China records drop in new coronavirus cases
- 20 February 2020
China reported a dramatic drop in new coronavirus infections on Thursday although scientists warned the flu-like pathogen may spread even more easily than previously believed, while more passengers disembarked a quarantined cruise ship off Japan, APA reports citing Reuters.
Two elderly passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess ship had died of the disease, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported. The passengers were a man and a woman in their 80s, NHK said, citing an unidentified government source.
South Korea reported a spike in infections, with 23 new cases linked to a church congregation, up from 14 on Wednesday, in what health officials called a “super-spreading event”.
A 61-year-old woman known as “Patient 31” is suspected of passing the disease to others who attended religious services at a church in the central city of Daegu.
Hundreds of people are believed to have attended services with the woman in recent weeks at a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, a religious movement founded in 1984 by South Korean Lee Man-hee, who is revered as a messiah by followers.
Scientists in China who studied nose and throat swabs from 18 patients infected with the new coronavirus say it behaves much more like influenza than other closely related viruses, and could be passed on by people before they show symptoms.
The preliminary findings published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine offer evidence that the novel coronavirus is not like other coronaviruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
“If confirmed, this is very important,” said Dr. Gregory Poland, a sinologist and vaccine researcher with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who was not involved with the study.
While the latest numbers on infections in mainland China suggest the epidemic there is slowing, it is unclear how much the fall in new cases is due to changes in diagnostic methodology or because fewer people are contracting the disease.
China’s central Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, reported 349 new confirmed cases, down from 1,693 a day earlier and the lowest since Jan. 25. The death toll in the province rose by 108, bringing to total in China to over 2,100 deaths and 74,500 cases.
Two people died of the disease in Iran on Wednesday, Iranian officials said, bringing the death toll outside mainland China to eight. If the reported deaths on the quarantined ship are confirmed the toll outside mainland China would stand at 10.