-sustaining.
"We can't rule out the possibility that there will be massive transmission in the near future. So the next 14 days are very critical," he told reporters.
In South Korea, a woman who recently visited Thailand was confirmed yesterday of having the virus. The latest confirmed case brought South Korea's total number of patients to 16.
She is a 42-year-old Korean woman who returned to the country from Thailand on Jan 19, according to Seoul's health authorities.
She started showing symptoms six days later, and was diagnosed with the virus yesterday, they added.
But the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said it was too early to conclude whether the patient contracted the virus while in Thailand.
"We need detailed research through an epidemiological survey," Dr Jeong Eun-kyeong, its director, told reporters.
South Korea has so far seen at least four cases of human-to-human transmission of the virus, while a hospitalised Chinese tour guide is believed to have caught the illness while working in Japan.
In Thailand, two drivers who came into contact with Chinese tourists were among six new cases of the virus reported yesterday, bringing to 25 the number of people infected there.
A Thai married couple who recently returned from Japan and two Chinese tourists were the remaining new cases, according to Suwanchai Wattanayingcharoenchai of the disease control department. - AFP