The coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in Chinese prisons, authorities said on Friday, contributing to a jump in reported cases beyond the epicentre in Hubei province, including 100 more in South Korea, APA reports citing Reuters.
The 234 infections among prisoners outside Hubei ended 16 straight days of declines in new mainland cases excluding that province, where the virus first emerged in December in its now locked-down capital, Wuhan.
State television quoted Communist Party rulers as saying the outbreak had not yet peaked, and more than 30 cases in a hospital in Beijing highlighted a sharp jump in the tally there.
Total cases in the capital of the coronavirus - known as COVID-19 - were at 396 with four deaths, out of an official mainland toll of 75,400 cases and 2,236 deaths.
U.S. stock index futures lurched downwards as the rise in infections sent investors looking for safer assets such as gold and government bonds.
Adding to the gloomy mood, data showed Japan’s factory activity suffered its steepest contraction in seven years in February, underlining the risk of a recession there as the impact of the outbreak spreads. Asian and European stocks also fell.
With finance leaders from the Group of 20 major economies set to discuss risks to the world economy in Saudi Arabia at the weekend, the International Monetary Fund said it was too early to tell what impact the virus would have on global growth.
“COVID-19 anxiety has risen to a new level amid concerns of virus outbreaks in Beijing and outside of China,” said Rodrigo Catril, a senior FX strategist at NAB.
Chinese Vice Science and Technology Minister Xu Nanping said China’s earliest vaccine would be submitted for clinical trials around late April. That timetable is in line with research in other countries, and a World Health Organization estimate of a vaccine reaching the market in about 18 months.
As international authorities seek to stop the virus from becoming a global pandemic, public health officials are hoping for signs that the arrival of warmer weather in the northern hemisphere might slow its spread.