Virus Outbreak: Death toll soars as China changes counting methods

Earlier, China reported its lowest daily number of new coronavirus cases - 2,015 - for two weeks.

The death toll from the coronavirus is higher than the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002-03, which is believed to have killed 774 people and sickened almost 8,100 in China and Hong Kong. The daily death toll nearly halved when compared to Wednesday's 14,840.

The death toll in China from the coronavirus outbreak has risen to 1,381, the country's National Health Commission said on February 14.

A preclinical trial of remdesivir, meanwhile, an antiviral drug being studied in China's outbreak that has been used on a compassionate basis for some COVID-19 patients, showed promising results in rhesus monkeys against a related coronavirus, a team from the US National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) reported today in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (PNAS).

China's Health Commission has said that the change was aimed at identifying suspected cases in which the patient has pneumonia so they can be treated more quickly and reduce the likelihood of more serious illness or death.

"Many patients who appeared to be [infected with COVID-19] based on their epidemiological history, contact history and clinical symptoms were not able to test positive on the nucleic acid test, and were listed as 'suspected cases, '" he said.

"This outbreak could still go in any direction", he told reporters.

It's also possibly good news for numerous sick in Wuhan, the Hubei capital where the outbreak began, who have been unable to access hospitals without confirmed diagnoses - though there is still an urgent shortage of facilities, staff and medicals supplies.


Later in the day, WHO's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said on Twitter that 20 passengers tested negative for the virus, and he thanked Cambodia's health ministry and government for their act of global solidarity.

It's too early to say if the outbreak is starting, in the middle, or about to end.

Separately, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd RCL.N said it had canceled 18 cruises in Southeast Asia and joined larger rival Carnival Corp CCL.N in warning that its full-year earnings would be hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

Among the deaths on Thursday, 116 were in Hubei province, two in Heilongjiang, and one each in Anhui, Henan and Chongqing.

Cruise ship situation is "dynamic": There have now been 219 cases of the coronavirus found on board the cruise liner Diamond Princess, which is in quarantine off the coast of Yokohama in Japan.

The ship spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand.

Japan plans to move passengers who wish to leave the ship in phases, with the most "medically vulnerable" guests being moved in the first phase, according to Princess Cruises, the line that owns the Diamond Princess.

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