BEIJING: China’s death toll from the coronavirus epidemic soared past 360 on Monday, with deepening global concern about the outbreak and governments closing their borders to people from China.
The fresh toll came a day after China imposed a lockdown on a major city far from the epicenter and the first fatality outside the country was reported in the Philippines.
Authorities in Hubei, the province at the epicenter of the outbreak, reported 56 new fatalities, with one reported in the southwestern megalopolis of Chongqing. That took the toll in China to 361, exceeding the 349 mainland fatalities from the 2002-3 SARS outbreak.
Struggling to contain the virus, authorities took action in the eastern city of Wenzhou on Sunday, closing roads and confining people to their homes.
China sent medical workers and equipment Monday to its just-completed 1,000-bed hospital for treating victims of a new virus that has caused 362 deaths and more than 17,300 infections at home and abroad.
Reopening of schools was also delayed to keep the virus from spreading further in hardest-hit central Hubei province, where the specialized hospital in the provincial capital Wuhan was completed in just 10 days. A second hospital with 1,500 beds is under construction.
Meanwhile, California health officials said on Sunday they had confirmed 11 cases of the new coronavirus in the United States, with one in Santa Clara County and two more in San Benito County.
In Santa Clara County, a woman and the family she is staying with are being quarantined and she is now in isolation at their home, Santa Clara County health officials told a news conference. The woman was not sick enough to require hospitalization, it added.
The other two cases involve a married couple in San Benito County, the San Benito County Public Health Services announced in a release late Sunday.
The Santa Clara woman, who recently traveled to the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, is the second case in Santa Clara reported, health officials said. They said the case is not related to the first case in Santa Clara.
The two additional cases involve a husband and wife, and the husband had recently traveled to Wuhan and apparently transmitted the disease to his wife, San Benito County Public Health Services said in a release late Sunday. Neither patient is hospitalized, officials said.
Wenzhou is some 800 kilometers from Wuhan, the metropolis at the heart of the health emergency.
Since emerging out of Wuhan late last year, the new coronavirus has infected more than 17,200 people across China and reached 24 nations.
The G7 countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — have all confirmed cases of the virus. They will discuss a joint response, Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn said on Sunday.
In Thailand, which has 19 confirmed cases, doctors said Sunday an elderly Chinese patient treated with a cocktail of flu and HIV drugs had shown dramatic improvement and tested negative for the virus 48 hours later.
Most of the infections overseas have been detected in people who traveled from Wuhan, an industrial hub of 11 million people, or surrounding areas of Hubei province.
The man who died in the Philippines was a 44-year-old from Wuhan, according to the World Health Organization, which has declared the epidemic a global health emergency.
China has embarked on unprecedented efforts to contain the virus, which is believed to have jumped to humans from a Wuhan animal market, and can be transmitted among people.
China’s efforts have included extraordinary quarantines in Wuhan and surrounding cities, with all transport out banned, effectively sealing off more than 50 million people.
But 10 days after locking down Wuhan, authorities imposed similar draconian measures on Wenzhou, a coastal city of nine million people in Zhejiang province, part of the eastern industrial heartland that has powered China’s economic rise over recent decades.
Only one resident per household is allowed to go out every two days to buy necessities, and 46 highway toll stations have been closed, authorities announced.
The city had previously closed public places such as cinemas and museums, and suspended public transport.
Zhejiang has more than 660 confirmed infections, with several hundred of those in Wenzhou, according to the government.
This is the highest tally for any province in China after ground-zero Hubei.
The United States, Australia, New Zealand and Israel have banned foreign nationals from visiting if they have been in China recently, and they have also warned their own citizens against traveling there.
Mongolia, Russia and Nepal have closed their land borders.
The number of countries reporting infections rose to 24 after Britain, Russia and Sweden confirmed their first cases this weekend.
There were 2,829 new confirmed cases nationally on Monday, bringing the total infected to 17,205, health officials said.
And with the Chinese economy suffering, the central bank announced it would release 1.2 trillion yuan ($173 billion) on Monday to maintain liquidity in the banking system — the day markets re-open after the long holiday break.
The emergence of the virus coincided with the Lunar New Year, when hundreds of millions travel across the country in planes, trains and buses for family reunions.
The holiday, which was scheduled to end on Friday, was extended by three days to give authorities more time to deal with the crisis.
With many due back at work on Monday, people were starting to return on planes and trains over the weekend, with almost everyone wearing face masks.
Customs authorities had ordered temperature checks at all exit-entry points in Beijing, according to state media.
Returning travelers were being checked and registered at residential compounds, while fever checks were in place in subway stations, offices and cafes.
For a graphic comparing coronavirus outbreaks, see https://tmsnrt.rs/2GK6YVK