People in Manila rushed to buy face masks after the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the Philippines last week (BBC)
HONG KONG/BEIJING – The coronavirus outbreak claimed its first life in Hong Kong yesterday, compounding the international financial centre’s problems after anti-government protests, and Macau, the world’s biggest gambling playground, urged casinos to shut their doors.
The victim in Hong Kong was a 39-year-old man with an underlying illness who had visited China’s Wuhan city, the epicentre of the outbreak now under virtual quarantine.
It was the second death from the new coronavirus outside mainland China and brought the toll from the fast-spreading outbreak to 427.
Thousands of medical workers in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous region of China, held a second day of strikes to press for complete closure of borders with the mainland after three checkpoints were left open.
On the financial front, global and Chinese markets rose, with both Europe and metals enjoying their best sessions of the year after Shanghai’s main market lost nearly $400 billion the previous day.
China reported a record daily jump in deaths of 64, taking the toll to 425. A man also died in the Philippines last week after visiting Wuhan, the first virus-related overseas fatality.
Total infections in mainland China rose to 20 438, and nearly 200 cases have been reported in roughly two dozen countries, Hong Kong and Macau.
Macau, also a special administrative region of China lying across the Pearl River estuary from Hong Kong, said it had asked all casino operators to suspend operations for two weeks to help prevent the coronavirus spreading.
Macau’s chief executive, Ho Iat Seng, made the announcement as the former Portuguese colony, whose glittering casinos draw hundreds of thousands of gamblers from across the globe, reported 10 confirmed cases of the virus and imposed tight restrictions on movements in and out of the territory.
Thailand’s tally of infections jumped to 25, the highest outside China, while Singapore’s rose to 24.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the flu-like virus a global emergency, and experts say much is still unknown, including its mortality rate and transmission routes. (Reuters)