China accused the United States on Monday of whipping up panic over a fast-spreading coronavirus with travel restrictions and evacuations as Chinese stocks plunged on the first day back from the extended Lunar New Year holiday. The death toll in China from the newly identified virus rose to 361 as of Sunday, the National Health Commission said.

Washington has “unceasingly manufactured and spread panic”, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters, noting that the WHO had advised against trade and travel curbs. “It is precisely developed countries like the United States with strong epidemic prevention capabilities and facilities that have taken the lead in imposing excessive restrictions contrary to WHO recommendations,” she added, saying countries should make reasonable, calm and science-based judgements. The WHO said the number of cases will keep growing because tests are pending on thousands of suspected cases.

China opens 1,000-bed hospital

A 1,000-bed hospital built in eight days to treat people with the virus in Wuhan began to take patients on Monday, state media said. More than 7,500 workers took part in the project, launched on January 25 and finished this weekend. A second hospital in Wuhan with 1,600 beds is due to be ready on Wednesday. Chinese President Xi Jinping, presiding over a special meeting of the country’s top Communist Party body for the second time since the crisis started, said “we have launched a people’s war of prevention of the epidemic”. He told the Politburo standing committee that the country must race against time to curb the spread of the epidemic and that those who neglect their duties will be punished. His speech was read by an anchor on the major evening news program of state broadcaster CCTV.

WHO working with Google to combat misinformation

The World Health Organisation is working with Google to ensure that people get facts from WHO first when they search for information about the new virus that recently emerged in China. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the opening of WHO’s executive board meeting on Monday that social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Tencent and TikTok have also taken steps to limit the spread of misinformation and rumours about the virus and outbreak that first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December and has now spread to 23 other countries. “To that end, we have worked with Google to make sure people searching for information about coronavirus see WHO information at the top of their search results,” he said.