Chinese health officials reported Tuesday the number of confirmed cases from a coronavirus outbreak has surpassed 72,000, with the death toll rising to nearly 1,900.
The latest update included 98 more deaths and 1,886 new cases of the virus that has strained China’s healthcare system and caused authorities to put areas on lockdown to try to stop it from spreading.
The country’s state television reported that one person who died from the virus Tuesday was Liu Zhiming, the director of Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province that is the epicenter of the outbreak.
The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said Monday that Chinese data from recent days appeared to indicate a decline in new cases. However, he said the trend “must be interpreted very cautiously.”
“Trends can change as new populations are affected. It is too early to tell if this reported decline will continue. Every scenario is still on the table,” he said. He described the outbreak as “very serious” with the “potential to grow” but said it was mostly confined to Hubei province.”
Ghebreyesus also said more than 80% of patients “have mild disease and will recover.”
The WHO said in its latest report on the virus there were 794 confirmed cases outside of China. Some 542 cases have been passengers on a cruise ship under quarantine in Yokohama, Japan, including 88 new cases reported Tuesday.
The United States said Monday it had evacuated more than 300 of its citizens and their immediate family members who had been on board the Diamond Princess. One flight carrying the passengers arrived early Monday at Travis Air Force Base in California, while another landed hours later at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
A group of 14 people who did not show symptoms, but did test positive for the virus, were allowed on the flights in an area isolated from the rest of the passengers. All of the evacuees are being held under quarantine for 14 days.
Australia announced Monday it would also be evacuating its citizens from the ship. Canada, Italy, South Korea and Hong Kong are planning their own evacuation efforts.
The U.S. State Department is also looking into the case of a U.S. citizen who was diagnosed with the coronavirus after departing another cruise ship, the Westerdam, whose passengers tested negative for the virus before disembarking in Cambodia.
Malaysian medical authorities said the passenger, an 83-year-old woman, twice tested positive for the virus upon arriving in Malaysia after showing signs of a viral infection, a State Department spokesperson said Sunday. She is the first person from the Westerdam to test positive. Her husband tested negative.
The spokesperson said U.S. authorities do not have “sufficient evidence to determine when the passenger may have been exposed and where.” The American patient remains in Malaysia where she is receiving treatment.
While China has recently been complimented for the way it has handled the outbreak and its efforts to contain it, the WHO is still asking for more information on how China is making its diagnoses.
Chinese state media Saturday published a speech President Xi Jinping made Feb. 3 that shows Chinese authorities knew more about the seriousness of the coronavirus at least two weeks before it made the dangers known to the public. It wasn’t until late January that officials said the virus could spread among humans.
In a January 7 speech, Xi ordered the shutdown of the cities most affected by the virus. Those lockdowns began January 23.