BEIJING — Mainland China reported another rise in cases of the new virus Monday 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.
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. Monday’s rise was a turnaround from a significant reduction in new cases reported Sunday, less than 2,700, that briefly prompted optimism prevention methods such as a strict quarantines may be working.
“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 new 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 try to reduce the spread of the virus, then “we’ll know we’re in trouble.”
Deaths from the new virus have passed the 774 people believed to have died of SARS, and the number of cases vastly exceeds the 8,098 identified in that 2002-03 outbreak. SARS and the new virus both are part of the coronavirus family, which includes the common cold but also viruses that come from animals and have caused serious illness.
China has built hospitals and converted public buildings to treat the thousands of patients in the epicenter of the outbreak, the central city of Wuhan, which has been under a strict quarantine for more than two weeks. It’s trying to keep food flowing into the region, and state media reported the Hubei provincial government will pay subsidies to farmers, other food producers and supermarkets because of the crisis.
Elsewhere in China, the industrial metropolis of Chongqing in the southwest told residential communities to close their gates and check visitors for fever. The government said the spread of the virus through “family gatherings” had been reported in Chongqing but gave no details.
Earlier, France closed two schools and medical authorities there are testing hundreds of children and their families for the virus after a 9-year-old British boy who goes to school in the French Alps contracted it.
French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn visited a ski resort where five Britons were found to have the virus, Contamines-Montjoie, and tried to reassure residents and tourists that they can “live normally.” She said there’s a “very weak risk” for the population at large, at least so far.
France also stepped up its travel alert, recommending against all visits to China except for “imperative reasons.” Several countries have made similar recommendations and are restricting Chinese visits as a containment measure.
More than 360 cases have been confirmed outside mainland China, most associated with Chinese travel or close contact with those travelers.
Hong Kong reported seven more cases, raising its total to 36. The new cases were people who attended large family gathering for the Lunar New Year that included mainland Chinese visitors.
Hong Kong has shut all but two of its land and sea border points to the mainland and on Saturday began enforcing a 14-day quarantine on arrivals from mainland China to try to prevent the spread of the virus.
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 early in the outbreak.
The death of Li Wenliang, 34, prompted an outpouring of public anger at Wuhan officials. Some postings left on his microblog account said officials should face consequences for mistreating Li.
“My child was summoned by the Wuhan Police Bureau at midnight. He was asked to sign an admonishment notice,” Lu Shuyun said in a video distributed by Pear Video, an online broadcast platform. “We won’t give up if they don’t give us an explanation.”
The video released Sunday shows flowers in her home with a note that says, “Hero is immortal. Thank you.”