The US embassy in Beijing reported that an American citizen diagnosed with coronavirus died at Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the virus outbreak on Thursday (6). “We offer our sincere condolences to the family for the loss,” said the spokesman. “Out of respect for family privacy, we have no further comment.” According to the New York Times, the victim is a woman.
A Japanese hospitalized with pneumonia in Wuhan also died after suffering flu-like symptoms, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The 60-year-old man was suspected of having been infected with the coronavirus, but due to difficulties in diagnosis, the cause of death was reported as viral pneumonia, the ministry said, citing Chinese medical officials.
As of midday on Thursday, 17 foreigners were being quarantined and treated for the disease in China, according to government data.
The total death toll in mainland China rose by 86 on Saturday (8), reaching a total of 722 since the outbreak began. Thus, the death toll from the new coronavirus is about to pass the 774 deaths recorded globally during the 2002-2003 SARS pandemic, caused by another type of coronavirus that migrated from animals to humans in China.
During the SARS outbreak, between November 2002 and July 2003, the number of reported cases was 8,098, suggesting a much lower transmission rate for this coronavirus, but with a higher mortality rate.
So far, only two deaths have been reported outside mainland China – in Hong Kong and the Philippines – from around 332 cases in 27 countries and regions. Both victims were Chinese citizens.
“It is difficult to say how lethal this new coronavirus infection is,” said Professor Allen Cheng, an infectious disease specialist at Monash University in Melbourne. “Although gross mortality appears to be around 2%, it is likely that many infected people have not been tested. We will probably not know the true fatality of the case for some time yet.”
Hubei officials recorded 81 new deaths, 67 of them in Wuhan, a city under virtual blockade. Across mainland China, excluding the 2,050 people who recovered and those who died, the number of pending cases was 31,774.
The Beijing official isolated cities, canceled flights and closed factories to contain the epidemic, with negative effects on global markets and businesses dependent on the world’s second largest economy.
News of the death of Li Wenliang, a doctor who raised the alarm about the new coronavirus, aroused sadness and outrage on Chinese social media and rekindled memories of how long it took for Beijing to tell the world about the SARS outbreak.
Li, who succumbed to the disease at a hospital in Wuhan, was among eight people scolded by police in the city for spreading “illegal and false” information after he shared details of the virus with colleagues.