More than half of coronavirus cases in Hubei treated with traditional Chinese medicine: official Beijing, Feb 15 (PTI) China has applied Traditional Chinese Medicine in treating more than half of the confirmed patients of novel coronavirus infection in the country's Hubei province, which is the epicentre of the epidemic, a senior health official said on Saturday. The death toll in China's novel coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic has climbed to 1,523 with 143 new fatalities reported mostly from the worst-affected Hubei province while the confirmed cases jumped to over 66,000. "Since the beginning of the outbreak, the government has attached importance to both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Western medicine by mobilising the strongest scientific research and medical forces in both fields to treat the patients," Wang Hesheng, deputy head of China's National Health Commission, said. Wang said that TCM has been applied in treating more than half of the confirmed patients of novel coronavirus infection in the country's Hubei province. The announcement about the use of TCM for COVID-19 patients is significant as the virus has no standardised cure yet. TCM universities and hospitals across the country have sent 2,220 medical workers to Hubei to help combat the epidemic, Wang said. The Chinese government has also approved field trials for experimental US antiviral drug, Remdesivir to treat coronavirus patients. "TCM has also been used in the prevention and control of COVID-19 at the community level," Wang said. He emphasised that China is trying to improve the cure rate of patients by coordinating the resources of traditional Chinese and Western medicine. "By coordinating the resources of traditional Chinese and Western medicine, we strive to improve the cure rate and reduce fatalities by the greatest possible amount to effectively safeguard the safety and health of the people," Wang said. Jiao Yahui, also a senior official at the National Health Commission, said that the combination of traditional and western medicines have shown supportive results. "For severe and critically ill patients, antivirus treatment, together with treatment combining traditional Chinese and Western medicine and supportive treatments, such as the use of ventilator, blood plasma from recovered patients and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), have shown effect," Jiao said. "Recently, we have been urging doctors to use ECMO at an early stage to help restore patients' blood oxygen saturation and reduce fatalities," Jiao added. ECMO is a treatment that uses a pump to circulate blood through an artificial lung back into the bloodstream.

India and Bangladesh said on Tuesday they were working on evacuating their citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of a coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 100 people.

Indian state airline Air India is on standby to evacuate an estimated 250 Indians from Wuhan in Hubei province, local media reported earlier.

“We have begun the process to prepare for evacuation of Indian nationals affected by the situation arising out of Corona-2019 virus outbreak in Hubei Province, China,” Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet.

He said Indian authorities were working out the logistics of evacuating people from the city of 11 million people that is under a lockdown.

In Bangladesh, Foreign Minister Abdul Momen said talks were underway to bring back Bangladeshi citizens from China.

The death toll from the virus rose to 106 on Tuesday as authorities scrambled globally to curb its spread and U.S. health authorities advised travellers to avoid all non-essential travel to China. A growing number of countries have said they will evacuate their citizens from Wuhan.

The virus has infected thousands of people in China and spread to more than a dozen countries, including the United States.

There are no confirmed cases of the virus yet in India, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Tuesday, adding authorities were screening suspected patients in multiple cities. All hospitals have been asked to keep those suspected to have the virus in isolation wards, he added.

“We are taking all precautions against it,” said Vardhan.

Seven major airports in India including New Delhi and Mumbai were screening all passengers coming into India from China.

No one in Bangladesh has been found to have the virus yet either, its health minister, Zahid Maleque, told reporters, but the government was prepared if infections surfaced.

Hundreds of those trapped in Wuhan included students from India and Bangladesh.

Shashi Kumar Jaiman from India’s Gujarat state said she was worried for her daughter, who is studying medicine in Wuhan.

“We have been speaking to her every day, but she has not been contacted by the Indian government or the Indian embassy in Beijing so far,” said Jaiman, adding she hoped to get her daughter home soon.

Some Bangladeshi students took to social media to ask about evacuation.

Momen, the Bangladeshi foreign minister, said the government was keeping a close watch on people coming home from China.

“We are keeping their records so that we can track them if something goes wrong,” he said.

Officially known as “2019-nCoV”, the coronavirus can cause pneumonia, but it is too early to know just how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads.