People across China trickled back to work on Monday after an extended Lunar New Year holiday as the government eased restrictions imposed to counter the coronavirus, but the World Health Organization said the number of cases outside China could be just “the tip of the iceberg”.
The Diamond Princess cruise ship with 3,700 passengers and crew onboard remained quarantined in the Japanese port of Yokohama, with 65 more cases detected, taking the number of confirmed case from the Carnival Corp-owned vessel to 135.
Stocks and oil fell in global markets on concerns about the impact of the closure of factories in the world’s second-largest economy on supply chains for companies from Taiwan’s iPhone-maker Foxconn to carmakers Kia Motors and Nissan.
Across mainland China, 3,062 new infections were confirmed on Sunday, bringing the total number to 40,171, according to the National Health Commission (NHC).
Wu Fan, vice-dean of Shanghai Fudan University Medical school, said there was hope the spread might soon reach a turning point.
“The situation is stabilizing,” she told a briefing when asked about the spread in Shanghai, which has had nearly 300 cases and one death.
But WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there had been “concerning instances” of transmission from people who had not been to China.
“The detection of a small number of cases may indicate more widespread transmission in other countries; in short, we may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg,” he said in Geneva.
A WHO team of experts is en route to Beijing.
The virus has spread to at least 27 countries and territories, according to a Reuters count based on official reports, infecting more than 330 people. The two deaths outside mainland China were in Hong Kong and the Philippines.
The death toll from the outbreak has now surpassed that of another coronavirus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which brought a global epidemic in 2002/2003.