Coronavirus wrap: Death toll rises to 813 as new cases fall in China; PM Modi writes to Xi Jinping

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Passengers wearing masks and covered with plastic bags walk outside the Shanghai railway station in Shanghai, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of a new coronavirus, February 9, 2020. (Reuters)

The death toll due to the novel coronavirus outbreak rose to 813 in China, surpassing the number killed globally by the 2002-03 SARS epidemic. However, on a positive note, Chinese officials said the number of cases had started declining for the first time after weeks of sharp rise. Nearly 774 people were killed globally by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic that started in southern China.

Some 2,656 new virus cases were reported in the 24 hours ending on midnight Saturday, most of them in the central province of Hubei. The figure reported is down by about 20 per cent from the 3,399 new cases reported in the previous 24-hour period, a report by China's National Health Commission said.

With most of the major Chinese cities resembling ghost towns due to lockdowns, cancelled flights, closed factories and shut schools, authorities in China are now making plans for millions of people to return to work after an extended Lunar New Year break, Reuters reported.

Explained | What you need to know about the spreading coronavirus

China's Cabinet also said that it would coordinate with transport authorities to ensure the smooth return to work of employees in key industries such as food and medicines. In order to reduce infection risks, the State Council's special coronavirus group has urged people to return in "batches". (Click here to follow our coverage of coronavirus outbreak)

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China's death toll from the new virus outbreak has risen to over 800, surpassing the number of fatalities in the 2002-03 SARS epidemic, as other governments stepped up efforts to block the disease. (AP)

According to the China National Health Commission, the number of confirmed cases of the virus now stands at 37,198 across the country.

PM Modi writes to Xi Jinping, offers help to combat virus

A week after India evacuated as many as 647 Indians and seven Maldivians from Wuhan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, thanking him for the coordination provided by Chinese authorities in the complex 96-hour long operation. Prime Minister Modi also offered assistance to China in order to deal with the outbreak.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese premier Xi Jinping. (Source: Twitter/Narendra Modi)

In his letter, PM Modi expressed solidarity with the premier and also conveyed his condolences at the unfortunate loss of lives due to the outbreak.

Read | Could pangolins be the source of novel coronavirus?

In India, three positive cases of coronavirus, all in Kerala, have been identified so far. On Sunday, the Mizoram government placed six students, who had recently returned from China, under quarantine as a part of precautionary measures.

In Assam, 151 people were screened for novel coronavirus across different airports while 56 persons traveling from abroad were kept under home isolation, PTI quoted an official release as saying. The Health and Family Welfare Department said 151 passengers, including 66 in Guwahati have been screened till now.

Coming to Maharashtra, 31 persons, out of the total 36 quarantined since January 18, have tested negative for the infection, while the test results of five others are awaited, the state Health Department said on Sunday. Over 21,000 travelers have been screened at the Mumbai international airport so far, of whom 36 had been quarantined, it said.

$10.26 billion to fight 'enemy of mankind'

In order to combat the epidemic, Chinese Finance Ministry Sunday allocated a total of 71.85 billion yuan ($10.26 billion) to all levels of government.  The ministry said it will deploy the funds to ensure that members of the public can afford diagnosis and treatment. The funds will also be used to ensure that efforts of every region to fight the virus are not hampered by financial constraints, it said in a statement on its website.

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Passengers wearing masks walk at the Shanghai railway station in China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, February 9, 2020. (Reuters)

Meanwhile, in an interview with BBC television, China's ambassador to Britain described the novel coronavirus as "the enemy of mankind," but added that it is "controllable, preventable and curable". "At this moment is very difficult to predict when we are going to have an inflection point," Liu Xiaoming told BBC. "We certainly hope it will come soon, but the isolation and quarantine measures have been very effective," he added.

China coronavirus news, China coronavirus later news updates, China coronavirus death toll number, China coronavirus travel, Pakistan coronavirus news, Modi China Xi Jinping, WHO coronavirus, indian express news

A police officer wears a mask as he walks in front of the Oriental Pearl Tower, as the country is hit by an outbreak of a new coronavirus, in Lujiazui financial district in Pudong, Shanghai, China. (Reuters)

The virus has also spread to at least 27 countries and regions, infecting more than 330 people, news agency Reuters reported.

WHO to send international mission to China

World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the health agency will send an international mission to China as it received a response from Beijing. WHO also said the number of cases of the coronavirus in China is "stabilising", which is "good news".

The UN health agency, however, also cautioned that it was too early to make any predictions about whether the virus might have peaked.