China announces biggest drop in new virus cases in nearly a month

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Across the Yellow Sea at the virus' epicenter, China voiced confidence as a noticeably reduced number of new daily infections was recorded.

On Thursday, China's national health commission said in a statement that 394 new cases had been confirmed in the past 24 hours, down from 1,749 the day before.

Hubei continued to be hardest hit by the coronavirus, with 1,693 new cases and 132 new deaths on Wednesday morning. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not immediately provide details.

The mayor of Daegu - South Korea's fourth-largest, with 2.5 million people - advised residents to stay indoors.

"China's forceful action has contained the spread of the virus inside China and also the spread of the virus to other parts of the world", Wang said, adding that the country "has the capacity and determination to overcome this outbreak at an early date". South Korea now has 104 confirmed cases of the flu-like virus.

Two people died in Iran on Wednesday after testing positive for the virus, AFP reported quoting the IRNA news agency. According to NHK, the deceased were both Japanese nationals a male and a female, both in their eighties. Also, 16,155 patients cured and discharged from hospital.

The Diamond Princess has been quarantined near Tokyo since February 3, initially with about 3,700 people aboard.

The first group of passengers from the Diamond Princess also touched down in Hong Kong on Thursday. More passengers left the ship on Thursday, packing into yellow buses and leaving for stations and airports. The process continues through Friday.

Japan, which is due to host the Summer Olympics in July, had faced criticism over its strategy of quarantining people on board the ship.

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Around 180 Australians evacuated from the virus-stricken cruise ship in Japan have arrived in the city of Darwin to begin a second quarantine period. Fourteen of them have since tested positive for the illness, though they showed no symptoms on the flight back to the United States and were isolated from the rest of the passengers.

A WHO-led global mission now in China - which Chen described as a "joint venture" - was visiting several provinces and a stop in the outbreak's epicentre, Wuhan, a city in Hubei province, was "under consideration", he said.

World Health Organization chief, Tedros Ghebreyesus, in his daily press briefing said the data from China is encouraging as it has continued to show a decline in new confirmed cases. They are now discounting cases that had come back negative after laboratory tests.

"As you know, a WHO-led worldwide team of experts is now on the ground in China, working with their Chinese counterparts to find answers to some of the things we don't know, including the transmissibility of the virus and the impact of the measures that China has taken".

The death toll from the novel coronavirus that originated in China crossed 2,000 this week, but new research suggests that most cases of the illness are mild.

This photo taken on February 17, 2020 shows a man wearing a protective face mask riding a bicycle in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province. More than 80% of the country's cases are in Hubei and 95% of the deaths. Many of those infected have already been transferred to hospitals.

Local media said she had twice refused to be tested for the coronavirus on the grounds she had not recently travelled overseas.

Overall, however, the COVID-19 fatality rate is far lower than that of past coronavirus epidemics.

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