The death toll from a new flu-like coronavirus in China rose to nine on Wednesday with 440 confirmed cases, Chinese health officials said as authorities stepped up efforts to control the outbreak by discouraging public gatherings in Hubei province.
Another 2,197 cases of close contact with patients had been confirmed and there was evidence of “respiratory transmission” of the virus, National Health Commission vice-minister Li Bin told reporters.
As China also vowed to tighten containment measures in hospitals, the World Health Organization is due to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to determine whether the outbreak of the new coronavirus constitutes a global health emergency.
The virus, originating in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei at the end of last year, has spread to Chinese cities including Beijing and Shanghai, as well as the United States, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.
The WHO said on Tuesday the new coronavirus was likely to spread to other parts of China and possibly other countries in coming days.