Coronavirus: 14-day quarantine ordered for Beijing returnees

Residents wearing face masks and pyjamas are seen on a street in Shanghai China as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus

The total number of confirmed cases in the country now stands at 66,492, according to a notice from China's National Health Commission.

In an unprecedented attempt to contain the disease, the Chinese government has placed the hardest-hit cities - home to more than 60 million people - under lockdown. Honghu city in Hubei province imposed a "wartime" lock-down beginning on Friday, with strict management of entry into housing compounds and villages, according to an official social media account of the local police, China's CCTV reported.

The holiday was extended by several days to prevent further contagion but people have slowly started to return to work in the past two weeks, though many are doing their jobs from home and schools remain closed.

Authorities said 66,492 confirmed cases have been reported, while in the last 24 hours, 143 people have died and nearly 2,280 new cases have been detected.

More than 25,000 doctors from all parts of China have, meanwhile, arrived in the province of Hubei to help their colleagues fight the outbreak of a new coronavirus, Deputy Director of the NHC Wang Hesheng said on Saturday.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared the outbreak a global health emergency, appealing for $675 million to fund a three-month response plan. Employees must wear masks all day and report their temperature twice a day as fever is one of the virus' main symptoms.

Coronavirus infections skyrocket as China refines diagnostic methods
Japan confirmed its first coronavirus death on Thursday - a woman in her 80s living in Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo. As many as 55,748 are now undergoing treatment, while 1,380 people have died.

Alarm was raised about the ship after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong was diagnosed with the virus. The virus is killing about 2% of those infected and has spread faster than other respiratory viruses that emerged this century.

"We're seeking further clarity on how clinical diagnosis is being made to ensure other respiratory illnesses including influenza are not getting mixed into the COVID-19 data", World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday.

China is confident the epidemic will be over soon, its vice minister of foreign affairs said.

Cases have been recorded in countries including Britain, Japan and the US.

The biggest cluster outside China has been on the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship owned by Carnival Corp, that has been quarantined since its arrival in Yokohama, Japan, on February 3.

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