China virus death toll passes 1,000 as WHO warns of ‘bigger fire’

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The death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak surged past 1,000 on Tuesday as the World Health Organization warned that infected people who have not travelled to China could ignite a “bigger fire” in the epidemic.

The rise came after President Xi Jinping made a rare visit to a hospital in Beijing, wearing protective gear as he chatted with medical workers and patients.

An advance team for a WHO-led international mission arrived in China as the country struggles to contain a viral epidemic that has now infected more than 42,000 and reached some 25 countries.

Another 108 deaths were reported on Tuesday the first triple-digit daily rise since the virus emerged in late December.

The first death was reported on January 11, but the toll has increased a thousandfold in just a month, reaching 1,016, although the mortality rate remains relatively low at 2.4 percent.

Chinese authorities have locked down millions of people in a number of cities, while several governments have banned arrivals from China and major airlines have suspended flights in a bid to keep the disease away from their shores.

But the case of a British man who passed on the virus to at least 11 other people — without having been in China has raised fears of a new phase of contagion abroad.