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UPDATE 6-Ten die at collapsed China quarantine hotel; virus spread slows ex-Wuhan

ex-Wuhan@ (Updates with suspension of Wuhan makeshift hospitals)

SHANGHAI/BEIJING, March 8 (Reuters) - Ten people have died and 23 remain trapped after the collapse of a hotel that was being used to quarantine people under observation for the coronavirus in the Chinese city of Quanzhou, authorities said on Sunday.

More than 70 people were believed to have been initially trapped in the seven storey building, which collapsed on Saturday evening.

As of 16:00 Beijing time on Sunday, authorities had retrieved 48 individuals from the site of the collapse, with 38 of them sent to hospitals, the Ministry of Emergency Management said.

Pictures from the site showed rescue workers clad in hard hats, goggles and face masks carrying injured people away to waiting medical staff in white overalls and surgical masks.

A rescue force of over 1,000 people, including firefighters, police forces, and other emergency responders, arrived at the site on Saturday night, authorities told a media conference organised by the Quanzhou government on Sunday.

Of the 71 people inside the hotel at the time of the collapse, 58 had been under quarantine, they added.

According to state media outlet Xinhua, the owner of the building, a man surnamed Yang, has been summoned by police.

The building's first floor had been under renovation at the time of the collapse, the news agency said.

News of the collapse comes as the spread of COVID-19 continues to slow in China.

According to data from China's National Health Commission (NHC), cases fell by roughly one half on Saturday from the day prior.

The agency confirmed 44 new cases of the COVID-19 disease caused by the new coronavirus as at the end of March 7, a decline from 99 the previous day.

Chinese cities are gradually relaxing quarantine measures put in place over a month ago, while authorities keep a close watch on the virus' spread overseas.

Of the 44 new confirmed cases, 41 were discovered in Wuhan, the origin of the virus' outbreak and its hotbed.

The remaining three were cases imported from outside mainland China.

This marks the second consecutive day in which all of China's newly confirmed cases outside of the city of Wuhan originated from overseas. The three cases bring China's total imported case count to 63.

According to the Beijing Municipal Health Commission, two of the cases found in Beijing originated in Italy and Spain.

As the virus slows its spread in Wuhan, the centre of the epidemic, authorities have reacted by halting operations of hospitals built specifically to house its patients.

State television reported on Sunday that operations of 11 makeshift hospitals had been suspended and the remaining ones would be out of service by around March 10, although they could be used again depending on the virus situation.

(Reporting by Josh Horwitz, Huizhong Wu and Kevin Yao; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Elaine Hardcastle)