Thursday, June 4

Xi meets virus workers, patients as death toll jumps to more than 900

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BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping donned a face mask and had his temperature checked Monday while visiting medical workers and patients affected by the deadly coronavirus that has killed more than 900 people.

The Chinese president, who has called the virus a “demon”, made a rare visit Monday to meet frontline medical staff at a hospital treating infected patients.

Xi has largely kept out of the public eye since the virus outbreak spiralled across the country from the epicentre in Hubei province to infect more than 40,000 people.

He appointed Premier Li Keqiang to lead a working group tackling the outbreak, and it was Li who visited ground zero in Wuhan last month.

On Monday Xi donned a blue mask and white surgical gown to meet doctors at Beijing Ditan hospital, observe the treatment of patients and speak via video link to doctors in Wuhan.

He then visited a residential community in central Beijing to “investigate and guide” efforts to contain the epidemic, state broadcaster CCTV said.

Video footage showed Xi having his temperature taken with an infrared thermometer, then speaking with community workers and waving at smiling residents leaning out of their apartment windows.

The number of deaths from the epidemic jumped to 902 yesterday in China after Hubei reported 91 new fatalities.

In its daily update, Hubei’s health commission also confirmed another 2,618 new cases in the central province, where the outbreak emerged in December.

There are now more than 39,800 confirmed cases across China, based on previously released figures from the government.

The only confirmed fatalities outside the mainland are a Chinese  man in the Philippines and a 39-year-old man in Hong Kong.

The toll has overtaken the global number of deaths caused by the  Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus, which killed 774 people in 2002-03. — AFP