Beijing: The virulence of the novel coronavirus continues to show a declining trend in China which reported 29 new fatalities, the lowest in weeks, taking the death toll to 2,744 while the confirmed cases climbed to 78,497, officials said on Thursday.
The country’s National Health Commission (NHC) said it received reports 433 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus infection and 29 deaths on Wednesday from 31 provincial-level regions on the mainland.
Among the deaths, 26 were from the epicentre of the virus Hubei province and its capital Wuhan and one each from Beijing, Heilongjiang and Henan, it said.
In Hubei province alone 2,641 people died due to the virus since it erupted in December last year including 2,104 fatalities in Wuhan.
The province, which is under lockdown, reported 409 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, taking the total confirmed cases to 65,596, local health commission said.
Wuhan reported 383 new confirmed cases and 19 new deaths on Wednesday. In total, the city has registered 47,824 confirmed cases.
In all 34,978 people were hospitalised in Hubei province of which 6,581 were still in severe condition and 1,403 others in critical condition.
The commission also said Hubei reported 403 suspected cases, taking the total to 2,019 cases.
Meanwhile, Beijing is facing mounting pressure in efforts to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak as new confirmed infections surged due to arrivals from abroad and cluster outbreaks, state-run Global Times reported.
Officials from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDCP) on Thursday said the central government put the capital on top priority of its epidemic prevention and control work, with measures benchmarking those adopted in epicentre Hubei and execution even more rigorous and decisive.
By the end of Wednesday, capital Beijing recorded total 410 confirmed cases, five deaths and 2,658 persons with close contact with infected patients.
Ten more cases were reported in the capital after a woman suffering from coronavirus was released from prison in Wuhan and managed to travel to Beijing breaching lockdown.
According to the Beijing CDCP, the woman, whose surname is Huang, was diagnosed with Covid-19 on Monday. She was released from prison on February 17, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
“Epidemic control work in Beijing is most critical. Although the current situation in the capital is not as severe as in Hubei, by referencing the measures taken there, the steps taken in Beijing are much more decisive than in other cities,” Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist at China CDC said.
“Our focus is the management of those who return to Beijing. To prevent the virus spreading, these people must quarantine themselves at home for 14 days. At the same time, we also go all lengths to manage the communities, as we issued different permits to each resident depending on if he or she is a permanent resident, a tenant or a temporary resident,” Global Times quoted an official as saying.
All over China, a total of 2,358 people were still suspected of being infected with the virus.
A total of 32,495 people had been discharged from hospital after recovery including 23,200 in Hubei province.
As on Wednesday, 91 confirmed cases including two deaths had been reported from Hong Kong, 10 confirmed cases in Macao and 32 in Taiwan including one death.
China’s top respiratory specialist Zhong Nanshan on Thursday said although the COVID-19 first appeared in China, that does not necessarily mean it originated in the country.
“But we cannot say that the virus came from abroad. The question could be answered by tracing the source of the novel coronavirus and getting a result,” Zhong told the media in Guangzhou.
Yang Zhanqiu, deputy director of the pathogen biology department at Wuhan University said the novel coronavirus might have multiple birthplaces co-existing around the globe.
Yang noted that it is important to find the source and intermediate host of the virus.
“We can cut off the source of the virus and better conduct prevention and control work when we know the route of transmission. Therefore, the early infection cases are highly valuable for research,” he said.
Bruce Aylward, an epidemiologist who led an advance team from the World Health Organisation, told the media in Geneva on Tuesday that China has changed the course of COVID-19 outbreak, noting that the rapidly escalating outbreak has plateaued and come down faster than the previously expected.
Aylward said the unanimous assessment of the 25-member team which conducted a nine-day field study trip to Beijing, Guangdong, Sichuan and Hubei is that besides adopting a science-driven agile response, China followed a pragmatic approach which is “technology-powered and science-driven”.
“They are using big data, artificial intelligence (AI) in places,” Aylward said, adding that China has managed massive amounts of data in finding each COVID-19 cases and tracing contacts.
However, President Xi Jinping, who presided over a high power meeting on Wednesday said while the positive trend in preventing and controlling the epidemic is expanding and economic and social development is rapidly recovering, the situation in Hubei and Wuhan remains “complex and grim as the risk of a rebound of the epidemic in other regions cannot be overlooked”.