Coronavirus death toll surges as fears grow for Chinese economy

Volunteers in protective suits help a man with registration at a checkpoint of a residential compound, following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 9, 2020. Picture taken February 9, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS

The death toll from the coronavirus epidemic in mainland China soared past 1,000 on Tuesday with a record daily rise in fatalities, while the prolonged disruption to factories and businesses played havoc with the world’s second-largest economy.

China reported 108 new coronavirus deaths on Feb. 10, the highest daily increase so far, and up from 97 on the previous day, the health authority said on Tuesday.

Of the new deaths, 103 were in the province of Hubei, including 67 in the provincial capital of Wuhan where the epidemic is believed to have originated.

The total toll on the mainland has now reached 1,016. 

The commission said there were another 2,478 new confirmed cases on the mainland on Feb. 10, down from 3,062 on the previous day and bringing the accumulated total to 42,638.

During a meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Monday, a group of leaders tasked with beating the virus said it would work to solve raw material and labour shortages and boost supplies of masks and protective clothing. 

They said nearly 20,000 medical personnel from around the country had already been sent to Wuhan, and more medical teams were also on the way.

It was the second time in the past two weeks that authorities recorded a daily drop in new cases, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has cautioned the spread of cases outside of China could be “the spark that becomes a bigger fire”.

So far only 319 cases have been confirmed in 24 other countries and territories, according to WHO and Chinese health officials, with two deaths outside mainland China in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Hundreds of Chinese firms say they will need billions of dollars in loans to stay afloat and layoffs have begun, despite assurances by President Xi Jinping that widespread sackings would be avoided.