Coronavirus Worldwide cases overtake 2003 Sars outbreak

The number of coronavirus cases worldwide has surpassed that of the Sars epidemic, which spread to more than two dozen countries in 2003.

There were around 8,100 cases of Sars – severe acute respiratory syndrome – reported during the eight-month outbreak.

But nearly 10,000 people have been infected with the new coronavirus, most in China, since it emerged in December.

More than 100 cases have been reported outside China, in 22 countries.

The number of deaths so far stands at 213 – all in China. In total, 774 people were killed by Sars.

On Thursday, the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency over the new outbreak.

Most international cases are in people who have been to the Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province, where the virus originated.

But Germany, Japan, Vietnam, the United States, Thailand and South Korea have reported cases of patients being infected by people who had travelled to China.

Wuhan’s Communist Party chief said on Friday the city should have taken measures sooner to contain the virus.

“If strict control measures had been taken earlier, the result would have been better than now,” Ma Guoqiang told state broadcaster CCTV.

“The epidemic may have been alleviated somewhat, and not got to the current situation.”

How does this outbreak compare to Sars?

Sars was a type of coronavirus that first emerged in China’s Guangdong province in November 2002. By the time the outbreak ended the following July, it had spread to more than two dozen countries.

The new coronavirus emerged only last month. So far, it has spread to fewer countries and – while more people have been infected globally – it has resulted in fewer deaths.

On Wednesday, the number of confirmed cases within China surpassed the Sars epidemic.

Sars was also estimated to have cost the global economy more than $30bn (£22bn).

But economists have said the new coronavirus could have an even bigger impact on the world economy. It has forced global companies including tech giants, car makers and retailers to shut down temporarily in China.

China was also criticised by the UN’s global health body for concealing the scale of the original Sars outbreak.

It has been praised for responding to the latest virus with tough measures, including effectively quarantining millions of residents in cities.

How is China handling this?

A confirmed case in Tibet means the virus has now reached every region in mainland China.

The central province of Hubei, where nearly all deaths have occurred, is in a state of lockdown. The province of 60 million people is home to Wuhan, which is at the heart of the outbreak.

The city has effectively been sealed off and China has put numerous transport restrictions in place to curb the spread of the virus. People who have been in Hubei are also being told to work from home.

China has said it will send charter planes to bring back Hubei residents who are overseas “as soon as possible”. A foreign ministry spokesman said this was because of the “practical difficulties” Chinese citizens had faced abroad.

The virus is affecting China’s economy, the world’s second-largest, with a growing number of countries advising their citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to the country.

How is the world responding?

Voluntary evacuations of hundreds of foreign nationals from Wuhan are under way.

The UK, Australia, South Korea, Singapore and New Zealand are expected to quarantine all evacuees for two weeks to monitor them for symptoms and avoid contagion.