Feb. 4 (UPI) — The Chinese National Health Commission reported 65 new deaths from the coronavirus on Tuesday, raising the death toll in China to 490.
Authorities also confirmed an additional 3,156 cases of the virus in Hubei, bring the total in the province, which is the epicenter of the outbreak, to 16,678. There have been 24,324 confirmed cases throughout China.
A 39-year-old man in Hong Kong infected with the coronavirus died Tuesday, health officials said, making the semiautonomous region the second place outside mainland China to report a death from the mysterious new illness.
The Hong Kong Hospital Authority confirmed the death in a statement emailed to UPI, stating the patient “deteriorated and succumbed” to the coronavirus — called 2019 nCoV — Tuesday morning at the Princess Margaret Hospital.
The patient was admitted to the hospital on Friday with a fever and was reported in stable condition, the Hong Kong government said in a statement, adding the Hong Kong resident had traveled to Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, on Jan. 21 and returned home two days later. The government also said in a statement on Sunday that the man’s mother, a 72-year-old woman suffering from an underlying illness, contracted the virus but had not traveled to Wuhan and was at home during the illness’ 14-day incubation period, suggesting she was infected by her son.
The patient’s wife, son, daughter and a domestic helper were under quarantine and remain asymptomatic, the government said.
The man’s death is the second to occur outside mainland China after a 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan died in the Philippines on Saturday.
Despite the fact that confirmed cases of the virus grow by approximately 2,000 per day in China, the World Health Organization announced Tuesday that the outbreak still has not met its criteria for a “pandemic,” or global epidemic.
“Currently we are not in a pandemic,” said Sylvie Briand, director of WHO’s global infectious hazard preparedness team. “We are at the phase where it is an epidemic with multiple foci, and we try to extinguish the transmission in each of these foci.”
According to Briand, although the 2019 novel coronavirus is rapidly spreading from person-to-person in Hubei, the cases outside the province are mainly “spillover cases,” with limited person-to-person spread so far. The United States, for example, has 11 cases, with two involving person-to-person transmission.
Authorities in China have taken dramatic measures to halt transmission, and the United States has done the same, restricting travel to and from the Asian nation, as well as screening and, when necessary, quarantining American citizens returning from there.
“We hope that based on those measures in Hubei but also in other places where we have had spillover, we can stop transmission and get rid of this virus,” Briand said.
Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued an updated advisory on Tuesday, advising against all travel to the Hubei province, all non-essential travel to China and calling for travelers to leave China.
“If you’re in China and able to leave, you should do so,” the advisory stated.
France issued a similar warning, recommending that anyone in China with “no essential reason to stay” move away temporarily.
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced via Twitter Tuesday that 241 citizens who have been trapped in Wuhan since the lockdown were repatriated and were under quarantine on Christmas Island following a “complex and very challenging” evacuation operation.
Morrison unveiled the plan last Wednesday to evacuate hundreds of Austrailian citizens from the coronavirus-stricken city by plane to be quarantined on the remote Australian island for up to two weeks, the incubation period of the virus.
He said the Australian government is working with Chinese authorities on securing a second flight from Wuhan, to bring back hundreds of more citizens still believed to be in Hubei province.
“We are also working with the New Zealand government to access seats on their plane, subject to availability,” he said.
Twelve cases of the 2019 0nCoV have been confirmed in Australia, the country’s Department of Health said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, director-general of the New Zealand Ministry of Health, told reporters Tuesday that an Air New Zealand plane in Hong Kong has been given permission to land in Wuhan on Tuesday evening to evacuate its citizens from the city and return them to Auckland on Wednesday.
The number of passengers was still being worked out but 263 people had registered to travel, the majority being New Zealand citizens, some Australians and few foreign nationals, specifically from Pacific island countries, he said.
“The experience of other countries that have undertaken similar flights is that the number who end up on the flight is not really known until the flight takes off,” he said. “Some people experience difficulties traveling to the airport. There is also the process of exit screening by the Chinese authorities and then, of course, as you know, we have our own health assessment before people can board the flight.”
There has not been a confirmed coronavirus case in New Zealand, and the passengers arriving in New Zealand will be isolated at a military facility at Whangaparaoa, north of Auckland, for 14 days, the Department of Health said.
On Monday, Canadian officials said they have chartered a flight to repatriate 280 Canadians who have made requests with the government for assisted departure from Wuhan.
The plane is waiting in Hanoi, Vietnam, for Chinese officials to give final permission for the plane to land in Wuhan, said Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne in a news conference.
Those who return to Canada will be quarantined at a Canadian Forces base in Trenton, Ontario, for 14 days, Global Affairs Canada has said.
Meanwhile, Taiwan announced Tuesday that it was tightening border restrictions with mainland China.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that starting Friday, foreign nationals who have visited or lived in mainland China within 14 days will be barred from entering the island.
It said the move was being implemented to “safeguard public health security” during the outbreak.