Hundreds of people began disembarking a cruise ship quarantined in Japan on Wednesday as criticism mounted of Japan's handling of an onboard outbreak of the new coronavirus that has infected more than 540 people.
Though China reported its fewest new coronavirus infections since January on Tuesday and its lowest daily death toll for a week, the World Health Organization said data suggesting the epidemic had slowed should still be viewed with caution.
His remarks were published on Hubei's provincial website, alongside the declaration, "If the masses can not mobilize, it's impossible to fight a people's war".
"I am very keen to get off this ship", Australian passenger Vicki Presland told Reuters over a social-media link. More than 300 American passengers evacuated earlier are quarantined in the United States. China is the biggest trade partner for many Southeast Asian economies that are hurting badly because of the epidemic.
As questions swirled over how the virus spread so readily on the ship, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato defended Japan's efforts.
Liu Zhiming had mobilized all the resources of his hospital in Wuhan city, at the center of the outbreak, as thousands of patients arrived each day.
- China will launch inspections of the novel coronavirus prevention and control measures implemented by education authorities and on campus, according to a recent circular issued by an education supervising office under the Ministry of Education.
"CDC's assessment is that it may not have been sufficient to prevent transmission among individuals on the ship", it said in a statement. The U.S. previously flew out scores of its citizens on charter flights from Wuhan but does not have any further plans to do so, it said. Experts are still unsure of the reasons behind this, and while there may be a physiological reason why children are less likely to contract the virus, it is also just as likely these low infection rates are due to effective quarantine measures. Passengers weren't confined to their rooms until February 5.
"There's an bad lot at stake here in terms of public health, not just to people in China but of all people in the world", Ryan said.
Another 88 people tested positive for the virus on the quarantined Diamond Prince cruise ship off Yokohama in Japan, raising the number of those infections to 542.
Ryan also said there were no indications the new coronavirus was infecting people in North Korea.
The death toll from China's coronavirus epidemic jumped to 1,868 on Tuesday after 98 more people died, according to the National Health Commission.
The central province of Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak, reported 132 new deaths, while in the provincial capital of Wuhan, 116 people died.
The city-state "is leaving no stone unturned, testing every case of influenza-like illness and pneumonia".
The update comes as officials tallied over 73,250 cases of the virus around the world, which has resulted in at least 1,868 deaths. It is too early to tell if this reported decline will continue.
The number of confirmed cases has reached 72,436, it added. The number of new infections ex-Hubei totalled 56 on February 18, down from a peak of 890 on February 3.
The city was carrying out "very good public health practice" with door-to-door surveillance, said Michael Ryan, head of WHO's health emergencies programme.
Chinese officials have been putting on a courageous face saying the economic impact of the virus would be limited and short-term.
Chinese state television quoted President Xi Jinping as saying China could still meet its economic growth target for 2020, despite some economic analysts downgrading their China forecasts.