Coronavirus cases spike in Hubei; death toll hits 1,367

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After signs that the spread of a deadly new coronavirus may be slowing, health officials in Hubei province reported a spike of 14,840 new confirmed cases on Thursday -- a nine-fold increase from the day prior after a change to its diagnostic criteria.

Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told state-run Global Times that health officials on Thursday began to include cases determined to be "clinically diagnosed" in its daily tallies, meaning patients with symptoms similar to those experienced by confirmed cases of COVID-19.

"Including such patients in reports of new cases will facilitate quarantine measures and allow them to receive medical treatment in hospitals, which is good for both the patients and the public at the same time," he said.

The Hubei Provincial Health Commission said the number of cases reported Thursday included 13,332 that were clinically diagnosed, state-run Xinhuanet reported.

The province also recorded 242 deaths within the previous 24 hours, more than double its previous highest number of 103 recorded on Monday.

Nationwide, the number of confirmed cases climbed to 59,804 and the death toll rose by 254 deaths over the previous day to 1,367, the National Health Commission said.

The drastic increases follow a gradual decline in the number of confirmed cases nationwide that signaled the virus' spread may have been slowing down.

World Health Organization officials said Thursday the spike in diagnoses comes from health personnel in Hubei province using CT scans to confirm the presence of "lower respiratory infections."

Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's Health Emergencies Program, said that while there is more than one cause for such infections, the change in approach means patients can be treated for COVID-19 while awaiting confirmation from blood tests.

This, Ryan said, could help keep some patients from progressing to severe disease or from spreading it further. He, however, that diagnoses outside of China continue to be based on blood tests.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party has replaced key government figures, including its heads in Hubei, its capital city of Wuhan and at its office that overseas Hong Kong and Macau, in connection to the coronavirus.

The party said Thursday that Jiang Chaoliang, its secretary in Hubei, was fired for Ying Yong, and Ma Guoqiang, the party's chief in Wuhan, was ousted and Wang Zhonglin would be taking over, China's Global Times reported.

According to the state-run newspaper, their firings were over problems that were allegedly exposed by the ongoing outbreak that is believed to have emerged from a Wuhan seafood market in early December.

At China's Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, Zhang Xiaoming was demoted to deputy director and Xia Baolong was appointed the office's new director, the party said without offering an explanation.

China's President Xi Jinping also approved Thursday the deployment of 2,600 additional medical personnel from the armed forces to two hospitals in Wuhan to treat patients carrying the disease, according to a statement carried by Xinhuanet.

The military has so far dispatched 4,000 support personnel in three batches to Wuhan, it said.

In Shiyan, the Hubei government implemented wartime control measures baring people from a single district from leaving their homes after 137 confirmed cases were diagnosed with the virus. Those who disobey the order will be detained, according to state-run media.

Outside of China, the number of COVID-19 cases jumped by 46 over Tuesday to 441, according to data published Wednesday by the World Health Organization. The death toll outside mainland China continues to maintain at two after patients infected with the virus died in Hong Kong and the Philippines earlier this month.

In Japan, cruise ship operator Princess Cruises confirmed in a statement an additional 44 cases of the coronavirus on its Diamond Princess vessel, which has been under quarantine in Yokahama port since early this month, bringing the total number of infected to 218 -- the highest number of infected outside of China.

Among the newly diagnosed are 29 Japenese nationals and 15 foreigners. One is a crew member, The Japan Times reported.

Health Minister Kastsunobu Kat told reporters Thursday that five passengers have been sent to the hospital with severe symptoms and were on artificial respirators.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health said it has asked the 3,700 passengers and crew on the ship to stay in their private rooms and that those with COVID-19 symptoms will be tested for the virus.

Many of the passengers on the ship are elderly and being confirmed to their windowless rooms may worsen chronic conditions and the ministry said it is working to have them relocated from the vessel to at a mainland accommodation until the 14-day quarantine has elapsed.

Princess Cruises confirmed that Japanese health officials were planning a voluntary disembarkation for guests to finish their quartine on shore.

"From the information available, it is our understanding that this will be a phased approach, with the most medically vulnerable guests in the first phase, including older adults with pre-existing health conditions."

The ship has been moored off Japan's coast since Feb. 3 after a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong last month was later diagnosed with the virus.

Including those infected from the ship, Japan has recorded 247 cases of COVID-19.
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Coronavirus cases spike in Hubei; death toll hits 1,367 Coronavirus cases spike in Hubei; death toll hits 1,367 Reviewed by kogonuso on February 13, 2020 Rating: 5

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