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VIRUS OUTBREAK

China says coronavirus curbs starting to work

Number of new cases fall on Sunday; more medical support heads off critical cases, mild cases treated more quickly

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Seventy more people on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive for the coronovirus on Sunday. Countries including the US are arranging evacuation flights for their citizens.

Shanghai

THE number of new coronavirus cases in China fell on Sunday and a health official said intense efforts to stop its spread were beginning to work, even as 70 more people tested positive on a virus-stricken cruise ship quarantined in Japan.

The coronavirus, thought to have emerged at a wildlife market in the central Chinese province of Hubei, has presented the ruling Communist Party with the huge challenge of stamping it out while at the same time minimising damage to the world's second-largest economy.

China's latest figures showed 68,500 cases of the illness and 1,665 deaths, most of them in Hubei.

The National Health Commission reported on Sunday 2,009 new cases, down from 2,641 the previous day, and 142 new deaths, just one lower than the 143 on the previous day. All but four of the new deaths were in Hubei.

Health commission spokesman Mi Feng said the campaign was beginning to show results.

"The effect of the coronavirus controls is appearing," he told reporters.

More medical support and preventive measures in Hubei had headed off more critical cases and the proportion of critical cases among confirmed cases was falling, Mr Mi said.

Mild cases were also being treated more quickly, preventing them from becoming critical, he added.

Outside mainland China, there have been about 500 cases in some two dozen countries and territories, with four deaths - in Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines and France.

The biggest cluster outside China has been on the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined off Japan's Yokohama, with 70 more cases reported on Sunday, taking the total to 355 of the roughly 3,700 passengers and crew on board.

Those testing positive are sent to hospital. No one from the ship has died of the virus.

The United States Embassy in Tokyo said passengers and crew were at high risk of exposure to the virus and it recommended that the estimated 400 US citizens on board get off and take one of the evacuation flights it is arranging on Sunday.

The embassy said everyone would be screened before being allowed to board the chartered flights and quarantined for 14 days upon arrival back in the United States.

"No symptomatic or infected passengers will be allowed to board," it said.

Hong Kong said it planned to send aircraft for some 330 of its residents, while Canada said it too would send a plane for its citizens on the cruise ship.

The first fatality in Europe was an 80-year-old Chinese man who died at a Paris hospital, authorities said on Saturday. REUTERS

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