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The global death rate of the new coronavirus is 3.4 percent, the W.H.O. says.
The head of the World Health Organization said on Tuesday that the global mortality rate for Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, was 3.4 percent, a figure that primarily reflects the outbreak in China, where the vast majority of cases have been detected.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization’s director general, said in a news conference in Geneva that Covid-19 was deadlier than the seasonal flu but did not transmit as easily. “Globally, about 3.4 percent of reported Covid-19 cases have died,” Dr. Tedros said. “By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1 percent of those infected.”
The estimate takes into account the growing number of infections being recorded outside China, mostly in Iran, Italy and South Korea.
Dr. Margaret Harris, a W.H.O. spokeswoman, said the figure was a “crudely calculated” snapshot of the disease’s death rate globally, and is expected to “change over time, and vary from place to place.”
It also does not include mild cases that do not require medical attention and is skewed by Wuhan, where the death rate is several times higher than elsewhere in China.
The announcement was the first time the organization confirmed a global mortality rate for the disease.
“While many people globally have built up immunity to seasonal flu strains, Covid-19 is a new virus to which no one has immunity,” meaning more people can be infected and some will suffer severe illnesses, Dr. Tedros said. The coronavirus does not transmit as efficiently as the flu but “causes more severe disease,” he added.
When the outbreak was concentrated in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the new virus was first found, the W.H.O. said that the mortality rate of the disease had ranged from 0.7 percent outside of Wuhan to as high as 4 percent inside the city. The organization also said that the epidemic would affect different countries in different ways.
Data from the Chinese government shows that the mortality rate in that country is about 3.7 percent, with most deaths reported in the province of Hubei, which includes Wuhan.
Dr. Tedros added on Tuesday that it was still possible to contain the virus, but warned that “rising demand, hoarding and misuse” of medical supplies such as masks could compromise the world’s ability to fight the outbreak, and he recommended a 40 percent global increase in the production of such supplies.
U.S. expands testing for people who fear they have been infected.
Vice President Mike Pence said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would lift all restrictions on testing for the coronavirus and would release new guidelines to fast-track testing for people who fear they have the virus, even if they were displaying mild symptoms.
The guidelines “make it clear that any American can be tested, no restrictions, subject to doctor’s orders,” Mr. Pence told reporters at the White House. The federal government had promised to ramp up testing after drawing criticism for strictly limiting the tests in the first weeks of the outbreak.
Some companies and public health officials cast doubt on the government’s assurances, saying in some cases that tests under development were still weeks from approval.
And public health laboratories have said that their capacity to process the tests is limited. A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services said on Monday that the labs currently could handle 15,000 tests a day, though that figure was expected to grow.
Deaths outside China exceed those inside the country for the first time.
The number of deaths from the coronavirus outside of China on Wednesday surpassed for the first time those reported within the country — the latest sign that the front line of the epidemic may be shifting.
The silver lining in that news is that the pace of infections in China is continuing to drop by the day.
The Chinese government on Wednesday reported 38 more deaths from the virus, bringing the nationwide toll to 2,981. At the same time, the number of new infections grew by only 119, to 80,270, according to official figures. Most of the new infections and deaths were reported in Hubei, the central Chinese province at the center of the outbreak. Shanghai has reported only one new infection in the past six days.
Experts said the downward trend in official figures outside of Hubei was a strong indication that the draconian measures put in place by the government to contain the spread of the virus were working, at least for now. Those measures include strict quarantine and travel restrictions on broad swaths of the country as well as the closures of schools and workplaces.
“It’s very clear that the actions taken in China have almost brought to an end their first wave of infections,” said Professor Benjamin Cowling, an infectious disease expert at Hong Kong University.
The concern in China now, experts say, is what will happen once the country begins to normalize economic activity and people start going back to work and school. There are also worries about infected travelers coming back into the country and reintroducing the virus to recovered communities. Already, local governments are taking steps to quarantine people returning from certain countries abroad.
“The question is what will happen if there’s a second wave,” Professor Cowling said, “because the kind of measures that China has implemented are not necessarily sustainable in the long term.”
As cases in France rise, the kiss must go.
With France now reporting one of the highest numbers of infected patients in Europe, with 212 cases and four deaths, President Emmanuel Macron said the country had “entered a phase that will last weeks and probably months.”
“We’ll continue to stand together, it’s what we owe to our country,” Mr. Macron said during a visit on Tuesday to the country’s Health Ministry.
The main clusters of cases so far have been in the Oise area of northern France, the Haute-Savoie area of the French Alps and the Morbihan area of Brittany, on the Atlantic coast. More than 100 schools have been closed, affecting nearly 45,000 students.
However, there was growing concern Wednesday about a new cluster of cases in Mulhouse, a city in eastern France. The authorities have tied the outbreak there to a local evangelical community that gathered several thousand people from Feb. 17 to Feb. 24. Health officials have asked participants to watch their health and to report any signs of sickness.
Some supermarkets were reporting runs on supplies, and the police were investigating the theft of thousands of masks over the past few days from hospitals in Paris and Marseille.
As a nervous public tried to assess their own individual risks, the government said it was requisitioning stocks of certain types of protective masks to avoid shortages.
Bruno Le Maire, the economy minister, also announced on Wednesday that the government would regulate the price of antibacterial gels after “isolated cases” of price gouging.
And officials continued to drive home the importance of social distancing.
“I have formally advised against the practice of handshaking, the reduction of social contact in a physical manner, and that would include the practice of ‘la bise,’” Olivier Véran, the French health minister, said recently.
La bise refers to the French custom of kissing both cheeks upon greeting.
After watching nervously, India confronts arrival of the virus.
Until this week, only a handful of cases of the new coronavirus had been reported in India.
But on Tuesday, the first case was reported in New Delhi, with a man who had recently traveled to Italy testing positive. Six of his family members were also found to have the illness, and all were placed under quarantine, the government said, as officials rushed to trace all those who had come into contact with the group.
On Wednesday, the number of cases jumped to 28, including 16 Italian tourists.
And there were concerns that, in a country where only 22 percent of deaths are medically certified, the true rate of infection might already be higher.
Airports have started screening passengers, and visas issued to nationals of Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea have been canceled. An existing visa ban on Chinese citizens remains in place.
With hundreds of Indian students and workers in Iran, where there has been a major outbreak, the Indian government also announced plans on Wednesday to send several scientists there to set up a laboratory for testing.
Holi, a major religious festival, takes place next week, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged Indians to remain calm but to cancel gatherings.
The festival brings together entire neighborhoods across India, with friends and relatives applying colorful powders to each other’s faces while children stage giant water fights and share food.
U.S. death toll rises to nine after two earlier deaths in Washington State are tied to the virus.
Two people who died last week in the Seattle area were infected with coronavirus, officials said on Tuesday, suggesting that the virus had spread in that region days earlier than health officials had previously known.
That brought the death toll in Washington State, and in the United States, to nine. So far, those deaths have all been in the Seattle area.
The confirmation of additional deaths adds to an escalating emergency in a region that has rapidly emerged as a focal point for the virus in the United States, where there have now been at least 120 cases of coronavirus in more than a dozen states.
The other deaths, all announced over the last few days, included residents of a nursing care facility in Kirkland, a Seattle suburb.
Also on Tuesday, Amazon emailed its staff in the Seattle area saying that it had learned that an employee in one of its many office buildings in the South Lake Union neighborhood had tested positive for the virus. “The employee went home feeling unwell on Tuesday, February 25, and has not entered Amazon offices since that time,” the email said.
Health officials in North Carolina announced that state’s first case of coronavirus on Tuesday afternoon. They said the patient there had traveled to Washington and been “exposed at a long-term care facility” where there was an outbreak, an apparent reference to the Life Care nursing center in Kirkland, Wash.
The North Carolina patient was said to be doing well and isolated at home in Wake County.
London police investigate a racist attack linked to the coronavirus.
The police in London on Wednesday released images of four suspects wanted in the “racially aggravated assault” of a 23-year-old Asian man in late February by attackers who shouted that they did not want coronavirus in their country.
The man who was attacked, Jonathan Mok, who is from Singapore, suffered facial fractures and was told by doctors that he might need reconstructive surgery. He wrote on Facebook about the confrontation on Oxford Street, one of the busiest shopping thoroughfares of London, and posted a picture of his bloodied face on social media to raise awareness about racism.
“We have been focusing solely on the health effects of the coronavirus,” Mr. Mok wrote. “We fail to see the social effects.”
“Racism has found yet another excuse to rear its ugly head,” he added.
Mr. Mok was on Oxford Street after 9 p.m. on Feb. 24 when, he said, he heard a young man, who was accompanied by friends, make a comment about him and the coronavirus.
“All of a sudden, the first punch was swung at my face,” Mr. Mok wrote.
One of the assailants then shouted, “I don’t want your coronavirus in my country,” he added.
The police said in their statement that Mr. Mok “was punched, kicked, and sustained facial injuries.” Det. Sgt. Emma Kirby, the officer handling the case, said, “There’s no room on our streets for this kind of violent behavior and we are committed to finding the perpetrators.”
The last swimmer in Wuhan defies the current, and the coronavirus.
Almost every afternoon, one resident of Wuhan, China, ambles down the stairs beneath the city’s majestic Yangtze River Bridge, completes an elaborate warm-up, checks his watch and plunges headlong into China’s longest river.
Most residents rarely leave their homes in the locked-down city of 11 million people, where the coronavirus outbreak began. The rhythms of everyday life — work, school, shopping, commuting — have been suspended, but Lu Jianjun, 53, has persisted in his daily ritual.
“A healthy body is an asset for the revolution,” he said, citing a motto coined by Mao Zedong. “Chairman Mao loved to swim in the Yangtze — right here, actually. We should do the same, no matter what happens.”
The coronavirus that has infected nearly 50,000 Wuhan residents and killed more than 2,250, but “the hospitals haven’t made a cent from me,” Mr. Lu said. “I haven’t had a cold or fever for nearly 30 years.”
After the government implemented emergency controls in January and shut down public transportation, the other swimmers in Wuhan disappeared. “Usually, there’s a dozen or more of us every afternoon,” Mr. Lu said. “Before they shut down the city, there were several of us still swimming.”
“Now it’s just me,” he added.
Mr. Lu grunted dismissively at younger people hesitant to jump in the river. He made sure that his son and nephews became strong swimmers. “Why stop swimming?” he said. “Of course, it helps! Everyone’s immunity is different, but no matter what, swimming helps. Look at my health.”
China has increased mask production, but exports remain on hold.
China is now manufacturing 116 million face masks a day, a 12-fold increase in a single month, the National Development and Reform Commission announced this week. But only 1.66 million of those are the N95 respirator masks that health workers need when performing procedures on patients who may be coughing and sneezing.
China produced half the world’s masks last year and was the dominant exporter, but it essentially suspended exports a month ago.
People’s Daily, a state-run news outlet, said this week that China was manufacturing enough N95 respirator masks to meet the needs of its health workers on the front line, but the state news media and government officials have given no hint as to when exports might resume.
Thousands of companies in China are now manufacturing disposable masks for their own staff and selling them to government agencies and other agencies. A General Motors joint venture in southwestern China is making both disposable face masks and the equipment to make them.
But the cloth needed to manufacture N95 respirator masks is scarce. Factories making those masks are running at only 85 percent of capacity, the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology says. Prices for the specialized cloth have jumped 20-fold, and assembling new cloth-making equipment can take three months or more.
The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that the world will need 89 million medical masks each month to fight the coronavirus outbreak. Prices of surgical masks have increased sixfold, and N95 respirators have more than tripled.
Reporting was contributed by Maria Abi-Habib, Marc Santora, Iliana Magra, Aurelien Breeden, Amy Qin, Sui-Lee Wee, Choe Sang-Hun, Katie Rogers, Christina Goldbaum, Vindu Goel, Reed Abelson, Sopan Deb, Mike Isaac, Karen Weisse, Paul Mozur, Keith Bradsher, Elaine Yu and Sarah Kliff.