Coronavirus: Hong Kong records 2nd death outside mainland China

A few Chinese wearing protective face masks visit a normally bustling, international shopping mall in Beijing on Friday. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI

Feb. 4 (UPI) — A 39-year-old man in Hong Kong infected with the coronavirus died Tuesday, health officials said, making the semiautonomous region the second place outside of mainland China to report a death from the mysterious new illness.

The Hong Kong Hospital Authority confirmed the death in a statement emailed to UPI, stating the patient “deteriorated and succumbed” to the coronavirus called 2019-nCoV Tuesday morning at the Prince Margaret Hospital.

The patient was admitted to the hospital on Friday with a fever and was reported in stable condition, the Hong Kong government said in a statement, adding the Hong Kong resident had traveled to Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, on Jan. 21 and returned to the semiautonomous region two days later. The government also said in a statement on Sunday that his mother, a 72-year-old woman suffering from an underlying illness, contracted the virus but had not traveled to Wuhan and was at home during the illness’ 14-day incubation period, suggesting she was infected by her son.

The patient’s wife, son, daughter and a domestic helper are currently under quarantine and remain asymptomatic, the government said.

The man’s death is the second to occur outside mainland China after a 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan who died in the Philippines on Saturday.

News of the man’s death follows Chinese health officials announcing on Tuesday that the number of deaths on the mainland connected to the coronavirus increased by 64 from the day prior, raising the death toll nationwide to 425 as the number of confirmed infections surpasses 20,000.

A total of 3,235 new cases of confirmed infections were also reported Tuesday, equaling 20,438 throughout China with 2,788 patients listed as in serious condition, the national health officials said.

All of the deaths over the past 24 hours occurred in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, with 48 reported in the city of Wuhan, where the disease is believed to have emerged from.

Health officials in Hubei province said 2,345 new confirmed cases of the disease were reported as of Monday at midnight with more than half located in Wuhan, which has been under lockdown since mid-January to stem the spread of the disease.

Worldwide, a total of 153 cases have been reported in 23 countries aside from China, all of which have had close contact with travelers to the region, according to data from the World Health Organization, with Japan recording the highest number of 20 followed by Thailand with 19.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced via Twitter on Tuesday that 241 citizens who have been trapped in Wuhan since the lockdown were repatriated and were under quarantine on Christmas Island following a “complex and very challenging” evacuation operation.

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Morrison unveiled the plan last Wednesday to evacuate hundreds of their citizens from the coronavirus-stricken city by plane to be quarantined on the remote Australian island for up to two weeks, the incubation period of the virus.

He said the Australian government is now working with Chinese authorities on securing a second flight from Wuhan, to bring back hundreds more citizens still believed to be in Hubei province.

“We are also working with the New Zealand government to access seats on their plane, subject to availability,” he said.

Twelve cases of the 2019-nCoV have been confirmed in Australia, the country’s Department of Health said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, director-general of the New Zealand Ministry of Health, told reporters Tuesday that an Air New Zealand plane in Hong Kong has been given permission to land in Wuhan on Tuesday evening to evacuate its citizens from the city and return them to Auckland on Wednesday.

The number of passengers was still being worked out, but 263 people had registered to travel, the majority being New Zealand citizens, some Australians and few foreign nationals, specifically from Pacific Island countries, he said.

“The experience of other countries that have undertaken similar flights is that the number who end up on the flight is not really known until the flight takes off,” he said. “Some people experience difficulties traveling to the airport. There is also the process of exit screening by the Chinese authorities and then, of course, as you know, we have our own health assessment before people can board the flight.”

There has not been a confirmed coronavirus case in New Zealand, and the passengers arriving in New Zealand will be isolated at a military facility at Whangaparaoa, north of Auckland, for 14 days, the Department of Health said.

On Monday, Canada officials said they have chartered a flight to repatriate 280 Canadians who have made requests with the government for assisted departure from Wuhan.

The plane is currently waiting in Hanoi, Vietnam, for Chinese officials to give final permission for the plane to land in Wuhan, said Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne in a press conference.

Those who return to Canada will be quarantined at a Canadian Forces base in Trenton, Ontario, for 14 days, Global Affairs Canada has said.

Meanwhile, Taiwan announced Tuesday that it was tightening border restrictions with mainland China.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that, starting Friday, foreign nationals who have visited or lived in mainland China within 14 days will be barred from entering the island.

It said the move was being implemented to “safeguard public health security” during the outbreak.

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