China says COVID-19 epidemic peak has passed


China’s National Health Commission said the peak of the Coronavirus outbreak in the country has passed, as it reported the lowest number of new infections in seven weeks.

The number of new Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continues to decline while the epidemic maintains a lower level overall, Mi Feng, a spokesperson for the health commission, said on Thursday.

The commission earlier reported its lowest count of new Coronavirus infections since it started providing daily updates seven weeks ago.

Fifteen new Coronavirus infections and 11 deaths were reported across mainland China over the past day, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country to 80,793, including 3,169 deaths.

The announcement came after President, Xi Jinping on Tuesday for the first time visted the industrial hub of Wuhan, which is considered the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

Xi struck a triumphal tone as he declared the virus basically curbed in Hubei province, home to Wuhan, and a victory nationwide, according to Xinhua news agency.

Meanwhile, South Korea reported its lowest number of daily infections of the novel Coronavirus in two weeks, with figures on Thursday showing 114 new cases and six more deaths, according to Yonhap news agency.

This brings the total number of cases to 7,869 and the death toll up to 66, according to the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The majority of the cases including 73 of the latest ones were concentrated in the south-eastern city of Daegu and the surrounding North Gyeongsang Province.

In Japan, the number of confirmed cases of the Coronavirus infection has steadily increased to 1,337, including about 700 on the Diamond Princess Cruise ship in the port of Yokohama.

A total of 23 people have died of COVID-19, the government said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced an economic stimulus package worth 17.6 billion Australian dollars (11.4 billion U. S dollars) to counter the financial impacts of the virus pandemic.

The Australian government said the country has 126 cases, including three deaths as of Thursday morning.

Also in Australia, U.S actor Tom Hanks said on Twitter he and his wife have tested positive for Coronavirus in the country’s Gold Coast region and are in isolation.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte was due to be tested for COVID-19 after being exposed to an official who tested positive for the virus last week, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

The president did not have symptoms, the spokesman added.

The Asian Development Bank decided on Thursday to temporarily close its headquarters in Manila after receiving information that a recent visitor has tested positive for the new coronavirus.

All staff were working from home while the headquarters was being cleaned and disinfected, the bank said in a statement.

In a separate statement, the bank said it was making available 200 million dollars in financing for companies manufacturing and distributing medicines and other items needed to combat the outbreak.

Shoppers in Taiwan placed 35,000 orders for surgical masks in two hours after they became available to buy online on Thursday, the government said.

The new system aims to provide fair distribution of the surgical masks and will reduce long lines at drug stores.

Amid fears of supply shortages due to the spread of COVID-19, the Taiwan government banned surgical mask exports in January and on February 6 implemented a rationing system of two masks per person per week.

The government and private sector worked together to set up 60 new surgical mask production lines to meet local demand.

The average daily domestic production reached 10 million this week, according to the Taiwanese government’s executive branch.

In Cambodia, about 60 people on a river cruise ship docked in the country remain quarantined after three British passengers tested positive for COVID-19, local media reported.

According to the Cambodian Health Ministry, a British couple had tested positive on Wednesday, after another 65-year-old British woman on the Viking cruise ship was hospitalised with the virus earlier this week, government-aligned media portal Fresh News said.

The couple raised Cambodia’s total confirmed COVID-19 cases to five.

Coronavirus case numbers in Malaysia and Singapore remain by a distance the highest in south-east Asia, at 149 and 178, respectively, as of Wednesday evening.

On Thursday, Malaysia’s Health Ministry urged the postponement of all mass gatherings after it emerged that an estimated 5,000-10,000 people met at an Islamic ceremony in Kuala Lumpur in late February that was also attended by a Bruneian who subsequently tested positive for the virus.

Thailand has reported 70 cases of the new coronavirus infection. Of the 70 cases, 35 people have been already discharged while 34 others are receiving treatment in hospital, according to information provided by the Public Health Ministry on Thursday. (dpa/NAN)

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