The number of new coronavirus cases in China fell on Sunday and a health official said intense efforts to stop its spread were beginning to work, as another 70 people tested positive on a virus-stricken cruise ship quarantined in Japan.
The coronavirus, thought to have emerged at a wildlife market in the central Chinese province of Hubei, has presented the ruling Communist Party with the huge challenge of stamping it out while at the same time minimizing damage to the world’s second-largest economy.
China’s latest figures showed 68,500 cases of the illness and 1,665 deaths, most of them in Hubei.
The National Health Commission reported on Sunday 2,009 new cases, down from 2,641 the previous day, and 142 new deaths, just one lower than the 143 on the previous day. All but four of the new deaths were in Hubei.
The province and its capital, Wuhan, have been virtually sealed off and locked down since Jan. 23, with schools, offices and factories shut and most travel suspended.
The virus is believed to have an incubation period of 14 days which would appear to indicate it has been spreading since the lockdown was imposed. But health commission spokesman Mi Feng said the campaign was beginning to show results.
“The effect of the coronavirus controls is appearing,” Mi told reporters.
Increased medical support and preventive measures in Hubei had headed off more critical cases and the proportion of critical cases among confirmed cases had fallen to 21.6% on Saturday, from 32.4% on Jan. 27, Mi said.
Mild cases were also being treated more quickly, preventing them from becoming critical, Mi said.
Nevertheless, restrictions were tightened in Hubei on Sunday with a ban on vehicles, apart from essential services, and companies told to stay shut until further notice.