China's fight against novel coronavirus outbreak

Grant Boone
February 13, 2020

China's Hubei province has registered the highest-ever one-day total of infections and deaths from coronavirus following a change in how it counts cases.

China's National Health Commission puts death toll from coronavirus outbreak at 1,367, up 254 from a day earlier.

But the 2,015 new confirmed cases reported in mainland China on Wednesday was dwarfed by the 14,840 new cases reported in Hubei alone on Thursday when provincial officials said they had adopted a new methodology for counting infections.

Officials in the province, which includes Wuhan and the surrounding area, are now using lung scans to diagnose the disease because testing kits have become scarce, the New York Times reports.

It was not immediately clear how the new methodology affected the results, nor why the death toll rose so sharply.

The case of a British man who passed on the virus to at least 11 other people - without having been in China - has raised fears of a new phase of contagion overseas.

"It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks", World Health Organization director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press conference.

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Even if the genera fatality rate is 1%, it still means that the death toll would be huge. To date China has reported 42,708 confirmed cases, including 1,017 deaths, Tedros said.

And Dr Mike Ryan, the head of the WHO's emergency programme, has cautioned that it is too early "to predict the beginning, the middle or end of the epidemic". He said the Geneva-based United Nations health agency was seeking "further clarity" from China about recent updates to its case definition and reporting protocol for the coronavirus disease outbreak.

The US is also limiting flights from China or other worldwide flights with US passengers who have been to China within the previous 14 days to 11 major airports for enhanced screening.

The biggest cluster of cases outside China is on a cruise ship quarantined off Japan's coast, where 44 more people tested positive for COVID-19, raising the total number of infections on the Diamond Princes to 218.

Planemaker Boeing said airlines were facing a fall in profits as the crisis reduces passenger demand and prolongs weakness in economically sensitive air freight. "I can't say. But I think it's at its peak in mid- to late-February", he said.

Although no passengers have fallen ill on board, the ship had been turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand over fears that someone on the cruise could have the virus.

The removal of Jiang Chaoliang, the leading Communist Party official of Hubei province, and Ma Guoqiang, his counterpart in Wuhan, follows the dismissal of two provincial health officials on Tuesday, and is part of a wider effort by Beijing to remove bureaucrats it accuses of shirking their duties.

The Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix, set for Shanghai on April 19, was postponed, as was Singapore's rugby sevens tournament scheduled for April 11-12, a source said.

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