China’s Xi Jinping pledges to overcome ‘devil’ coronavirus
Hong Kong cuts transport links with mainland in attempt to limit spread of disease
President Xi Jinping said China would defeat the “devil” coronavirus that has killed more than 100 people in the country, as Hong Kong moved to isolate itself from the spread of the disease by closing its high-speed rail link to the mainland.
“The epidemic is a devil. We cannot let the devil hide,” Mr Xi said in a meeting with Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, in Beijing on Tuesday, according to state media.
Following comments from the mayor of Wuhan, the quarantined city at the centre of the outbreak, that details of the Sars-like virus were not disclosed as quickly as they could have been, Mr Xi said information would be shared “transparently, responsibly and in a timely way”. He added: “We have complete confidence and ability to win this defensive battle against the epidemic.”
Mr Ghebreyesus praised China’s government for its handling of the outbreak, according to state media, which reported the WHO chief as saying that the response showcased “China’s speed, China’s scale, and China’s efficiency . . . This is the advantage of China’s system, worthy for other countries to learn from.” The WHO was not available immediately for comment or to confirm the remarks.
The meeting came as Hong Kong stepped up its defence against an outbreak that has killed 106 people, with almost 4,500 confirmed cases in China. The number of infections is up sharply from the previous day as the respiratory illness spread over the lunar new year holiday.
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong leader, said on Tuesday that rail services to the mainland would be suspended from Thursday and the number of flights would be halved, as she suspended permits for Chinese tourists visiting the territory.
Ms Lam, who at her media briefing wore a surgical face mask, has been under public pressure to close the border with the mainland after Hong Kong’s first six coronavirus cases came via the high-speed China rail link.
Researchers at University of Hong Kong forecast the virus would spread further. The university estimated that at least 25,630 people in Wuhan were showing symptoms of the disease and about 44,000 were infected but had yet to show symptoms.
Financial markets fell further on the expected economic fallout from the crisis after several Chinese cities extended the traditional lunar new year holiday by an extra week in an effort to prevent the disease from spreading.
Singapore’s FTSE Straits Times dropped 2.6 per cent, Seoul’s Kospi index was down 3.1 per cent and Tokyo’s Topix fell another 1 per cent after heavy losses on Monday.
Markets in China remain closed for the new year holiday, but analysts expect a sharp drop in Hong Kong when the city’s stock exchange reopens on Wednesday.
Japan has announced the first case of coronavirus transmission within its borders: a man in his sixties from Nara prefecture who drove a bus for two parties of tourists from Wuhan. It was one of two new cases announced in Japan on Tuesday, making six in total.