SHANGHAI / BEIJING, February 15 (Reuters). More than 2,600 new cases have been confirmed due to a coronavirus outbreak in mainland China, the National Health Commission said on Saturday, a day after people who had returned from vacationing to the capital were instructed to quarantine for 14 years to put days to try to curb its spread.
The total number of confirmed infections in mainland China was now 66,492, after 2,641 new cases were confirmed on Friday, the commission said.
The death toll increased from 143 to 1,523, with most new deaths in central Hubei province, and particularly in the provincial capital of Wuhan, the 11 million-inhabitant city where the outbreak started in December.
National Health Commission official Liang Wannian said at a press conference that the government would continue to try to stem the spread of viruses in Wuhan.
The commission focused on lowering the death rate and infection rate, Liang said.
The number of deaths in Hubei rose on Friday by 139, 107 in Wuhan. A total of 1,123 people have died from the corona virus in Wuhan.
China is struggling to get the world’s second largest economy going after New Year’s holidays, which have been extended by 10 days to contain the virus.
The official Beijing daily said people who do not follow government orders to quarantine after returning from vacation will be punished. However, it was not immediately clear how this would be enforced or whether the restrictions would apply to foreigners or foreigners arriving from abroad.
“From now on, anyone returning to Beijing should stay at home for 14 days after arrival or go through group observation,” Beijing’s virus prevention group said in a statement quoted by the Beijing Daily.
“Those who refuse to accept home or centralized surveillance and other preventive and control measures will be held accountable under the law,” it said.
The number of trade fairs, sporting events and industry conferences in China and overseas that were affected by the spread of the virus continued to increase.
International Business Machines Corp announced on Friday that attendance at the RSA conference on cybersecurity in San Francisco in late February was canceled due to corona virus concerns.
Facebook Inc previously announced that it had also canceled its global marketing summit in San Francisco next month because it was concerned about the same risks.
The Mobile World Congress (MWC), the annual meeting of the telecommunications industry in Barcelona, was also canceled after a mass exodus of exhibitors related to the corona virus.
The organizers of next week’s gymnastics world championships in Melbourne said on Saturday that the entire Chinese team had withdrawn due to travel restrictions.
A senior Chinese official said in an interview with Reuters that the coronavirus was a major challenge, but defended the government’s management of the epidemic and beat the “overreaction” of some countries.
State Councilor Wang Yi, who also serves as China’s foreign minister, said China has taken key measures to combat the epidemic, many of which go beyond international health regulations and the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Our efforts have kept the epidemic under control,” he said.
Outside of mainland China, there were almost 450 cases and three deaths in around 24 countries and areas. Japan confirmed its first coronavirus death on Thursday. One person died in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.
The virus kills around 2% of those infected, but has spread faster than other respiratory viruses that have surfaced this century.
A WHO-led joint mission with China will begin investigating outbreaks this weekend, focusing on the spread of the new coronavirus and its severity, said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. (Reporting by Winni Zhou and Brenda Goh in Shanghai, Zhang Min in Beijing, writing by Sonya Hepinstall editing by Robert Birsel)