The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in China surpassed 70,000 Monday while two planeloads of quarantined Americans took off from Tokyo for home.
Hubei province, the center of the outbreak, reported 100 more deaths, bringing the death toll in China to nearly 1,800. Five deaths outside the mainland have also been confirmed in France, Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan.
The number of new cases in Hubei is only slightly higher than the number reported Sunday but down from those reported Friday and Saturday. Chinese officials say this is a sign that China has the outbreak under control.
But World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted Sunday that “it is impossible to predict which direction this epidemic will take.”
While China has recently been complimented for the way it has handled the outbreak and its efforts to contain it, the WHO is still asking for more information on how China is making its diagnoses.
Chinese state media Saturday published a speech President Xi Jinping made Feb. 3 that shows Chinese authorities knew more about the seriousness of the coronavirus at least two weeks before it made the dangers known to the public. It wasn’t until late January that officials said the virus could spread between humans.
In his Jan. 7 speech, Xi ordered the shutdown of the cities most affected by the virus. Those lockdowns began Jan. 23.
Meanwhile, two U.S. State Department chartered fights took off from Tokyo early Monday, carrying Americans who had been quarantined for two weeks aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess.
More than 355 infected people were diagnosed with coronavirus on board the cruise ship and all of the evacuated passengers will be quarantined for another 14 days in the U.S.
Also Sunday, the State Department said it is looking into the case of a U.S. citizen who was diagnosed with the coronavirus after departing the cruise ship Westerdam, whose passengers tested negative for the virus before disembarking in Cambodia.
Malaysian medical authorities said the passenger, and 83-year-old woman, twice tested positive for the virus upon arriving in Malaysia after showing signs of a viral infection, a State Department spokesperson said Sunday. She is the first person from the Westerdam to test positive. Her husband tested negative.
The spokesperson said U.S. authorities to not have “sufficient evidence to determine when the passenger may have been exposed and where.”
The spokesperson said no more information could be shared because of privacy considerations, but said the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lampur is in close contact with local authorities and the patient.