News National WHO seeks $1bn to combat deadly virus, as China death toll soars

WHO seeks $1bn to combat deadly virus, as China death toll soars

coronavirus spread
Workers in protective suits spray disinfectant as a precaution against coronavirus in South Korea. Photo: AAP
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The Chinese death toll from coronavirus rose by 73 to 563 on Thursday – the single biggest escalation in a 24-hour period yet seen.

Chinese authorities said the number of confirmed infections had also soared, up 3694 to 28,018.

Also on Thursday, the World Health Organisation appealed for more money from wealthy countries to help poorer nations battle the spread of the disease as 5400 people on two cruise ships in Asia were quarantined.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus asked for $US675 million ($A1 billion) to help countries deal with 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”.

Dr Tedros said in the past 24 hours the UN health agency had seen the biggest jump in cases since the epidemic started.

In Japan, health workers said 20 people from the cruise ship Diamond Princess were confirmed to have the virus, including two Australians.

Ill passengers were to be transferred to hospital for further tests and treatment when the ship docked at Yokohama on Thursday.

The Japanese government has quarantined the vessel, which has 223 Australians among its 2666 guests and 1045 crew.

Paul and Jacqui Fidrmuc, from Cairns, are among those on board. They have been tested for coronavirus, but said they were learning more from the media about their situation than from the cruise company.

“The concern we have is we might have the virus and we don’t have the symptoms,” Mr Fidrmuc said on Thursday.

“It’s a frightening situation but it is not a disease where if you get it, it’s certain death. You just have to be lighthearted about the whole situation.”

coronavirus spread
Coronavirus patients are transferred from the Diamond Princess in Yokohama. Photo: AAP

The Diamond Princess outbreak has been traced to a man who was diagnosed with the virus after leaving a separate ship in Hong Kong. Passengers and crew aboard that ship are also being screened.

Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that Australians suspected of being infected with the deadly virus might be quarantined in hotels and mines on the mainland.

Mr Morrison confirmed the Australian Defence Force had identified overflow facilities that could be used if the island detention centre cannot accommodate any more patients.

It came as more Australians arrived on Christmas Island after a marathon journey from China to Australia via Auckland. They were evacuated from the coronavirus epicentre on an Air New Zealand flight on Wednesday.

“What we’ve also tasked the defence force to do is to identify overflow facilities,” Mr Morrison said.

“That was done when we looked at the first flight, and they have been going through that process.”

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia climbed to 14 on Thursday.

The latest is a 37-year-old man, who is the fourth person in Queensland to be diagnosed with the virus. He had been travelling with three others from China – including an eight-year-old boy – who have tested positive for coronavirus, taking the number of confirmed cases in Australia to 14.

Along with the four cases in Queensland, there have been four each in NSW and Victoria and two in South Australia. Three of the 14 people have recovered and been released.

christmas island wuhan evacuees
Australian evacuees arrive on Christmas Island after their long journey from Wuhan. Photo: Department of Home Affairs

Mr Morrison also confirmed that 36 Australian citizens and permanent residents in the second Wuhan evacuation group had arrived on Christmas Island early on Thursday morning. They left China on Wednesday on an Air New Zealand flight that also carried 98 New Zealanders and a number of others to Auckland.

They were then transferred to a charter flight for the journey across Australia to join the 241 evacuees already undergoing a two-week quarantine process.

There have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus among the first group of evacuees – which includes 89 people under 16.

Australian authorities have reacted to the global health emergency by forbidding non-citizens to fly to Australia from China.

-with AAP

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