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SHANGHAI/BEIJING, FEBRUARY 4: China accused the US on Monday of whipping up panic over a fast-spreading coronavirus with travel restrictions and evacuations as Chinese stocks plunged on the first day back from the extended Lunar New Year holiday.
The death toll in China from the newly identified virus, which emerged in Wuhan, capital of the central province of Hubei, rose to 361 as of Sunday, up 57 from the previous day, the National Health Commission said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) last week declared the flu-like virus a global emergency and it has since spread to 23 other countries and regions. The first death outside China was reported on Sunday ~ that of a 44-year-old Chinese man who had travelled from Wuhan to the Philippines.
Airlines around the world have suspended flights but Pakistan, a close Chinese ally, bucked the trend on Monday and said it was resuming air travel after a 3-day suspension.
Wuhan and some other cities remain in virtual lockdown with travel severely restricted, and China is facing increasing global isolation.
China accused the US of spreading fear by pulling its nationals out and restricting travel instead of offering significant aid. Relations between the two sides had just begun to recover after a long and bruising trade war.
Washington has “unceasingly manufactured and spread panic”, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters, noting that the WHO had advised against trade and travel curbs.
“It is precisely developed countries like the United States with strong epidemic prevention capabilities and facilities that have taken the lead in imposing excessive restrictions contrary to WHO recommendations,” she added, saying countries should make reasonable, calm and science-based judgments.
There was no immediate official comment from the United States.
Hospital built in 8 days
A 1,000-bed hospital built in 8 days to treat people with the virus in Wuhan was due to receive its first patients on Monday, state media said. More than 7,500 workers took part in the construction, begun on Jan. 25.
A second hospital in Wuhan with 1,600 beds is due to be ready on February 5.
While countries have been trying to block the virus with travel bans, they have also been getting stranded citizens out of Wuhan.
The United States, which flew people out last week, is planning “a handful more flights” while Russia was due to start evacuating its citizens from Wuhan on Monday.
Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, rocked by months of sometimes violent anti-China protests, announced the closure of 4 more border crossings with mainland China, leaving just 3 open.
Australia evacuated 243 people from Wuhan and will quarantine them on a remote island. On Saturday it had followed the United States in barring entry to all foreign nationals travelling from mainland China.
The virus is thought to have emerged late last year in a Wuhan market illegally trading wildlife.
The number of deaths in China has now passed the total Chinese toll from the 2002-03 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), another coronavirus that emerged from China and killed almost 800 people around the world.
Even so, Chinese data suggests the new coronavirus, while more contagious than SARS, is significantly less lethal, although such numbers can evolve rapidly. (Agencies)