Japan records 1st death
But spike in Chinese cases not ‘tip of iceberg’
BEIJING — The Chinese province at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak reported a record rise in deaths and thousands more infections using a broader definition Thursday, while Japan became the third place outside mainland China to report a fatality.
The epidemic is giving China’s ruling Communist Party one of its sternest challenges in years, constraining the world’s second largest economy and triggering a purge of provincial bureaucrats.
With China’s streets, restaurants and flower markets bare, a miserable Valentine’s Day is expected Friday.
Japan confirmed its first coronavirus death — a woman in her 80s living in Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo — adding to 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 sickness.
The Japanese woman fell ill in January, but only later showed symptoms of pneumonia and was hospitalized, with coronavirus confirmed after her death and the contagion route under investigation, the health minister said.
However, the big jump in China’s reported cases reflects a decision by authorities there to reclassify a backlog of suspected cases by using patients’ chest images and is not necessarily the “tip of an iceberg” of a wider epidemic, a top World Health Organization official said Thursday. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’S health emergencies program, said that more than 14,000 new cases reported in Hubei province Wednesday came after a change to include results from quicker CT scans that reveal lung infections rather than relying just on laboratory tests to confirm cases.
“We’ve seen this spike in the number of cases reported in China, but this does not represent a significant change in the trajectory of the outbreak,” Ryan told a briefing in Geneva.
The biggest cluster of infections outside China is on a cruise liner quarantined off the Japanese port of Yokohama with a further 44 cases reported there on Thursday, raising the total to 219.
Authorities said some elderly people would finally to be allowed to disembark Friday.
A florist prepares yesterday for what is expected to be a slow Valentine’s Day in Beijing.
RYAN Not ‘significant’