China’s coronavirus outbreak showed no sign of peaking with health authorities on Friday reporting more than 5,000 new cases, while passengers on a cruise ship blocked from five countries due to virus fears finally disembarked in Cambodia.
News of the first death from the virus in Japan rattled Asian markets, already on edge after hopes that the epidemic was stabilizing appeared to be dashed by a sharp rise in the number of cases on Thursday.
In its latest update, China’s National Health Commission said it had recorded 121 new deaths and 5,090 new coronavirus cases on the mainland on Feb. 13, taking the accumulated total infected to 63,851 people.
Some 55,748 people are currently undergoing treatment, while 1,380 people have died of the flu-like virus that emerged in Hubei province’s capital, Wuhan, in December.
The new figures give no indication the outbreak is nearing a peak, said Adam Kamradt-Scott, an infectious diseases expert at the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney.
“Based on the current trend in confirmed cases, this appears to be a clear indication that while the Chinese authorities are doing their best to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the fairly drastic measures they have implemented to date would appear to have been too little, too late,” he said.
The epidemic has given China’s ruling Communist Party one of its sternest challenges in years, constrained the world’s second-largest economy and triggered a purge of provincial bureaucrats.
Japan confirmed its first coronavirus death on Thursday – a woman in her 80s living in Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo. The death was the third outside mainland China, after two others in Hong Kong and the Philippines.
Japan is one of the worst affected of more than two dozen countries and territories outside mainland China that have seen hundreds of infections.
Japanese policymakers vowed to step up testing and containment efforts after the death and confirmation of new cases, including a doctor and a taxi driver.
The world’s third-largest economy is already bracing for a sharp slowdown in growth and some analysts expect another contraction in the current quarter as the virus outbreak hurts exports, output and consumption through a sharp drop in overseas tourists.
“Investors will surely avoid Asia for the time being and will shift funds to the U.S., geographically the most separated from the region,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.