Coronavirus infections skyrocket as China refines diagnostic methods

A man wears a protective mask as he walks in the Wuhan business district Hubei province China on Thursday Feb. 13 2020.							Getty Images

The scale of the epidemic swelled this week after authorities in central Hubei province, the epicentre of the contagion, changed their criteria for counting cases, adding thousands of new patients to their tally.

The death toll in China from the outbreak now stands at 1,483.

"We understand that most of these cases relate to a period going back over days and weeks and are retrospectively reported as cases, sometimes back to the beginning of the outbreak itself".

On Friday, China revised the total number of deaths from the respiratory disease down by 108, citing a double-count in Hubei.

The announcement of the new death toll comes after China said Wednesday that the number of new cases had slowed for a second consecutive day. Though Chinese authorities initially stipulated that only Canadian passport holders would be able to leave the quarantined region, they seem to have relaxed that rule, Champagne said, but he did not elaborate on whether Canada would make arrangements to fly more of them out. A resolution was introduced into the U.S. Senate earlier this week to honor the doctor and call for greater transparency from China in its handling of the spread of COVID-19.

On Thursday, following the release of the new figures, Chinese state media announced that the party secretary of Hubei province, Jiang Chaoliang, was sacked and would be replaced by the mayor of Shanghai, Ying Yong.

Zeng Yixin, vice minister at the National Health Commission, said at a news conference that 1,716 health workers have been infected in the country as of Tuesday.


Hubei authorities had previously only allowed infections to be confirmed by RNA tests, which can take days to process.

"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. Vietnam has confirmed 16 cases of the diseases, majority in Son Loi.

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Meanwhile, Japan confirmed its first coronavirus death on Thursday while a cruise liner quarantined off a Japanese port has more than 200 people confirmed with the disease. The ship has 218 infections among its 3,700 passengers and crew.

Among the 36,719 hospitalized patients, 7,593 were still in severe condition and another 1,685 in critical condition.

Champagne said about 250 Canadians on a separate cruise ship off the shore of Cambodia, the Westerdam, have tested negative for the coronavirus and will be returned to Canada at the expense of the cruise line, Holland America.

A Vietnamese health official wearing a protective suit amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak sprays disinfectant on a motorcyle at a checkpoint in Son Loi commune in Vinh Phuc province on Thursday.

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