Coronavirus death toll rises to 132; over 6,000 infected worldwideLast updated on Jan 29, 2020, 12:49 pm
The number of deaths amid a fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak has risen to 132, Chinese health officials confirmed on Wednesday.
Overall, 5,974 confirmed cases of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) have been observed in mainland China and over 6,000 cases worldwide.
With the latest update, the infection has proven itself more contagious than the SARS epidemic in 2003.
Here are more details.
25 out of 26 new deaths reported from Hubei province
The latest figures updated by China's National Health Commission record 1,459 new confirmed cases and 26 additional deaths against Tuesday.
Out of the 26 latest fatalities, one was reported from Henan province, while the rest were reported from Hubei province.
Notably, Hubei alone has recorded over 3,500 confirmed cases of the virus and 125 deaths.
The capital of Hubei—Wuhan—is the epicenter of the outbreak.
Coronavirus cases observed in over dozen countries globally
The Wuhan coronavirus was first detected in mid-December and has since infected over 6,000 people globally.
Apart from China, confirmed cases have been observed in Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, etc.
The virus targets a host's respiratory system, causing pneumonia-like symptoms.
It is believed to have spread to humans through animals from Wuhan's Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.
Wuhan virus more contagious than SARS
The Wuhan virus shares 70% genetic similarity with the SARS virus. Notably, SARS, which spread globally in 2003, had infected 5,327 in mainland China. However, SARS was deadlier in comparison, with a 9.6% death rate against 2.2% observed thus far for the Wuhan virus.
Health officials struggle to cope with increasing coronavirus cases
China's National Health Commission said Wednesday that 103 people have also been cured of the virus.
However, with thousands confirmed to be infected and many more to be screened, health officials are spread thin.
In Hubei, 2,287 additional medical staff arrived from across China to aid treatment in coronavirus cases.
Two new hospitals are also being set up in Wuhan's outskirts by next week.
People's health our first priority, says Chinese President
Chinese President Xi Jinping said Tuesday, "People's lives and health are always the first priority for the Chinese government, and the prevention and control of the epidemic is the most important task at present."
He added, "I believe as long as we can strengthen our confidence, stand together, scientifically prevent and control the epidemic and adopt precise measures, we will definitely defeat this epidemic."
Coronavirus outbreak to reach climax in 10 days
However, the outbreak may only get worse over the next few days, an expert has predicted.
Chinese respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan told news agency Xinhua that the coronavirus outbreak will reach its climax in a week or 10 days.
He added, "...then there will be no large-scale increases."
Nanshan notably heads China's team of experts for the control and prevention of the virus.
Evacuation of foreign nationals in China started
Meanwhile, foreigners who were stuck in China amid travel restrictions on a dozen cities have started repatriating.
On Wednesday morning, 206 Japanese nationals arrived in Tokyo where passengers showing symptoms will be quarantined, while others will be further screened.
A plane carrying a dozen US diplomats and their families has also left Wuhan.
Meanwhile, Australia will evacuate and quarantine its citizens on Christmas Island.
Australian scientists first to recreate coronavirus outside China
Separately, scientists in Australia have successfully recreated the deadly Wuhan coronavirus outside of China. The scientists said this would help "provide expert international laboratories with crucial information to help combat the virus." Scientists will now work towards developing vaccines and detection tests.