BEIJING >> New virus cases in China continued to fall Wednesday, with 1,749 new infections and 136 new deaths announced after China’s leader said disease prevention and control was at “a critical time.”
Japan also confirmed more infections of the new coronavirus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, bringing the total to 542 people among the 3,700 crew and passengers initially on board. The infections have led to heavy criticism of the decision to quarantine passengers on the vessel. The quarantine ends later Wednesday.
The updated figures on the COVID-19 illness for mainland China bring the total for cases to 74,185 and deaths to 2,004. New cases have fallen to under 2,000 daily for the past two days.
Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke about the efforts to control the outbreak in a phone call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described in state media.
Separately, the U.N. secretary general told The Associated Press that the virus outbreak “is not out of control but it is a very dangerous situation.” Antonio Guterres said in an interview in Lahore, Pakistan, that “the risks are enormous and we need to be prepared worldwide for that.”
China has locked down several cities in central Hubei province where the outbreak hit hardest, halting nearly all transportation and movement except for the quarantine efforts, medical care and delivery of food and basic necessities.
China also may postpone its biggest political meeting of the year, the annual congress due to start in March, to avoid having people travel to Beijing while the virus is still spreading. One of the automotive industry’s biggest events, China’s biannual auto show, was postponed, and many sports and entertainment events have been delayed or canceled.
Many countries set up border screenings and airlines canceled flights to and from China to prevent further spread of the disease, which has been detected in around two dozen countries and caused almost 1,000 confirmed cases outside mainland China. Five deaths have been reported outside the mainland, in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and France.
The largest number of cases outside China is the 542 on the Diamond Princess at a port near Tokyo.
The U.S. evacuated more than 300 American passengers, who are now under quarantine in the U.S. On Tuesday, the U.S. government said the more than 100 American passengers who stayed on the ship or were hospitalized in Japan would have to wait for another two weeks before they could return to the U.S.