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Coronavirus death toll rises as 'chronic shortage' of medical masks emerges

At least 31,000 have been infected by the virus.

Commuters wear face masks to protect themselves from new virus at at skytrain station in Bangkok, Thailand.
Commuters wear face masks to protect themselves from new virus at at skytrain station in Bangkok, Thailand.
Image: Sakchai Lalit via PA

THE CORONAVIRUS WHICH appeared late December has claimed more than 630 lives and infected at least 31,000 people in mainland China, with more than 240 cases spreading to two dozen countries.

Today, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned of A “chronic shortage” of face masks and other equipment that could shield individuals from coronavirus.
“We’re sending testing kits, mask, gloves, respirators and gowns to countries in every region. However the world is facing a chronic shortage of personal protective equipment,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing in Geneva.

At least 31,000 have been infected by the virus that ophthalmologist Li Wenliang brought to light in late December — before becoming its latest victim.

The virus is believed to have emerged from a market selling exotic animals in Wuhan before jumping to humans and spreading across China and abroad as millions travelled for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Researchers at the South China Agricultural University have identified the endangered pangolin as a “potential intermediate host” for the disease, as the genome sequences of viruses found on the scaly mammal are 99% identical to those on coronavirus patients.

The virus has since spread across China, prompting the government to lock down cities of tens of millions of people, and panic has spiralled around the globe as more than 240 cases have emerged in two dozen countries.

Hong Kong, meanwhile, announced it would forcibly quarantine arrivals from mainland China beginning Saturday, warning that anyone caught breaching the new rules faces up to six months in prison.

The WHO has shown that the reported number of new cases has fallen over the past two days, which experts welcomed with caution.

There were roughly 3,900 new cases reported worldwide on February 5, 3,700 on February 6 and 3,200 on February 7 – the vast majority in China, WHO figures show.

But experts warned it is not yet clear if this represents an actual fall in cases or whether the fall will prove sustainable.

With reporting by PA. 

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