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China virus cases pass 70,000 as WHO mission begins

AFP

The number of people infected with the new coronavirus in China passed 70,000 on Monday as international experts began meetings with their Chinese counterparts on how to tackle an epidemic that has caused global concern.

The death toll jumped to 1,765 in mainland China after 100 more people died in Hubei province, where the virus first emerged in December before spreading across the country and overseas.

Worries about its spread remain high and the epidemic’s reach was highlighted by the US announcing that more than three dozen Americans from a cruise ship quarantined off Japan were infected.

The number of new cases of the COVID-19 strain spiked last week when officials in Hubei changed their criteria for counting cases to include people diagnosed through lung imaging.

The number of new cases in the province on Monday was around 100 higher than those on Sunday but still sharply down from those reported on Friday and Saturday.

The latest figures came as the head of the World Health Organization said international experts in a WHO-led joint mission had arrived in Beijing and had had their first meeting with their Chinese counterparts.

“We look forward to this vitally important collaboration contributing to global knowledge about the #COVID19 outbreak,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Twitter.

Mi Feng, National Health Commission spokesman, said Sunday that slowing case numbers nationally showed that China was controlling the outbreak.

But Tedros has warned it is “impossible to predict which direction this epidemic will take”.
The UN health body has also asked China for more details on how diagnoses are being made.