China records over 250 virus deaths in one day
China on Thursday reported 254 new deaths and a spike in virus cases of 15,152, after the hardest-hit province of Hubei applied a new classification system that broadens the scope of diagnoses for the outbreak, which has spread to more than 20 countries.
The new 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 local authorities’ handling of the epidemic.
The total deaths in mainland China since the outbreak began in December stood at 1,367, with the total number of confirmed cases mounting to 52,526. This figure now includes more than 13,000 cases of “clinical diagnosis,” which appears to include those based on a doctors’ analysis combined with lung imaging, as opposed to waiting for laboratory test results.
Japan confirmed its first coronavirus death — a woman in her 80s living in Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo — adding to two previous fatalities in Hong Kong and the Philippines.
Japan is one of the worst affected of more than two dozen other countries and territories that have seen hundreds of infections from the flu-like virus.
US officials on Thursday also announced the country’s 15th confirmed case of the new coronavirus — an evacuee from China who had been under quarantine in Texas.
The World Health Organisation ( WHO) on Thursday said a sharp rise in reported COVID-19 cases in China, due to a change in counting methods, did not represent a big shift in the epidemic.
“This does not represent a significant change in the trajectory of the outbreak,” Michael Ryan, head of WHO’S health emergencies programme, said at a press conference.
“We’re not dealing, from what we understand, with a spike in cases of 14,000 on one day,” he said.
“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.”
Ryan also said he expected members of a Who-led international mission to China to arrive over the weekend.
In breaking down the large number of new cases in China, National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng said Hubei had adopted a revised diagnosis and treatment plan aimed at accelerating the identification and treatment of patients.
That adds a “clinical diagnosis case” classification to identify suspected cases who appear to have pneumonia so that patients can be accepted as soon as possible and treated as confirmed cases, Mi said, adding that should “reduce severe illness and mortality.”
Asian markets fell on Thursday after a dramatic spike in the number of coronavirus deaths and cases in mainland China, with traders concerned about the economic impact of the epidemic.
With China’s streets, restaurants and flower markets bare, a miserable Valentine’s Day was expected on Friday. Provincial Communist Party boss Jiang Chaoliang was sacked as secretary of the Hubei Provincial Committee, and Ma Guoqiang removed as party chief in Wuhan, state media said. They were the two highest-profile officials to be axed since the outbreak.
The biggest cluster of infections outside China is on a cruise ship quarantined off the Japanese port of Yokohama with 218 cases. Authorities said some elderly people would finally be allowed to disembark on Friday.
There was a happy ending for another liner, the MS Westerdam, which docked in Cambodia after being barred from Guam, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand over fears that one of its 1,455 passengers and 802 crew might have the virus — even though none had tested positive.
Passengers clapped and cheered on arrival in the sunset. Cambodia later said none of 20 passengers from the ship who had been tested had coronavirus.
Tiny Singapore, an Asian travel hub, also reported its biggest daily jump in confirmed cases, eight new infections taking its total to 58.
And Vietnam quarantined for 20 days a rural community of 10,000 people where 11 of its 16 coronavirus cases, including a three-month-old baby, have been, officials said.
European health ministers expressed concern about stocks of medicine and medical supplies on Thursday and urged EU member states to work together against the new coronavirus outbreak.
Toll nears 1,400 as 15,000 more cases reported on a single day; Japan reports first death; coronavirus jitters push Asian markets down; quarantined ship finally docks in Cambodia.
With over 60,000 people infected, the vast majority of them in China’s Hubei province, and more than 1,370 people dead, the coronavirus disease ( COVID-19) continues to wreak havoc, leaving the world worried and markets shivering.
The latest disappointing development is that China’s official death toll from the coronavirus spiked dramatically on Thursday after authorities changed their counting methods. This has added to worries that the epidemic may be far worse than being reported.
In Hubei and its capital Wuhan, where tens of millions of people are trapped as part of an unprecedented quarantine effort, 242 new deaths were reported on Thursday.
Another 14,840 people were confirmed to be infected in Hubei alone, with the new cases and deaths by far the biggest one-day increases since the crisis began.
Hubei had previously only allowed infections to be confirmed by RNA tests, which can take days. RNA, or ribonucleic acid, carries genetic information allowing identification of viruses. But it has also begun using computerised tomography (CT) scans, which give images of the lungs, as per Hubei health commission, to identify cases and isolate them faster.
As a result, another 14,840 new cases were reported in the province on Thursday, from 2,015 new cases nationwide a day earlier.
The global scenario is not encouraging either. Japan has confirmed its first coronavirus death, a woman in her 80s, adding to two previous fatalities in Hong Kong and the Philippines.
Besides, a troubling new front has opened abroad as Vietnam has placed 10,000 people under quarantine after six COVID-19 cases were discovered in a cluster of villages — the first such lockdown overseas.
The outbreak has affected global events, with the World Mobile Congress in Spain cancelled and the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens tournament and Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai postponed.
China’s economy is taking a hit and having international repercussions. So much so that HSBC has lowered its first-quarter forecast for mainland China’s economic growth to 4.1% year-on-year from 5.8% due to the fallout from coronavirus.
The UAE, on its part, deserves praise for being among the first countries to stock up sufficient quantities of materials required for state-of-the-art checkups to detect the new coronavirus.
In the words of Abdul Rahman Bin Mohammad Bin Nasser Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention: “As soon as the spread of the virus was reported from China, we made available enough quantities of thermometers at the border crossings and airports. We also took all necessary precautions in line with World Health Organisation protocols.”
The country has adequate reserves of necessary medical supplies such as surgical masks, medical gloves, goggles, and protective clothing. In addition to these, several factories inside the country continue to manufacture them to the best international standards.
The UAE has also received much appreciation from the WHO and Arab Regional Centre for its prompt handling of the detected cases.
European Union health ministers have taken a step in the right direction by agreeing to organise a coordinated response to prevent the virus from spreading.
WHO Director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus correctly pointed out: “This outbreak is a test of solidarity — political, financial and scientific. We need to come together to fight a common enemy that does not respect borders, ensure that we have the resources necessary to bring this outbreak to an end and bring our best science to the forefront to find shared answers to shared problems.”
↑ A patient thanks a doctor in Jinyintan Hospital, designated for critical COVID-19 patients, in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Thursday.