China coronavirus death toll rises to 56, total cases near 2,000

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Medical staff members wearing protective clothing to help stop the spread of a deadly virus which began in the city, work at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan on January 25, 2020. (AFP)
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Pictures uploaded to social media on January 25, 2020 by the Central Hospital of Wuhan show medical staff attending to patients, in Wuhan, China. (Reuters)
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Passengers wear protective masks to protect against the spread of the Coronavirus as they arrive at the Los Angeles International Airport, California, on January 22, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 26 January 2020

China coronavirus death toll rises to 56, total cases near 2,000

  • The country’s most important celebration has been all-but canceled for people in a dozen cities who have been ordered to hunker down
  • China has launched a massive quarantine effort across much of Hubei province, affecting more than 40 million people

WUHAN, China: The death toll from a virus in China has risen to 56 and the number of people infected across the country is nearing 2,000, authorities said Sunday.
Fifteen more people have died and at least 688 new cases of the coronavirus have now been confirmed, according to the National Health Commission.
Among the new deaths, 13 were in Hubei, the province at the heart of the outbreak, while Shanghai reported its first death.
At least 52 people have now died in total in Hubei, two in central Henan province, one in Heilongjiang in the northeast and one in Hebei in the north.
Hubei’s health authorities separately reported 323 new confirmed cases of the virus, which first emerged in the provincial capital, Wuhan, in late December.
Chinese authorities have so far reported 1,975 cases nationwide.
President Xi Jinping warned Saturday that China faced a “grave situation” as authorities raced to contain a respiratory illness that has caused the widespread abandonment of Lunar New Year celebrations nationwide and overwhelmed health facilities in Hubei.
The contagion remained centered on the Hubei provincial capital of Wuhan, which accounted for seven of the new deaths and 46 of the new confirmed cases, said the Hubei Health Commission.
Wuhan and more than a dozen other cities in the province have been locked down in a rapidly expanding quarantine effort marked by transport shutdowns and other restrictions on movement.
The previously unknown virus has caused global concern because of its similarity to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) pathogen, which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
It also has struck at possibly the worst time for China, when hundreds of millions of people are traveling across the country or overseas to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday, China’s most important festival.
Hundreds of military doctors have been sent to Hubei and authorities are rushing to build a pair of field hospitals to deal with the crisis as patients swamp local medical facilities.
The virus has spread nationwide in China and cases have been reported in several other countries as far away as the United States, France and Australia.
 


Death toll rises to 32 in religious violence in India’s capital

Updated 27 February 2020

Death toll rises to 32 in religious violence in India’s capital

  • Uneasy calm prevailing in northeast Delhi
  • Modi government blames opposition for violence

NEW DELHI: At least 32 people have been killed in the deadliest violence to engulf India’s capital New Delhi for decades as a heavy deployment of security forces brought an uneasy calm on Thursday, a police official said.
The violence began over a disputed new citizenship law on Monday but led to clashes between Muslims and Hindus in which hundreds were injured. Many suffered gunshot wounds, while arson, looting and stone-throwing has also taken place.
“The death count is now at 32,” Delhi police spokesman Anil Mittal said, adding the “entire area is peaceful now.”
At the heart of the unrest is a citizenship law which makes it easier for non-Muslims from some neighboring Muslim-dominated countries to gain Indian citizenship.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said the new law adopted last December is of “great concern” and she was worried by reports of police inaction in the face of assaults against Muslims by other groups.
“I appeal to all political leaders to prevent violence,” Bachelet said in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Critics say the law is biased against Muslims and undermines India’s secular constitution.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has denied having any prejudice against India’s 180 million Muslims, saying that law is required to help persecuted minorities.
New Delhi has been the epicenter for protests against the new law, with students and large sections of the Muslim community leading the protests.
As the wounded were brought to hospitals on Thursday, the focus shifted on the overnight transfer of Justice S. Muralidhar, a Delhi High Court judge who was hearing a petition into the riots and had criticized government and police inaction on Wednesday.
Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the transfer was routine and had been recommended by the Supreme Court collegium earlier this month.
Opposition Congress party leader Manish Tiwari said every lawyer and judge in India should strongly protest what he called a crude attempt to intimidate the judiciary.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said inflammatory speeches at the protests over the new citizenship law in the last few months and the tacit support of some opposition leaders was behind the violence.
“The investigation is on,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who romped to re-election last May, also withdrew Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy in August with the objective of tightening New Delhi’s grip on the restive region, which is also claimed by full by Pakistan.
For months the government imposed severe restrictions in Kashmir including cutting telephone and Internet lines, while keeping hundreds of people, including mainstream political leaders, in custody for fear that they could whip up mass protests. Some restrictions have since been eased.
Bachelet said the Indian government continued to impose excessive restrictions on the use of social media in the region, even though some political leaders have been released, and ordinary life may be returning to normal in some respects.