HK reports first death of coronavirus patient

BEIJING (AFP) – Hong Kong yesterday became the second place outside mainland China to report the death of a coronavirus patient as restrictions on movement were imposed in more cities far from the epicentre, including the home of tech giant Alibaba.

The toll on the mainland soared to 425 deaths after 64 more people died, the biggest single day tally since the first fatalities emerged last month.

In a sign of growing concerns about infections rising further in major metropolitan areas, authorities in eastern Zhejiang province limited the number of people allowed to venture outside in three cities.

Three districts in Hangzhou – including the area where the main office of Chinese tech giant Alibaba is based – decided to allow only one person per household to go outside every two days to buy necessities, affecting some three million people.

The city is only 175 kilometres southwest of Shanghai, which has more than 200 cases, including one death, so far.

A medical worker wearing protective gear (C) waits to take the temperature of people in an entrance of Princess Margaret Hospital in Hong Kong yesterday. PHOTO: AFP

Similar measures were imposed in Taizhou and three districts in Ningbo, with total populations of nine million, days after the same was done in Wenzhou, home to another nine million people.

Zhejiang province has confirmed 829 cases – the highest number outside the central region of Hubei, whose capital, Wuhan, is the epicentre of the outbreak.

The disease is believed to have emerged in a market in Wuhan that sold wild animals, spreading rapidly as people travelled for the Lunar New Year holiday in late January.

China has struggled to contain the virus despite enacting unprecedented measures, including locking down more than 50 million people in Hubei.

The death of the 39-year-old man in Hong Kong came as the semi-autonomous city closed all but two land crossings with the Chinese mainland to slow the spread of the virus.

Hong Kong media said the man had underlying health issues that complicated his treatment. He had visited Wuhan last month.

Hong Kong has been particularly on edge over the virus as it has revived memories of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002-03, which killed nearly 300 people in the financial hub and 349 people in the mainland.

With more than 20,400 confirmed infections in China, the mortality rate for the new coronavirus is much lower than the 9.6 per cent rate for SARS.