New coronavirus cases fall as Wuhan round-up under way

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New coronavirus cases in China continued to fall on Wednesday, with 1,749 more infections and 136 additional deaths as the top official in the outbreak’s epicentre vowed to find and isolate every infected patient in the city by day’s end.

Wednesday marks the final day of a door-to-door campaign in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the virus emerged, to root out anyone with symptoms who authorities may have missed so far.

“This must be taken seriously,” said Wang Zhonglin, Wuhan’s new Communist Party secretary.

“There’s nothing more important than human life,” Wang said in remarks published by the government of Hubei province, where Wuhan is located.

“If a single new case is found (after Wednesday), the district leaders will be held responsible.”

Japan Outbreak Ship
A bus carrying the passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship leaves a port in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Wednesday (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

New cases have fallen to less than 2,000 for the past two days, but officials and analysts have warned the threat of a more serious outbreak remains as workers gradually return to work following a prolonged Lunar New Year holiday.

In Hong Kong, a spokesman for Princess Margaret Hospital reported the city’s second death out of 62 cases. Media reported the victim was a 70-year-old man with underlying illnesses.

“Prevention and control work is at a critical time,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said during a phone call Tuesday evening with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, according to Chinese state media.

Likewise, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told The Associated Press in an interview in Lahore, Pakistan, that the virus outbreak “is not out of control, but it is a very dangerous situation.” He said that “the risks are enormous and we need to be prepared worldwide for that.”

The much-criticised quarantine of a cruise ship in Japan was in the process of ending on Wednesday, as passengers were allowed to leave the ship.

The Diamond Princess’ 542 virus cases were the most in any place outside of China, and medical experts have called its quarantine a failure.

South Korea China Outbreak
In Seoul, people wearing face masks pass by an electric screen about precautions against the illness (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

One of the almost 700 passengers who had already left Cambodia after the ship docked last week was found to have the virus when tested after arriving in Malaysia.

The discovery that the 83-year-old American woman harboured the virus caused the suspension of plans to send home the other passengers still in Cambodia.

The dispersal of the others who also departed Cambodia to various countries has caused concern that they might be undetected carriers of the virus, and health authorities in several countries were tracing them to take protective measures.

The Westerdam was allowed to dock in Cambodia after Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Guam and Thailand refused to let it land because of fear that its passengers might spread the virus.

China has locked down several cities in the hardest-hit province of Hubei, halting nearly all transportation and movement except for the quarantine efforts, medical care and delivery of food and basic necessities.

Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency said authorities have confirmed two cases of the new coronavirus, the first in the country.

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