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Virus numbers on rise again on mainland China

Joe Mcdonald
The Associated Press

BEIJING — Mainland China has reported another rise in cases of the new virus after a sharp decline the previous day, while the number of deaths grew by 97 to 908, with at least two more outside the country.

On Monday, China’s health ministry said another 3,062 cases had been reported over the previous 24 hours, raising the Chinese mainland’s total to 40,171.

The fatality toll also has passed the 774 people believed to have died of SARS, another viral outbreak that originated in China. The total of 37,198 confirmed cases of the new virus vastly exceeds the 8,098 sickened by SARS.

Earlier Monday, France closed two schools after five British visitors

contracted the virus at a ski resort.

Malaysia, South Korea and Vietnam reported one new case each.

Meanwhile, the mother of a

physician who died last week in the hardest-hit city of Wuhan said she wants an explanation from authorities who reprimanded her son for warning about the virus.

Monday’s rise was a turnaround from a significant reduction in new cases reported Sunday, 2,656, down by about 20% from the 3,399 new cases reported in the previous 24-hour per-iod. That had prompted optimism that the “joint control mechanism of different regions and the strict prevention and control measures have worked,” in the words of a spokesman for the National Health Commission, Mi Feng.

Outside China: Also Sunday, new cases were reported in Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, the U.K. and Spain. More than 360 cases have been confirmed outside mainland China.

“Dramatic reductions” in the pace of the disease’s spread should begin this month if containment works,

Dr. Ian Lipkin, director of Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity, said in an online news conference on Sunday. He assisted the World Health Organization and Chinese authorities during the outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Warmer weather will reduce the virus’s ability to spread and bring people out of enclosed spaces where it is transmitted more easily, Lipkin said. However, he said, if new cases spike as people return to work after the Lunar New Year holiday, which was extended to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, then “we’ll know we’re in trouble.”

The new U.K. case was the nation’s fourth, while Spain reported its second, as European authorities sought to contain the spread of the virus by tracking down people who came into contact with those infected.

Both of the new cases were acquired during trips to France, officials said.

The new U.K. case is a known contact of a previously confirmed case there, the country’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said, adding that

experts “continue to work hard tracing

patient contacts.”

In Spain, authorities were working to identify everyone who came into contact with a British man whose case was detected in Mallorca, a popular vacation island in the Mediterranean Sea, Spain’s National Microbiology Center said.

Japan reported six more cases among 3,700 passengers and crew aboard the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess, bringing the number of infections on the vessel to 69. The new cases are an American passenger in her 70s and five crew members — four Filipinos and a Ukrainian.

South Korea reported a new case in a 73-year-old woman whose relatives visited Guangdong province in southern China, raising its total to 27. The family members, a 51-year-old South Korean man and a 37-year-old Chinese woman, were confirmed infected later Sunday.

Vietnam reported its 14th case. The Health Ministry said she is a 55-year-old woman in Vinh Phuc province, northwest of Hanoi, where six earlier

patients were found to be infected.

Malaysia reported its 17th case. The 65-year-old woman’s son-in-law was diagnosed earlier with the virus.

Spain confirmed its second case in Mallorca, a popular vacation

island in the Mediterranean. The first case was a German tourist diagnosed a week ago in the Canary Islands off northwest Africa.

Out of quarantine: The 1,800 passengers and 1,800 crew members of the cruise ship Dream World were released from quarantine after Hong Kong authorities said tests of the crew found no infections.

The ship was isolated after eight mainland Chinese passengers were diagnosed with the disease last month.

Port official Leung Yiu-hon said some passengers with symptoms tested negative

but there was no need to test all of them because they had no contact with the infected

Chinese passengers.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong began enforcing a 14-day quarantine for arrivals from mainland China. The territory’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has refused demands by some hospital workers and others to seal the border completely.

A 1,500-bed hospital built in two weeks in Wuhan, the city of 11 million people at the center of the outbreak, accepted its first

patients on Saturday, the government

announced. Another 1,000-bed hospital built in 10 days opened last week.

The WHO director-general said it will send experts to China starting Monday or Tuesday.