Copy of 2020-02-14T134015Z_904445041_RC2D0F9TF7QI_RTRMADP_3_CHINA-HEALTH-1581690876141
A worker installs plastic film to separate the front seats from the back, inside a vehicle for a car-hailing service as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, China February 14, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT.
Image Credit: REUTERS

Beijing: Even as the death toll touched 1,380, China revealed on Friday that 1,716 medical workers have contracted the virus and six of them have died.

The announcement was the first official confirmation about the number of infected medical workers, and is likely to ratchet up fears about the spread of the virus. The death toll in China was 1,380 after adjustments for double-counting that had appeared to inflate the tally. Total cases topped 63,000.

Zeng Yixin, deputy director of the National Health Commission, said the numbers of infected workers represented 3.8 per cent of China’s overall confirmed infections as of February 11. The victims represented 0.4 per cent of all deaths nationwide.

Zeng said that Hubei, the province at the center of the outbreak, recorded 1,502 cases of infected medical workers, with 1,102 of them in Wuhan, the provincial capital. He added that further research was needed to ascertain whether the infections spread throughout the hospital or within the community.

“I think it’s quite concerning,” said Benjamin Cowling, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong. “Health care workers face the challenge of caring for a substantial number of patients in Wuhan. It’s worrying to discover that a number of them have been infected.”

Medical workers in Hubei, already working round the clock, face a shortage of personal protective equipment such as masks, gowns and safety goggles. They have resorted to begging from friends, putting out frequent calls for donations, and using tape to patch up torn masks and gowns. Many doctors and nurses there say they eat only one meal a day because going to the restroom means removing and discarding safety gowns that they would not be able to replace.

Hong Kong subsidies

Hong Kong announced a slew of cash subsidies on Friday to help businesses that have been battered by the coronavirus outbreak in a city already reeling from a recession.

The US-China trade war and months of seething pro-democracy protests last year had already pushed the business hub’s economy into negative territory.

The virus has compounded those woes, leading to an even more stark drop in tourist arrivals and empty streets, pushing many smaller businesses towards bankruptcy.

On Friday night the city’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam said the government would dip into its financial reserves – some of the world’s healthiest – to give cash subsidies to sectors hit hardest by the crisis.

“We hope to do our best to avoid large scale closures and lay-offs,” she told reporters.

Vietnam turns away cruise ship

Vietnam has turned away a German-owned cruise ship with more than 1,000 passengers on board over fears of coronavirus infections on board, state media reported on Friday.

Authorities in Quang Ninh province, home to the UNESCO world heritage site Ha Long Bay, decided on Tuesday not to allow passengers of the ship AIDAvita to disembark on Thursday, the official Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.

“The vessel has docked in the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore, which have all reported coronavirus cases,” VNA said.

“Not allowing AIDIvita’s passengers to disembark is just a temporary solution to prevent the intrusion of diseases,” VNA cited a local official as saying.