The Slatest

Coronavirus Death Toll Surpasses SARS Amid Hints Spread May Be Slowing

A man wearing a protective mask walks under a bridge.
A man wearing a protective mask walks through an old city gate on Sunday in Wuhan, China.
Stringer/Getty Images

The number of people killed by the new coronavirus oubreak increased by 89, bringing the total death toll to 811, which is higher than the 774 who died during the 2002–03 SARS epidemic. There are also hints that the spread of the virus may be slowing, although experts warned it was too early to say anything for certain yet. There were 2,656 new cases reported on Saturday, bringing the total number to 37,198 in China. The number of new cases declined 20 percent from the previous 24-hour period, marking the first drop since Feb. 1.

The vast majority of the new cases were reported in Hubei province, where the outbreak started, which is “a reflection of strict quarantine measures taking effect nationwide,” notes the Washington Post. Although the World Health Organization said there had been “some stabilizing” in the number of new cases in Hubei over the last few days, it also warned the figures could still “shoot up.” Experts say that if all the containment efforts are effective there should soon start to be a sharp decline in new infections. But there is also concern there might be an increase in new cases as people return to work after the Lunar New Year.

Inside China, some citizens are expressing uncertainty about returning to work as posts on social media made clear many do not trust official numbers. Some doctors have said they believe China undercounts the number of new deaths and infections. There might be more clarity on the situation once an international team of experts led by the WHO leaves for China on Monday or Tuesday to investigate the outbreak. For now at least, the disease, which is now going by the official name of “novel coronavirus pneumonia” or NCP, appears to be more contagious than SARS but less deadly.

Around the world cases continued increasing, including six among the 3,700 passengers on a quarantined cruise ship anchored off the coast of Japan. The new cases brought the number of confirmed infections onboard the cruise liner Diamond Princess to 70, making it the largest center of infections outside China. Spain, South Korea, Vietnam, and Malaysia were among the countries that reported new cases of the virus. For now, though, there have been only two confirmed deaths from the new coronavirus outside mainland China, one in Hong Kong and another one in the Philippines.