The number of new cases of the coronavirus in China dropped for a second straight day, health officials said Wednesday in a possible glimmer of hope amid the outbreak that has infected over 45,000 people worldwide and killed more than 1,100.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, promised tax cuts and other aid to industry as the ruling Communist Party tries to limit the mounting damage to the economy. And in Japan, 39 new cases were confirmed on a cruise ship quarantined at Yokohama, bringing the total to 174 on the Diamond Princess.
A look at the latest developments in the crisis, which started in December in the city of Wuhan:
The number of new cases has trended down in the past week, raising hopes that the epidemic may be plateauing.
China’s National Health Commission said 2,015 new cases had been tallied on Tuesday, the second straight daily decline and down from nearly 3,900 a week ago. Commission spokesman Mi Feng said the situation is still grim but “we have seen some positive changes.”
In Geneva, Dr. Mike Ryan, the head of emergencies for the World Health Organization, said “it’s way too early to try to predict the beginning of the end” of the outbreak in China. But he said it is reassuring that the number of daily cases appears to be stabilizing, mainly because of China’s huge public health operation, which has placed an unprecedented 60 million people under lockdown.
All but one of the deaths recorded so far have been in China, as have more than 99 per cent of all reported infections in the world.
China is struggling to restart its economy after the annual Lunar New Year holiday was extended to try to curb the spread of the virus. Traffic remained light in Beijing, and many people were still working at home.
Xi’s announcement of tax cuts came as companies face increasing losses because of the closing of factories, offices, shops and other businesses in the most sweeping anti-disease measures ever imposed.
A large cluster of cases in Tianjin, a port city southeast of Beijing, has been traced to a department store, Chinese state media said. One-third of Tianjin’s 104 confirmed cases are in Baodi district, where the store is situated, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
A salesperson in the store’s home appliance section was the first diagnosed on Jan. 31, Xinhua said, and a series of cases followed. None of those infected had visited Wuhan recently, and with the exception of one married couple, they worked in different sections of the store and did not know one another.
Elsewhere around the world, DBS bank in Singapore cleared its office, telling 300 employees to work from home after it learned that an employee had been infected. The city-state has 50 confirmed cases.