February 8, 2020 / 5:16 PM / 18 days ago

Head of WHO-led coronavirus probe team leaving for China on Monday or Tuesday

People wearing face masks are seen on the roadside following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 7, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer

GENEVA (Reuters) - The head of a World Health Organization-led international team investigating the coronavirus outbreak will leave for China on Monday or Tuesday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Tedros, asked whether the team would include experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), told a press conference on Saturday: “We hope so.”

The death toll in mainland China rose to 723 on Saturday, the WHO said, looking likely to pass the 774 deaths recorded globally during the 2002-2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Across mainland China, the number of cases stood at 34,598, the WHO said.

Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergency expert, said there had been a stabilisation in the number of new cases reported from Hubei province, the epicentre of the virus, over the past four days.

“That’s good news, and may reflect the impact of the control measures put in place. But remember there are also lots of suspected cases still to be tested.”

Ryan, speaking later to Reuters, said: “The daily number of new cases has been stable over a four-day period. The same number each day, around.”

He added, “It’s not a decline. That can just mean four days of relative calm before it accelerates.”

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Frances Kerry

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