Government plays down coronavirus threat as death toll hits 212
More than 75,000 people – 10 times the official tally of confirmed cases – have been infected
with the coronavirus in Wuhan, ground
zero of a global health emergency, according to research published yesterday.
Local officials, however, continue to
play down the risk for Argentines.
“We estimate that 75,815 individuals
have been infected in Wuhan as of
January 25, 2020,” a team led by Gabriel
Leung from the University of Hong
Kong reported in The Lancet.
As of January 31, the Chinese government said the number of confirmed
cases had risen above 9,700 for all of
China, including 213 deaths.
For Hubei Province – including Wuhan, a city in central China of 11 million
– the official figure was nearly 6,000
confirmed cases and just over 200
The World Health Organisation on
Thursday declared the outbreak a global health emergency, but said it was
not recommending any international
trade or travel restrictions.
“The apparent discrepancy
between our modelled estimates of 2019-nCoV infections and the actual
number of confirmed
cases in Wuhan could be
due to several factors,”
Leung said in a statement.
If the virus spreads as
quickly on a national scale, “it
is possible that epidemics could be
already growing in multiple major Chinese cities, with a time lag of one to two
weeks behind Wuhan,” said co-author
Joseph Wu, a professor at the University of Hong Kong. “Large cities overseas
with close transport links to China
could potentially also become outbreak
If the new estimate of cases is accurate, it would mean that the mortality
rate of the 2019-nCoV virus is significantly lower than preliminary figures
suggested, with well under one percent
of cases proving deadly. But a low mortality rate can still result in a large number of deaths if the virus spread widely.
Nonetheless, on Friday the US issued
a rare federal quarantine order of 14
days for 195 US citizens who were evacuated from Wuhan. It came after one
of the individuals tried to leave the California military base where the repatriated citizens landed on a chartered
flight on Wednesday, and is the first
directive of its kind in over 50 years.
RISK TO ARGENTINES
Health Minister Ginés González
García held a press conference Thursday to calm fears among Argentines
that the outbreak could spread
to the country.
“We are in constant contact with the WHO. There
are no cases in Argentina,”
he said. “Ninety-nine percent of the cases are in China. Or [involve] people who
have been to China.”
The national official assured that “there are no different circumstances” with
respect to the country’s situation with respect to the
“We took different measures, the first was to meet with
a committee of experts,” he explained.
“We have prepared the laboratories
to identify a possible case. There was
a meeting with Immigration, Customs,
the Foreign Ministry and agencies
within airports,” Gonzalez Garcia
In relation to the number of infected,
he mentioned that “there are 12 Argentines in Wuhan who are in quarantine
and in other cities, we know that they
are all well. We advise, if it is not imperative, not to travel to China,” he
The minister spoke before news
emerged that some 7,000 tourists –
including approximately 35 Argentines – were stranded on
board a Costa cruise ship
near the port of Civitavecchia, 80 kilometres from
Rome, Italy, amid fears of
a coronavirus outbreak.
According to ANSA, after
the case was reported, specialists from Spallanzani hospital
entered the ship and attended to a Chinese tourist with a feverish condition.
A woman identified as Gabriela, one
of the people on the cruise-ship, spoke
to the TN news channel on Thursday.
“We had to go to Rome for an excursion, and we were told that we were
delayed because there were routine
health controls,” explained the tourist
from the cruise.
“The captain warned through loudspeakers that due to the coronavirus,
they were going to make take more
exhaustive controls than usual,” she
Among the passengers, there are 35
people of Argentine nationality, according to the nation’s consul in Rome,
María Lucía Dougherty de Sánchez.