According to the Chinese authorities, the death toll from the coronavirus has been recorded at 811, with the U.S. reporting its first death as a result of this fast-spreading illness.
China’s cabinet said on Sunday it would coordinate with transport authorities to ensure the smooth return to work of employees in key industries such as food and medicines.
The State Council’s special coronavirus group also said workers should return in “batches”, rather than all at once, in order to reduce infection risks.
China’s ambassador to Britain described the newly identified virus as “the enemy of mankind” in an interview with BBC television on Sunday, but added it “is controllable, is preventable, is curable”.
“At this moment is very difficult to predict when we are going to have an inflection point,” Liu Xiaoming told the Andrew Marr Show. “We certainly hope it will come soon, but the isolation and quarantine measures have been very effective.”
Even on Monday, a large number of workplaces and schools will remain closed and many white-collar employees will work from home.
The scale of the potential hit to an economy that has been the engine of global growth in recent years has taken a toll on financial markets, as shares slumped and investors switched into safe-havens such as gold, bonds and the Japanese yen.
China’s National Health Commission recorded another 89 deaths on Saturday, pushing the total well above the 774 who died from SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2002/2003.
Total confirmed coronavirus cases in China stood at 37,198, commission data showed. New infections recorded the first drop since Feb. 1, falling back below 3,000 to 2,656 cases. Of those, 2,147 cases were in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.
The virus has also spread to at least 27 countries and regions, according to a Reuters count based on official reports, infecting more than 330 people. Two deaths have been reported outside mainland China - both of Chinese nationals.