There were 1,700 new cases of the coronavirus reported in China on Thursday, as the death toll from the disease reached 170.
There are now almost 8,000 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in China, and it has now spread to every area in the country. Tibet, the last uninfected region, confirmed its first case on Thursday.
The continuing exponential spread of the virus inside China, together with the slow-but-steady spread to an increasing number of other countries, has led the World Health Organization’s emergency committee to meet in Geneva on Thursday, its third meeting in a week.
The committee will once again consider whether the outbreak constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern” and what steps the WHO should take to deal with it.
The infection rate of the new coronavirus will soon pass that of SARS, the 2003 epidemic that saw 8,098 infections and 774 deaths. While the fatality rate of the new virus is nowhere near that of SARS, experts warn that infection levels are going to continue to rise rapidly for weeks, if not months.
There are currently 79 confirmed cases of coronavirus reported in 16 countries around the world. On Thursday, India and the Philippines confirmed their first cases, while South Korea confirmed its first human-to-human transmission.
The WHO praised Beijing’s efforts to contain the virus, which include the lockdown of tens of millions of people in central Hubei province, the building of a new hospital in 10 days, the cancellation of major public events like soccer matches and Lunar New Year celebrations, and the closure of public spaces like bars and cinemas.
“We were very impressed with the level of engagement with the Chinese government at all levels,” Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s emergency health program, said at a press conference on Wednesday. “I have never seen the scale and commitment of an epidemic response at this level. The challenge is great, but the response has been massive.”