Coronavirus death toll rises to 563

A worker wearing protective gears sprays disinfectant at a Chinese food store Credit: Ahn Young-joon/AP

China has reported the death toll from the coronavirus has risen by 73 to 563, with the number of confirmed cases jumping by 3,694 to 28,018.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has appealed for more funds to help countries battle the spread of the disease as 5,400 people on two cruise ships in Asia have become quarantined.

In the port city of Yokohama, Japan, health workers said 20 people from the cruise ship Diamond Princess were confirmed with the virus.

They will be dropped off as the ship docks and transferred to nearby hospitals for further tests and treatment.

The 3,700 people on board faced a two-week quarantine in their cabins. The ship had 2,666 passengers and 1,045 crew members.

More tests are pending on 171 others who had symptoms or had contact with a man who was diagnosed with the virus after leaving a separate ship in Hong Kong.

The passengers and crew aboard the Hong Kong ship the World Dream are also being screened after three passengers on a previous voyage were diagnosed with the virus.

The territory’s beleaguered leader, Carrie Lam, announced that two terminals — including one where the cruise ship is currently quarantined — will be shut down.

The director-general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has asked for $675 million to help countries address the expected spread of the virus.

He acknowledged that the sum is a lot, but told a news briefing that “it’s much less than the bill we will face if we do not invest in preparedness now.”

Tedros said that in the last 24 hours, the UN health agency has seen the biggest jump in cases since the start of the epidemic.

According to the latest figures early on Thursday, the number of confirmed cases jumped by 3,694 to 28,018.

Outside mainland China, at least 230 cases have been confirmed, including two fatalities, one in Hong Kong and another in the Philippines.

China has strongly defended its epidemic control measures and called on other nations not to go overboard in their responses.

The temperature of a person is checked as precautionary measures against the spread of the coronavirus (Zoltan Balogh/MTI via AP) Credit: Zoltan Balogh

Countries “can assess the epidemic situation in an objective, fair, calm and rational manner, respect authoritative and professional WHO recommendations, understand and support China’s epidemic control efforts,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chenying said at an online news conference.

“Fear is worse than any virus.”

As thousands of hospital workers in Hong Kong went on strike to demand the border with mainland China be closed completely, the city announced that all people entering from the mainland, including Hong Kong residents, must be quarantined for 14 days.

To treat the thousands of patients in its hard-hit central region, China built a new hospital in a matter of days and converted a gymnasium, exhibition hall and cultural centre.

Patients were being moved into a 1,000-bed hospital with prefabricated wards and isolation rooms in Wuhan.

A 1,500-bed hospital also specially built for virus patients is due to open on Thursday.