China on Thursday allocated nearly USD four billion funding to support efforts to contain the dreaded coronavirus as the death toll from the epidemic jumped to 170, with the foundations of Jack Ma and Bill & Melinda Gates also opening their wallets to help in the fight against the outbreak.
The coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, capital of China's Hubei province, in December and has now spread across the globe. The Chinese authorities are trying to contain the epidemic while other countries, including India, are working on plans to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak.
The death toll in China has increased sharply to 170 with 38 more fatalities while the confirmed cases jumped to 7,711, China's National Health Commission said on Thursday.
China has allocated 27.3 billion yuan (about USD 3.94 billion) to support the battle across the country against the novel coronavirus, the Finance Ministry said.
The funds have been allocated to guarantee the coronavirus prevention and control work, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
More efforts are required to improve fiscal and taxation measures for coronavirus prevention and control in a timely manner, the Finance Ministry said.
Financial departments at all levels should reasonably allocate funds and make sure that the prevention and control work will not be affected by funding problems, the meeting noted, Xinhua reported.
Also, the government has announced a special daily subsidy of 300 yuan (about USD 42) for medical personnel working in close contact with the coronavirus affected patients, it said.
Meanwhile, funds are pouring in to step up research to develop vaccine to counter the coronavirus.
Alibaba founder Jack Ma, the second-richest person in China, reportedly pledged USD 14 million (100 million yuan) to efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine through his Jack Ma Foundation.
"We firmly know that while scientists are racing against the clock, it won't be an easy task from the vaccine research to the final large-scale production and use," Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group and the Jack Ma Foundation said.
Ma said the foundation will strive to provide more help for the development and accumulation of medical science in the fight against viruses.
Alibaba Group said it would provide public research institutions free access to all AI capabilities needed for the development of vaccines and new drugs for the novel coronavirus.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a USD10 million commitment to help frontline responders in China and Africa contain the spread of novel coronavirus.
The foundation pledged USD five million in support of response efforts in China and is working with public- and private-sector partners to accelerate national and international cooperation in the areas of critical need, including efforts to identify and confirm cases, safely isolate and care for infected patients, and develop treatments and vaccines.
China is still in emergency mode in dealing with the coronavirus threat and not yet started counting the costs and the impact it would have on its already slowing down economy.
The world's 2nd largest economy grew by 6.1 per cent last year, the lowest annual growth rate in 29 years amid the bruising 18-month long trade war with the US. The government is hoping to halt the slowdown this year after reaching the phase one trade deal with Washington.
With the coronavirus causing devastating impact by virtually bringing the country to halt, analysts say it may have substantial impact on the economy this year.