Virus death toll suddenly spikes
The number of people who have died from the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak has risen to 55, authorities have confirmed, as hospitals resort to administering patients with medication used to treat HIV.
The South China Morning Post is reporting there are now 55 deaths - up from the previously confirmed death toll of 41. All 55 deaths occurred in China's Hubei province, where the virus was first discovered.
There have been more than 1700 confirmed cases of the coronavirus across China, and at least 30 other cases worldwide, including four in Australia.
Canada has today confirmed its first case of coronavirus, with a man in his 50s being treated in hospital in Toronto after arriving on a flight from Wuhan via the Chinese city of Guangzhou on Thursday.
It comes as the Chinese Government said some hospitals in Beijing were giving coronavirus patients two medicines used in the treatment of HIV.
The two drugs, Lopinavir and Ritonavir, are antiretrovirals designed to stop HIV from binding with healthy cells and reproducing, the Post reported."Online rumours say that an anti-AIDS drug has been used and proved to be effective in treating the coronavirus," the Beijing Municipal Health Commission said in a statement.
"The National Health Commission has recommended the rumoured names to treat the coronavirus before and we have Lopinavir/Ritonavir in stock in Beijing."
A report published in The Lancet medical journal on Friday said the two drugs had previously been used to treat people infected with the deadly SARS outbreak in 2002-03.
"No antiviral treatment for coronavirus infection has been proven to be effective," the report read.
"In a historical control study, the combination of lopinavir and ritonavir among SARS-CoV patients was associated with substantial clinical benefit (fewer adverse clinical outcomes)."
'ACCELERATING ITS SPEED'
Earlier, China's President warned of a "grave situation" as he said the killer coronavirus was "accelerating its speed".
Resources and experts will be placed at designated hospitals to tackle the virus and supplies to the Hubei province will be guaranteed and cost won't be a hindrance, according to the TV report.
The Chinese Government has sent 450 military medical staff, including those who have experience in fighting against SARS or Ebola, according to People's Daily.
Wuhan, a city with about 11 million people in the Hubei province, has been on lockdown since Thursday as it is believed the virus originated at a local meat market in December.
At least 56 million people in 18 cities are now on lockdown in China.
Distressing video and photos show how staff have been overwhelmed with the patients flooding into overcrowded hospitals.
One unverified video reportedly filmed by a nurse in a Wuhan hospital appears to show overcrowded hallways and staff in fully-protective body suits allegedly stepping over three dead bodies.
The nurse wrote that staff and patients were "stuck" with the bodies, which are covered by white sheets, because no one is available to take them away.
Overworked medical staff are also wearing diapers because they don't have time to use the toilet and others do so because they fear ripping off their hazmat suits when supplies are already so low, the Washington Post reported.
A Wuhan Union Hospital doctor who identified himself as Mr Do on Chinese microblogging site Weibo wrote: "We know that the protective suit we wear could be the last one we have, and we can't afford to waste anything."
Authorities in Wuhan, the ground zero of the outbreak, announced yesterday they were building a 1000-bed hospital in a matter of days.
A second emergency hospital is going to build within weeks and house 1,300 beds, according to the People's Daily.
Chinese authorities have already scrapped Lunar New Year celebrations for today to prevent the spread of the highly-contagious virus.
Major tourist attractions such as Shanghai's Disneyland theme park, the Badling section of the Great Wall of China and Beijing's Forbidden City is also shut today.
Residents 14 cities in the Hubei province, which is where the epicentre of the outbreak, have been banned from travelling, according to state-run Global Times.
Seven million people in Huanggang have been told not to leave after there were confirmed cases.
And at least one million residents in Ezhou are unable to travel after the rail stations were shut.
Suspended transport services have been put into effect in the smaller cities of Xiantao, Zhijiang, Qianjiang, Chibi, Jingmen, Xianning, Huangshi (including Daye City, Yangxin County), Dangyang, Enshi, Yichang and Xiaogan.
In Zhijiang city, all public venues have been shut down except hospitals, supermarkets, farmers' market, gas stations and drug stores, Hubei Daily reported. Indoor entertainment venues in Enshi city have also been shut down, it said.
In Australia, there have been four confirmed cases of the deadly virus confirmed.
NSW Health last night confirmed three men - aged in theirs 30s, 40s and 50s - are being treated in Westmead Hospital in Sydney and are in isolation.
Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said this afternoon that a case of the respiratory condition had been confirmed in a man who last week returned from China. The man, aged in his 50s, was in Australia for six days before being diagnosed.
The Victorian case was the first confirmed case in Australia of "about a dozen" being investigated nationwide, an estimate put forward by Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young on Saturday.
Parts of this article originally appeared on The Sun and have been reproduced with permission