China slams West for coronavirus ‘overreaction’ as death toll soars past 1,500

China has hit out at countries for 'overreacting' to the killer coronavirus despite it having so far killed more than 1,500 people.

A top Chinese official defended his country's management of the epidemic, while acknowledging that the coronavirus is a 'deep challenge'.

In a wide-ranging interview with Reuters, State Councillor Wang Yi said: "The epidemic overall is under control. The epidemic is truly sudden. It has brought a challenge to China and the world."

"We've taken such complete prevention and control efforts, efforts that are so comprehensive, that I can't see any other country that can do this."

Wang, who also serves as foreign minister, added that any leader in another country would find the challenge very difficult. "But China has been able to do this."

In Britain, a host of doctors' surgeries and schools have been forced to close as part of attempts to stop the virus spreading.

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The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in mainland China rose to 1,523 by the end of Friday, after 143 people died over the course of the day.

The number of new deaths in central Hubei province, at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, rose by 139 as of Friday.

Most of the new deaths were in Hubei's provincial capital of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated, with 107 new deaths.

A total of 1,123 people in Wuhan have now died from the coronavirus.

There were 2,641 new confirmed infections across mainland China, bringing the national total to 66,492.

A number of trade fairs and industry conferences in China and overseas have been postponed due to transportation curbs and concerns about the spread of the virus.

The virus, coming on the back of a disruptive trade war between the United States and China, has again exposed underlying tensions on multiple fronts between the world's two biggest economies.

It has also posed one of the toughest challenges for President Xi Jinping since he assumed power in 2013.

Mr Wang continued: "Some countries have stepped up measures, including quarantine measures, which are reasonable and understandable, but for some countries they have overreacted, which has triggered unnecessary panic.

"I'm sure that those countries are reflecting on this as the situation evolves and the epidemic is gradually brought under further control.

"They will gradually release such restrictions. Because at the end of the day, these countries need to interact with China."

The U.S. State Department and Treasury Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment, while the White House declined to comment.

Wang rejected the idea that China was not transparent enough in its initial handling of the outbreak.

Top Communist Party officials in Wuhan and Hubei province, where the city is located, were sacked this week.

Meanwhile in Britain, two Labour MPs have self-isolated after attending a conference in central London where a coronavirus patient was present.

There was also chaos at Heathrow Airport today after eight planes were held on lockdown over coronavirus fears.

There have been nine confirmed cases of the virus in Britain, while the first batches of Brits flown out of Wuhan to quarantine centres have been allowed to leave.

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