China records first coronavirus death in Beijing as toll jumps to 106

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SHANGHAI: The new strain of coronavirus spreading across China claimed its first victim in Beijing, officials said on Tuesday, as the death toll climbed to 106, the United States warned citizens against trips to the country and financial markets recoiled again at the potential impact on the world’s second-biggest economy.

Amid mounting concern about the coronavirus on Chinese social media, the National Health Commission said in a statement that all but six of those killed by the previously unknown flu-like virus were in Wuhan, Hubei province. Though cases of the virus have been confirmed in other countries, no fatalities have been reported outside China.

The city of 11 million, where the coronavirus emerged late last year, is now under effective lockdown. Footage shared on China’s Twitter-like Weibo social media platform showed residents of apartment compounds in the city chanting “Wuhan, you can do it!” and singing the national anthem out of their windows.

Tuesday’s death toll was up from 81 as of the day before, while the number of totals confirmed cases in China surged to 4,515 as of Jan. 27, from 2,835 a day earlier, the National Health Commission said.

US President Donald Trump on Monday offered China whatever help it needed, while the State Department said Americans should “reconsider” visiting all of China due to the coronavirus.

Canada, which has two confirmed cases of the virus and is investigating 19 more potential cases, warned its citizens to avoid travel to Hubei province.

Authorities in Hubei, home to nearly 60 million people, are taking increasing flak from the public over their initial response to the coronavirus, while much of the province is now under travel curbs.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Wuhan on Monday to encourage medical workers and promised reinforcements. The most senior leader to visit the city since the outbreak, Li was shown on state TV leading medical workers in chants to boost morale.

‘FULL CONFIDENCE’

China’s ambassador to the United Nations, following a meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday, said the Chinese government “attaches paramount importance to prevention and control of the epidemic”.

“China has been working with the international community in the spirit of openness, transparency and scientific coordination,” he said.

Guterres said the UN had “full confidence in China’s ability to control the outbreak, and stands ready to provide any support and assistance”.

Communist-ruled China has been eager to seem open and transparent in its handling of the epidemic, having been heavily criticized for its efforts to cover up an epidemic of the SARS coronavirus that killed about 800 people globally in 2002-2003.

On China’s heavily censored social media, officials have faced mounting anger over the coronavirus, which is thought to have originated from a Wuhan market where wildlife was sold illegally.

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