Coronavirus in the lab: it is now called Covid-19 by WHO

China has reported 1,749 new cases of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) on Wednesday, with the National Health Commission reporting 136 new deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll beyond 2,000.

Hong Kong, with 62 confirmed cases, saw its second Covid-19 death on Wednesday morning, public broadcaster RTHK reported.

The victim, a 70-year-old man, is the sixth person to die from the pneumonia-causing virus outside of mainland China.

More details about the case are expected to be released during an afternoon news conference by the territory’s Hospital Authority, RTHK said.

Confirmed infections have occurred in 26 countries, also killing one person each in Taiwan, Japan, France and the Philippines.

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The epicentre of the outbreak, central China’s Hubei province, saw 1,693 of the new confirmed cases and 132 of the new deaths, the provincial health commission said.

While the spread of the virus appears to be slowing outside of Hubei, it has continued unabated in the hard-hit central province since it first appeared in December 2019.

At a news conference on Tuesday, renowned Chinese epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan said that person-to-person transmission of Covid-19 is still ongoing in the provincial capital Wuhan.

Zhong, the central government’s top medical adviser, noted that stemming the outbreak at the epicentre remains key to realising a peak in transmissions this month, and to do so they must separate patients from healthy people, and separate Covid-19 patients from regular flu patients.

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Passengers onboard the Covid-19-infected cruise ship Diamond Princess, quarantined off the coast of Japan for two weeks, began disembarking in Yokohama Port on Wednesday, Kyodo News reported, with 542 cases of the virus confirmed among some 3,700 passengers on the original manifest.

The first 500 people allowed to come ashore were mainly elderly passengers who tested negative for the virus, Kyodo said.

Those who had close contact with infected persons on the ship will be kept onboard for further monitoring, despite testing negative, Japan’s health ministry said.

Others will be transported to Yokohama and other nearby railway stations.

Diamond Princess has been quarantined since Feb. 5, after a passenger who earlier disembarked in Hong Kong was found to be infected with the virus.