Hong Kong records first death from new coronavirus

Overall toll over 420

A worker in protective suit serves customers at a pharmacy following an outbreak of the new coronavirus in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 1, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS

Hong Kong reported its first death from the newly identified coronavirus on Tuesday, the second fatality outside mainland China from an outbreak that has killed over 420 people, spread around the world and raised fears for global economic growth.

China’s currency and stock markets steadied in choppy trade after anxiety over the spreading coronavirus on Monday hit the yuan and erased some $400 billion in market value from Shanghai’s benchmark index.

More foreigners were evacuated from China’s locked down central city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, and thousands of people were stranded on a Japanese cruise ship after one passenger tested positive for the virus.

The Hong Kong fatality brought the total death toll from the virus to 427, including a man who died in the Philippines last week after visiting Wuhan. Chinese authorities said the toll in China rose by a record 64 from the previous day to 425, mostly in Hubei province of which Wuhan is the capital.

New cases were reported in the United States including a patient in California who was infected through close contact with someone in the same household who had been infected in China.

It marked the second instance of person-to-person spread of the virus in the United States after another such case was reported last week in Illinois. 

“We expect to see more cases of person-to-person spread,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The total number of infections in China rose by 3,235 to 20,438, and there were at least 151 cases in 23 other countries and regions. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the flu-like virus a global emergency, although experts say much is still unknown about the pathogen, including its mortality rate and transmission pathways.