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20 day ago
From Bangkok Post News

Whistleblower doctor dies, virus death toll rises to at least 630

A Chinese doctor, among the first to raise the alert about China's new coronavirus, himself died from the pathogen on Friday, emphasising the depth of a worsening crisis that has killed at least 630 people. Global panic also spread, with thousands trapped on quarantined cruise ships.

Ophthalmologist Li Wenliang died at 2.58am (1.58am Thai time), Wuhan Central Hospital said in a post on its verified account on Chinese social media platform Weibo. The 34-year-old sent out a message about the new coronavirus to colleagues on Dec 30, but was later among eight whistleblowers summoned by police for "rumour-mongering." He later contracted the disease while treating a patient and has been hailed as a hero by Chinese internet users. Li was among more than 28,000 people who have been infected in China, where authorities are struggling to contain the outbreak, despite ordering millions indoors in a growing number of cities. The number of confirmed deaths in China from the new-coronavirus outbreak rose on Friday to at least 630 after hard-hit Hubei province reported 69 new fatalities. In its daily update, Hubei's health commission also confirmed another 2,447 new cases in the province, where the epidemic originated. Thousands of holidaymakers on cruise ships in Hong Kong and Japan face an agonising wait to find out if more among them have been infected. At least 20 people on the Diamond Princess -- off Yokohama since Monday -- have tested positive. Some 3,700 passengers and crew from more than 50 countries have been confined to quarters. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said another cruise ship, the Westerdam, was heading to the country with one confirmed case. He said no foreigners from the vessel, capable of carrying nearly 3,000 passengers and crew, would be allowed to disembark. In Hong Kong, 3,600 people spent a second night confined aboard the World Dream. Authorities conducted health checks after eight former passengers tested positive for the virus. Hong Kong has been particularly nervous because the crisis revived memories of another coronavirus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). It killed nearly 300 people in the city and another 349 on the Chinese mainland in 2002-2003. Panic buying in semi-autonomous Hong Kong left supermarkets empty of toilet paper following false online claims of shortages, prompting authorities to appeal for calm. One person has died after contracting the virus in Hong Kong. While the death toll rises in China with the death of Li and others, experts have stressed that at two percent mortality, 2019-nCoV is far less deadly than SARS, which killed around 10 percent of the people it infected 17 years ago. The outbreak has nevertheless been declared a global health emergency, prompting several governments to warn against travel to China and ban arrivals from the country, while airlines have halted flights and brought home their citizens. Almost 200 Canadians showed up at the airport in Wuhan for the country's first evacuations, most on a commercial airliner chartered by Ottawa, officials said. Germany's foreign ministry said it was working to bring home several nationals who had not made it out on a flight that reached Frankfurt last Saturday. Saudi Arabia banned citizens and resident foreigners from travelling to China, while Air France-KLM extended its flight suspension by another month until March 15. Chinese President Xi Jinping told Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a call that all countries should "follow World Health Organization guidelines on travel and health in a timely manner", state news agency Xinhua reported. After Britain advised nationals to leave China, Beijing's ambassador to London said there should not be "such a panic."

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