The death toll from the outbreak of a new coronavirus in China has surpassed 80, with authorities in Beijing warning that the mysterious virus is “getting stronger” despite unprecedented quarantine measures and travel lockdowns.
Two dozen new deaths reported in Hubei Province — the heart of the outbreak — and another in the southern island province of Hainan on Sunday, bringing the overall death toll to 81.
Confirmed infections also swelled to more than 2,700 across China.
According to report from the 30 provinces, “the number of infected is 2,744, critically ill is 461,” said the National Health Commission (NHC)’s spokesperson, Song Suli.
“The number of people discharged from hospital and cured is 51, while there are 5,794 suspected cases and 32,799 people who were in close contact with the infected,” the spokesperson added.
The never-before-seen virus — first reported in the central city of Wuhan, with a population of 11 million people — is transmissible before symptoms even appear, according to the NHC’s minister, Ma Xiaowei.
“According to recent clinical information, the virus’ ability to spread seems to be getting somewhat stronger,” Ma said.
Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Ma said the period between exposure to the virus and the appearance of first symptoms could range from one to 14 days.
Ma said that “the rate of development of the epidemic is accelerating,” warning that the outbreak “will continue for some time, and the number of cases may increase.”
Among the symptoms of the disease are nasal congestion, headache, cough, sore throat, and a fever, according to infectious disease expert and University of California San Francisco professor Charles Chiu.
There are no tests designed to detect this exact coronavirus strain, according to Chiu, who said the virus belongs to the family of viruses that cause common colds.
This is happening despite intensified efforts across China to contain the spread of the dangerous disease. Chinese authorities have put Wuhan under a lockdown, and impose sever curbs on movement in place in several other cities.
In Shanghai, Chinese government have sprayed residential areas with disinfectants to curb the spread of the virus.
The measures, however, have failed to prevent the fast-moving virus — believed to have originated in a seafood and poultry market in Wuhan — from crossing the Chinese border.
China premier in virus epicenter
On Monday, Premier Li Keqiang became the most senior Chinese leader to visit Wuhan since the city was struck by the epidemic. Wearing a mask and blue plastic scrubs, Li was in Wuhan to “investigate and guide” ongoing efforts to curb the virus in the city of 11 million people, said China’s State Council said on its official social media account.
The State Council, China’s cabinet, said Li would meet with patients and medical staff on the frontline, he added.
Beijing is scrambling two hospitals in Wuhan. The state-run People’s Daily reported Saturday that a 1,300-bed makeshift hospital in Wuhan will be built in the next 15 days in addition to the first 1,000-bed hospital being built in the city.