China records over 250 virus deaths in one day

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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.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

↑ A pa­tient thanks a doc­tor in Jiny­in­tan Hos­pi­tal, des­ig­nated for crit­i­cal COVID-19 pa­tients, in Wuhan, Hubei prov­ince, on Thurs­day.

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