The Wuhan coronavirus claimed 97 more lives Sunday in China, authorities there said, bringing the global death toll to at least 910.
Authorities on Saturday confirmed the virus is now a bigger killer than the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2003.
Sunday was the deadliest yet for the coronavirus, which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province and has continued to spread rapidly across the country and around the world.
Only two of the 910 deaths reported have been outside mainland China — one each in Hong Kong and the Philippines. Most of the deaths — 871– have been in Hubei province.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in mainland China rose by 3,062 to 40,171 infections, China’s National Health Commission said. Globally, more than 40,710 cases have been confirmed.
In comparison, during the SARS outbreak, a total of 774 people died and just over 8,000 were infected.
But the death rate for the coronavirus is still far below the 9.6% rate for SARS. The coronavirus death rate stands at around 2.2% globally, less than a quarter of SARS.
Several other countries announced new infections over the weekend, including Thailand, France and Singapore, which now has 40 cases of the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Saturday it would be sending a team to China, beginning from Monday or Tuesday, to investigate the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking at a news conference, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said they were fighting not only the virus but also the growing tide of incorrect information around it.
“While the virus spreads, misinformation makes the job of our heroic health workers even harder. It is diverting the attention of decision makers. And it causes confusion and spreads fear to the general public,” he said.
Wuhan opens second new hospital
As the virus continues to spread, Wuhan announced Saturday its second rapidly constructed new hospital was ready to welcome patients.
Built from scratch to hold victims of the coronavirus, in total the Leishenshan hospital can hold up to 1,500 patients and will have 32 wards, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said.
CCTV said that the first team of medical staff had arrived at the hospital on Saturday.
The National Health Commission also announced at a news conference on Saturday that it had chosen a temporary official name for the virus — Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia, or NCP.
It came as China is strengthening its approach to tackling the coronavirus.
In a joint statement Saturday, China’s National Health Commission, Supreme Court and Ministry of Public Security announced seven “medical-related crimes” that would be severely punished during the epidemic.
They include attacking medical personnel, refusing medical checks and damaging or destroying property at medical facilities.
According to the statement, anyone who violates new virus control regulations will be quickly prosecuted and could face arrest, jail or even the death penalty.
But despite Beijing’s tough attitude, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that US disease experts still hadn’t been invited to help China deal with the outbreak.
He said that US teams were “ready, willing and able” to go to China to help if called upon.
Cruise ships still under lockdown
As the epidemic continues, cruise liners have become a major battleground in attempting to halt the spread of the virus.
Three cruise ships are still either under quarantine or have passengers being investigated for the coronavirus.
In the United States, four passengers who had been taken to hospital with flu-like symptoms from Royal Carribean’s Anthem of the Seas cruise ship tested negative for the coronavirus on Saturday night.
Other cruise liners have not been so lucky. The Diamond Princess is still under quarantine off the coast of Yokohama, Japan, after at least 70 passengers tested positive for the coronavirus.
On Saturday, the captain of the ship gave the number of an emotional support hotline to passengers and apologized that getting new supplies was taking “longer than expected.”
In Hong Kong, the World Dream cruise line remains under quarantine after several former passengers tested positive for the coronavirus. Hong Kong health officials said Thursday that while all tests had come back negative so far, the 3,600 passengers and crew would remain under quarantine for now.
Two separate cruise lines, Royal Carribean and Norwegian, announced Friday night that they wouldn’t be allowing any passengers with a Chinese, Hong Kong or Macao passport to board in light of the spread of the virus.
“We apologize for the inconvenience to any guests affected by these measures put in place to ensure the safety and well-being of all our guests and crew,” Norweigan Cruise Lines said in a statement.