China virus toll hits 722, with first foreign victim

BEIJING (AFP) – The death toll from the novel coronavirus outbreak soared to 722 in China yesterday, including the first foreign victim, as Hong Kong imposed a mandatory quarantine on mainland arrivals to block the spread of an epidemic that has caused global panic.

With 86 more people dying in mainland China – the highest one-day jump so far – the toll was closing in on the 774 killed worldwide during the 2002-2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic.

A 60-year-old US citizen diagnosed with the virus died on Thursday in Wuhan, the city at the epicentre of the health emergency, according to the United States (US) embassy, which did not provide more details about the person.

China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement to AFP that the victim was a US citizen of Chinese origin.

A Japanese man in his 60s with a suspected coronavirus infection also died in hospital in Wuhan, the Japanese foreign ministry said, adding that it was “difficult” to confirm if he had the illness.

The only fatalities outside the mainland were a Chinese man in the Philippines and a 39-year-old man in Hong Kong.