Hundreds of medics are being sent to help deal with a rising number of cases of the new coronavirus in China’s central metropolis of Wuhan, health authorities said on Monday.
Eighty people had died and 2,744 people were confirmed infected across China as of Monday, marking a rise in the death toll of 24 since Sunday morning, according to the National Health Commission.
China sent 959 medical teams from other provinces to Wuhan, in Hubei province, where the virus was first discovered in December.
Wuhan’s hospitals have been overflowing with patients, with hundreds forced to queue over the past week for medical treatment, according to media reports and videos shared by patients and family members on social media.
Medics from the People’s Liberation Army had already been dispatched to offer relief, and construction has begun on two new hospitals that are supposed to be finished by February.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Wuhan on Monday and attended a briefing about efforts to contain the disease.
China has tried to curb new infections by cordoning off entire cities in the central Hubei province right in the midst of the Lunar New Year, when millions of people normally travel to take holidays and visit family in other parts of the vast country.
The government on Monday announced that it was extending the Lunar New Year holiday until Sunday in a bid to limit the number of people travelling this week.
The holiday was initially supposed to end on Thursday.
Authorities estimate that well over 5,000 people are carrying the virus, which scientists say is infectious even during its incubation period.
The real number could be much higher. Gabriel Leung, head of the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong, said
He said his team’s research indicated that there were likely around 44,000 cases at the incubation stage.
Most of those who died from lung disease after catching the virus were elderly or had pre-existing conditions.
The number of cases outside the Chinese mainland and in the wider region have meanwhile continued to rise.
Eighteen cases have been reported in the semi-autonomous regions of Hong Kong and Macao and in self-ruled Taiwan.
Mongolia on Monday announced it was shutting down schools and closing border crossings with China for vehicles and pedestrians amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.
Schools, kindergartens and universities across Mongolia are to close from Monday until Sunday, the Montsame news agency said.
The country has not yet reported any cases of the new coronavirus so far.
Cambodia confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus on Monday, carried by a 60-year-old Chinese man who had arrived from Wuhan.
Cases of the coronavirus have also been reported in South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Nepal, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the United States, France and Australia.
Many countries in Europe and Asia are planning to repatriate their citizens from Wuhan. Japan, the United States and France have already begun repatriation operations.
Thailand is working to bring back Thai nationals following a widely publicised call for help from a university student in Wuhan.
“The planes are ready but they [the Chinese] won’t let us go yet,’’ Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told reporters.
Germany was also considering flying home its citizens from China in light of the deadly outbreak, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.
Washington was willing to offer any help that is necessary, U.S. President Donald Trump said.
“We are in very close communication with China concerning the virus. Very few cases reported in the USA, but strongly on watch,” Mr Trump said in a tweet.