WASHINGTON - The death toll from the new coronavirus climbed past the 2,000 mark Wednesday, China's health commission announced, even while the number of confirmed cases hit a monthly low.
The death toll in mainland China reached 2,004 with most of the deaths reported in Hubei province, where the outbreak began in December. One hundred-32 deaths were reported in Hubei.
But the health commission reported Wednesday 1,749 newly confirmed cases — the lowest number so far in February — bringing the total number of confirmed cases in China to 74,000.
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Chinese state-run media said Tuesday President Xi Jinping spoke to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson by telephone, telling him that China's measures to fight the virus is making "visible progress."
Despite the drop in the daily number of confirmed cases, the World Health Organization cautions people against relaxing and believing the worst is over. The WHO says it is still too early to predict exactly which way the outbreak will go.
“We don’t have enough data on cases outside China to make meaningful conclusions,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. He added that more than 80% of coronavirus patients "have mild disease and will recover."
The coronavirus outbreak continued to wreak havoc around the world. WHO reported that outside China there are now 804 cases in 25 countries, with three deaths.
Russia said starting Thursday it would ban all Chinese from entering its territory.
Deputy prime minister for health Tatiana Golikova, said the decision was necessary "because of the worsening epidemic in China and the fact that Chinese nationals are continuing to arrive on Russian territory."
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it took the United States “too long to get the medical experts into” China to help combat the outbreak.
On a visit to Africa, Pompeo said, "We hope that every country that has information, this includes China, will be completely open and transparent ... We are hopeful that the Chinese government will increase its transparency [and] will continue to share this information.”