Sat | Apr 4, 2020

China still mostly closed down as virus deaths pass 1,000

Published:Tuesday | February 11, 2020 | 9:27 AM
A passenger wearing a full-body protective suit catches the eyes of others as they walk out from the Beijing railway station in Beijing, Tuesday, February 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

BEIJING (AP) — China remained mostly closed for business Tuesday, as the daily death toll from a new virus topped 100 for the first time, pushing the total above 1,000.

Despite the official end of the extended Lunar New Year holiday, many remained at home on Tuesday with around 60 million people under virtual quarantine.

Authorities in Hong Kong evacuated people from an apartment block where four were found to be infected, raising fears the virus may be spreading through plumbing, similar to what happened in 2003′s deadly SARS outbreak.

With the death toll reaching 1,016 in mainland China and no end in sight, heads are beginning to roll.

While no central government-level officials have lost their jobs, state media reported Tuesday that the top health officials in Hubei province, home to the epicenter of Wuhan, have been relieved of their duties.

No specific reasons were given, although the province’s initial response was deemed slow and ineffective.

Speculation that higher-level officials could be sacked has simmered, but doing so could spark political infighting and be a tacit admission that the Communist Party dropped the ball.

The virus outbreak has become the latest political challenge for the party and its leader, Xi, who despite accruing more political power than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, has struggled to handle crises on multiple fronts.

Those include a sharply slowing domestic economy, the trade war with the US and push-back on China’s increasingly aggressive foreign policies.

The number of newly confirmed cases fell to 2,478 from 3,062 the day before, bringing the total to 42,638 on the Chinese mainland.

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