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Chinese Premier visits epicentre of coronavirus outbreak as death toll rises to 80

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday visited Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed 80 and infected more than 2,700 people in the country.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited coronavirus-hit Wuhan city on Monday, the first such trip by a top leader as the death toll climbed to 80 with 2,744 confirmed cases.

Li arrived in Wuhan to inspect the epidemic control and prevention work, state-run China Daily reported.

He heads the high-powered group of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) officials empowered to deal with the rapidly spreading virus on war footing.

Ahead of his visit, Chinese health authorities announced the death toll due to coronavirus has sharply increased to 80 with 2,744 confirmed cases.

The confirmed cases of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus officially described as 2019-nCoV included 461 patients who are in critical condition.

Sunday saw 769 new confirmed cases, 3,806 new suspected cases and 24 deaths, all in Hubei province of which Wuhan is the provincial capital, the National Health Commission (NHC) said.

The NHC on Sunday said the new coronavirus is contagious even in its incubation period, which lasts up to 14 days, and that the virus’ ability to spread is getting stronger.

By the end of Sunday, the pneumonia situation resulted in 80 deaths. As many as 51 people have recovered while there were currently 5,794 suspected cases, it said.

A total of 32,799 close contacts have been traced, the commission said, adding that among them 583 were discharged from medical observation on Sunday, with 30,453 others remaining under medical observation.

The figures also showed that 17 confirmed cases had been reported in Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions and Taiwan, with eight in Hong Kong, five in Macao and four in Taiwan.

Overseas, confirmed cases were reported in Thailand (7), Japan (3), South Korea (3), the United States (3), Vietnam (2), Singapore (4), Malaysia (3), Nepal (1), France (3) and Australia (4).

China has announced the extension of the Spring Festival holiday for three days to Sunday, February 2, amidst efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

There are signs showing the virus is becoming more transmissible. These walking contagious agents’ (hidden carriers) make controlling the outbreak a lot more difficult, a top official said.

On Sunday night, Mayor of Wuhan Zhou Xianwang said: “it was possible to add about 1,000 cases” based on the number of patients in hospital being tested or undergoing observation in the city.

A high-power committee headed by Li said the virus’ ability to spread was getting stronger and announced a slew of measures to combat it.

To curb the epidemic, China has decided to adopt a host of measures including delaying and reducing conferences and major events, extending the current Spring Festival holidays and supporting online work.

To reduce population flows, the meeting decided on measures such as extending the Spring Festival holiday, which is scheduled between January 24 and 30, and delaying the start of the spring semester at colleges and schools.

It called for maximum efforts to reduce the mortality rate of patients and enhance their treatment.

More research will be conducted on cured patients and treatment measures will be further refined, with more training programmes scheduled for medical workers, an official statement said.

The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sunday said researchers have isolated viruses and were selecting a strain, Xu Wenbo, a director of CDC’s virus institute said.

Xu told media that researchers used high-throughput genetic sequencing to identify pathogens one day after the first four samples were sent from Wuhan on January 2.

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