Virus Outbreak: Death toll soars as China changes counting methods

Marco Green
February 14, 2020

It also followed the sacking on Tuesday of two top health officials in Hubei - Zhang Jin, party chief of the Hubei Health Commission, and Liu Yingzi, provincial health commission director - over their flaws in responding to the epidemic.

The reports did not give a reason for the dismissals but the two are the most high-profile Chinese officials to be removed from duty following the coronavirus outbreak that began in Wuhan late previous year.

At least 25 countries have confirmed cases and several nations have evacuated their citizens from Hubei.

The new diagnostic approach came on the same day that Hubei and its stricken capital, Wuhan, replaced their top officials in an apparent response to public criticism of how authorities have handled the epidemic.

Ira Longini, a part-time adviser to the World Health Organisation, has estimated there could eventually be billions of more infections than the current official tally of about 60,000.

But only three deaths have been reported outside China - one in the Philippines, one in Hong Kong, and the latest, an 80-year-old woman, in Japan. There are also 51 cases, with one death, in Hong Kong, and 10 cases in Macao, which are both special administrative regions of China.

While the vast majority of infections and deaths have been in China, particularly the Hubei province, relatively small numbers of infections and a few deaths have been documented in over two dozen other countries.

Figures due out on Monday are expected to show Japan's economy - the world's third-largest - shrank an annualised 3.7 percent in the October-December quarter, due partly to the impact of the virus outbreak, according to analysts.

He said: "In terms of the worldwide mission, the advance team and their Chinese counterparts have now finalised the scope of work and design of the mission".

Other passengers have been allowed to disembark from the ship, after earlier being kept on board as a precaution.

Another cruise ship, the Westerdam, finally anchored Thursday off Cambodia after being turned away by several Asian and Pacific governments.

A passenger on board a cruise ship that docked in Sydney harbour Friday morning has reportedly been taken for testing for a possible case of novel coronavirus.

The MS Westerdam, carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, docked in the Cambodian port town of Sihanoukville on Thursday.

There are 36,719 patients who have been hospitalized in Hubei, including 1,685 who are in critical condition, according to the health authority.

World Health Organization figures released earlier on Thursday had shown China reporting a total of 46,550 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak began in December.

Health officials in Hubei province said 242 people had died from the flu-like virus on February 12, the fastest rise in the daily count since the pathogen was identified in December, and taking the total number of deaths to more than 1,350.

"This increase that you've all seen in the last 24 hours is largely, in part, down to a change in how the cases are being reported", Michael Ryan, head of WHO's health emergencies programme, told reporters.

US President Donald Trump praised China over its handling of the fast-moving coronavirus outbreak in an interview that aired on Thursday, adding that the United States was working closely with Beijing.

"I suspect but can't be certain that the underlying trend is still downwards", Professor Hunter said.

"I don't think the numbers are necessarily manipulated for political purposes, but the numbers themselves may not be so trustworthy", Yun told reporters.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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