China coronavirus death toll surges

The death toll from China’s coronavirus outbreak has surpassed 250, the government said on Saturday, as foreign nations tightened restrictions on travellers from China in response to the rapid spread of the illness.

At least 259 people have died and 11,791 people have been infected in China by the new coronavirus, according to new figures from China’s health officials, with thousands more suspected of having the virus, according to Chinese state media.

Most of the latest fatalities are from Hubei province, the capital of which – Wuhan – is the epicentre of the outbreak, but cases of infection have been reported in with more than 20 countries around the world.

Here are the latest updates:

Saturday, February 1
HK doctors and nurses vote to close China border
Members of a newly-formed public hospitals union have voted overwhelmingly in favour of closing Hong Kong’s borders with mainland China.

More than 3,000 nurses and doctors registered with the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance voted to strike next week to pressure the Hong Kong government to close the eight remaining open border points. Ten members voted against the strike while 25 marked their ballots as undecided.

A registered nurse named Ada who voted said she felt “disappointed in the government” for ignoring the advice of local health experts and refusing to close Hong Kong’s borders.

Hubei extends holiday break to Feb 13
China’s Hubei provincial government has extended the Lunar New Year holiday break to February 13, as it seeks to curb the coronavirus outbreak, the Hubei Daily newspaper reported on Saturday.

Russia to begin evacuating citizens from China
Russia’s aerospace defence forces, part of the armed forces, will start evacuating Russian citizens on Saturday from China due to the coronavirus outbreak, news agencies reported, citing the Kremlin spokesman.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the evacuation would take place in regions that had been most affected by the outbreak, Interfax and TASS news agencies reported.

Qatar Airways suspends flights to China
Qatar Airways will suspend flights to mainland China from Monday until further notice, the national carrier said.

In a statement it said it was encountering “significant operational challenges caused by entry restrictions imposed by several countries,” following the coronavirus outbreak in China.

North Korea’s Kim offers condolences to China’s Xi
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping offering condolences about the coronavirus outbreak in China, North Korean state news agency KCNA reported.

Kim “expressed the conviction that the party, government and people of China would surely emerge victorious in the campaign to combat the disease” under Xi’s guidance, KCNA said.

Uzbekistan to suspend flights to and from China
The government of Uzbekistan instructed the state airline to suspend flights to and from China over the coronavirus epidemic, the cabinet said.

Charter flights will bring back Uzbek citizens if they wish to return, except from Wuhan, it said

Turkmenistan airline suspends Beijing flights
Turkmenistan Airlines, the Central Asian nation’s state carrier, suspended flights to and from Beijing, the company said.

The move was aimed at preventing the spread of the 2019-nCoV virus which has prompted many other nations to suspend travel links with China, the company said in a statement.

Iran bans flights to and from China
Iran banned flights to and from China due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus, Minister of Health and Medical Education Saeed Namaki was quoted by Iranian media as saying.

Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri stressed the measure would only be temporary.

So far, there have been no confirmed cases of the deadly virus in Iran.

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