BEIJING — The number of deaths from the new coronavirus has risen to 811 in mainland China, the country’s National Health Commission said on Sunday.
The death toll has therefore surpassed that of SARS, a respiratory disease that caused a global health scare in the early 2000s, and which also began in China.
Across China, 89 new deaths and 2,656 new confirmed cases were reported, the vast majority in the province of Hubei. According to the commission’s figures, health authorities have recorded a total of 37,198 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus since the beginning of the outbreak in December.
The outbreak’s epicenter is located in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province. There, the provincial health commission reported 2,147 new cases of the virus. Also 81 new deaths were reported over the last 24 hours in Hubei, bringing the total there to 780.
During the weekend, 6,200 medical personnel were flown to Wuhan, along with medical equipment, state-run news agency Xinhua reported.
Outside of mainland China, more than 300 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed.
However, the virus, which has spread to about two dozen countries, has only claimed the lives of two people outside China: a Chinese man in the Philippines and a man in Hong Kong. Both victims had been to Hubei.
The virus and associated travel bans and interruptions to supply chains have also begun to impact businesses, with Volkswagen joint ventures in China noting a halt to production at its factories.
SAIC Volkswagen postponed recommencing work at most of its plants, stopping production until Feb. 17 aside from at the Shanghai plant where work will resume Feb. 10.
The FAW Volkswagen joint venture will resume production as of Feb. 10, and only its Tianjin factory will remain closed through to Feb. 17.
Meanwhile all 3,600 passengers and crew aboard a cruise ship held in Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Cruise Terminal since Wednesday were to be released, the city’s health authorities announced on Sunday.
The ship was held after officials in mainland China informed the cruise operator that three previous passengers had tested positive for the virus. Respiratory samples from all 1,800 crew have now tested negative, said Dr. Leung Yiu-hong, chief port health officer.
Another ship, the Diamond Princess, has been quarantined at the Japanese port of Yokohama for several days. Medical officials quarantined the cruise ship, which has about 3,700 passengers and crew members on board, after a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong was confirmed to be infected a week ago. Six new cases were confirmed on the ship on Sunday, bringing the total number of infections to 70, Japan’s health ministry said.
The six will be taken to medical facilities, according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
The remaining passengers and crew may not be able to disembark until Feb. 19 at the earliest, Kyodo News reported on Saturday.
The coronavirus broke out at a seafood market in Wuhan that reportedly sold exotic animals for consumption — similar to the outbreak of SARS.
SARS infected 8,000 people and killed 800 globally between 2002 and 2003. It was linked to the consumption of civet cats, also an exotic meat. The coronavirus belongs to the same family of viruses.
The Philippines was among a series of countries continuing to repatriate their citizens from Wuhan.
Thirty Filipinos landed early Sunday at an air base south of Manila, the foreign affairs department said. They will remain quarantined there for 14 days.
The Philippines has so far reported three confirmed cases, including one death. All had been visitors from China.
A British charter plane flying 200 people out of Wuhan arrived in Oxford on Sunday morning, the British Press Association reported.
The 20 German citizens on board travelled on to Berlin, and have now been quarantined for 14 days.
Nationals from 17 other European countries including Italy, Greece, Denmark and Sweden were also said to be on the British evacuation flight. They were flown onwards to Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria and Romania, according to the German Foreign Office.
Italy’s ANSA news agency reported that one Italian 17-year-old had been left behind in Wuhan because he had a high temperature, though he had tested negative for the virus. Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said Italy would send a military plane to Wuhan “within the next 24 hours” to repatriate the boy.
A plane with 266 Australian evacuees from Wuhan, including 77 children, landed in Darwin on Sunday evening.