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Wuhan hospitals need more staff and supplies as death toll passes that of Sars virus

Dozens more people have died in the city at the centre of Chinas coronavirus outbreak, where hospitals are severely undersupplied and understaffed and residents have described increasingly desperate conditions.

Chinese state media reported 57 new deaths on Monday, all but one in Wuhan, the capital of the central province of Hubei which has been under lockdown for almost two weeks as authorities try to contain the outbreak.

The foreign ministry issued an urgent appeal for protective medical equipment as the total number of casualties reached 361, surpassing deaths in mainland China caused by the 2002-03 Sars virus. The number of infections also jumped, passing 17,200.

Number of cases

What China urgently needs at present are medical masks, protective suits and safety goggles, the foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a press briefing.

Authorities in provinces that are home to more than 300 million people including Guangdong, the countrys most populous have ordered everyone to wear masks in public in an effort to contain the virus. But factories capable of producing about 20 million masks a day are only operating at between 60 and 70% of capacity, according to the ministry of industry.

Hua also criticised the US, where a ban on people travelling from China went into effect on Sunday. The US and other countries had overreacted to the outbreak and Washington had not given China any substantive help, instead only creating and spreading panic, Hua said.

A video apparently filmed in No 5 Wuhan hospital went viral showing body bags in a bus, and a man weeping next to his dead father. In the video, the person filming says: So many people just died. There are so many dead bodies they are still moving bodies.

The state news agency Xinhua said 68 medical teams of 8,300 staff from across China had been sent to Hubei. One of two new emergency hospitals built in the last 10 days to house patients infected by the virus was due to open on Monday. State media said 1,400 military medics would be sent to run the facility.

The virus has spread to more than 24 countries. Several, including allies of Beijing, have begun to close their borders to Chinese nationals and travellers from the country.

Quick guide

What is the coronavirus and should we be worried?

What is the virus causing illness in Wuhan?

It is a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before. Like other coronaviruses, it has come from animals, or possibly seafood. New and troubling viruses usually originate in animal hosts. Ebola and flu are examples.

What other coronaviruses have there been?

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (Mers) are both caused by coronaviruses that came from animals.

What are the symptoms of the Wuhan coronavirus?

The virus causespneumonia. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. In severe cases there can be organ failure. As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs we have against flu will not work. If people are admitted to hospital, they may get support for their lungs and other organs as well as fluids. Recovery will depend on the strength of their immune system. Many of those who have died are known to have been already in poor health.

Is the virus being transmitted from one person to another?

Human to human transmission has been confirmed by Chinas national health commission. As of 3 February, 361 people have died in China, and one in the Philippines. Confirmed infections in China are 17,238, and the official Chinese figures include Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. Outside ofChina, infections stand at more than 150.

Two members of one family have been confirmed to have the virus in the UK, after more than 160 were tested and found negative. The actual number to have contracted the virus could be far higher as people with mild symptoms may not have been detected. Modelling byWorld Health Organization(WHO) experts at Imperial College London suggests there could be as many as 100,000 cases, with uncertainty putting the margins between 30,000 and 200,000.

How worried are the experts?

There were fears that the coronavirus might spread more widely during the week-long lunar new year holidays, which start on 24 January, when millions of Chinese travel home to celebrate, but the festivities have largely been cancelled and Wuhan and other Chinese cities are in lockdown.

At what point should you go to the doctor if you have a cough, say?

Unless you have recently travelled to China or been in contact with someone infected with the virus, then you should treat any cough or cold symptoms as normal. TheNHS advisesthat there is generally no need to visit a doctor for a cough unless it is persistent or you are having other symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing or you feel very unwell.

Should we panic?

No. The spread of the virus outside China is worrying but not an unexpected development. It increases the likelihood that the WorldHealthOrganization will declare the outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern on Thursday evening. The key concerns are how transmissible this new coronavirus is between people and what proportion become severely ill and end up in hospital.

Sarah BoseleyHealth editor andHannah Devlin

On Monday, hundreds of medical workers in Hong Kong walked out of their jobs to protest against the refusal by the chief executive, Carrie Lam, to shut the citys border with China. Hong Kong, which is particularly vulnerable because of its proximity to China and constant flow of Chinese tourists, has confirmed 15 cases of the coronavirus.

Closing the border is the only solution even though this is not a decision to be made by Carrie Lam. She has to consult with Beijing, said Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong.

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Wuhan hospitals under pressure as China says coronavirus is getting stronger video

Chinas economy is likely to take a major hit from the outbreak. Chinese stocks fell by almost 9% on Monday after the market reopened following the lunar new year national holiday, which had been extended because of the outbreak.

Chinas central bank said it would inject 1.2tn yuan (130bn) into the markets to shore up the banking system and provide monetary and credit support to struggling companies.

A flight carrying evacuees landed in Australia on Monday before a 14-day quarantine at a notorious offshore immigration detention centre.

The Qantas charter flight carrying 243 passengers including 89 children touched down at an air force base near the remote Western Australian town of Exmouth.

The Australian citizens and permanent residents on board were to be flown in smaller planes to Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/03/coronavirus-dozens-more-deaths-chinese-province-centre-outbreak-hubei