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Virus death toll passes 1000

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The coronavirus death toll in China has climbed above 1000, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) cautioned that the spread of cases outside of China could be “the spark that becomes a bigger fire”.

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Hubei province, the epicentre out the outbreak, reported 103 deaths on Monday – the most in any single day – after 91 deaths on Sunday. But the 2097 new cases was down from the previous day, when there were 2618.

It is not the first time new cases have fallen. Hubei reported 2841 cases on February 7 and 2147 the next day.

There are now more than 42,000 confirmed cases in China as well as 319 cases in 24 other countries, including one death, according to WHO and Chinese health officials.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship with 3700 passengers and crew on board remained quarantined in the Japanese port of Yokohama, with 65 more cases detected, taking the number of confirmed cases from the Carnival Corp-owned vessel to 135.

As scientists race to develop tests and treatments, the WHO says 168 labs globally have the right technology to diagnose the virus.

Companies have been struggling to find clinical virus samples needed to validate the diagnostic tests they have developed.

Worries about the coronavirus kept investors on edge with safe-havens like gold rising and the dollar hitting a four-month high against the euro on Monday.

In Europe, shares in car companies exposed to China slumped, while prices of oil, iron ore and copper fell on worries over weaker Chinese demand because of the outbreak.

Wall Street rose on optimism for corporate earnings and the economy, with the Nasdaq hitting a record high.

British Airways cancelled all its flights to mainland China until the end of March.

Wu Fan, vice-dean of Shanghai Fudan University Medical school, said there was hope of a turning point in the outbreak.

But WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday there had been “concerning instances” of transmission from people who had not been to China.

“It could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire,” Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.

An advance team of international WHO experts arrived in China to investigate the outbreak.

Its death toll has now surpassed that of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed hundreds worldwide in 2002/2003.

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