China's virus death toll approaches 1,400

Laverne Higgins
February 14, 2020

Though there are many unanswered questions related to coronavirus, the sudden spike in number of new patients in mainland China has fuelled concerns over the actual situation in the country.

Also Thursday, 44 more people aboard a cruise ship docked off the Japanese coast have tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 218.

The devastating figure follows a public outpouring of grief over the death of the doctor Li Wenliang, 34, who had been reprimanded and silenced by police after he warned colleagues over social media to be careful of a risky new virus he had seen in a hospital in Wuhan, a city of 11 million that is now quarantined.

The reports did not give a reason for the dismissals but the two are the most high-profile Chinese officials to be removed from duty following the coronavirus outbreak that began in Wuhan late a year ago.

The United States has accused China of lacking transparency.

The health system in Hubei, particularly in the capital Wuhan where the outbreak began, has struggled to handle the influx of patients, even with the help of several purpose-built hospitals dedicated to treating Covid-19.

Some 80,000 medical workers were involved in combating the epidemic in Wuhan, the city government said earlier this month.

Under criticism over the handling of the crisis, the Communist Party sacked two top-ranking officials in Hubei, and replaced them with senior cadres with security backgrounds.

Among the new cases, 3,095 were diagnosed using CT scans - the new testing method - while the rest were confirmed with the traditional diagnostic process that uses nucleic acid tests.

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The revision added almost 15,000 patients to Hubei's count in a single day, with officials explaining that past cases were included.

The outbreak, believed to have emerged from a Wuhan market where wildlife was traded illegally, has triggered a backlash against local political leaders.

Hubei, the Chinese province at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, reported 4,823 additional confirmed cases for Feb 13, according to a statement from Hubei's health commission.

The WHO said the numbers included cases going back weeks.

"So this increase that you've all seen in the last 24 hours is largely down to a change in how cases are being diagnosed and reported", Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO's health emergencies program, said Thursday.

The move will ensure patients get treated as early as possible, instead of having to wait for laboratory tests, health officials said.

Commission Vice Minister Zeng Yixin (曾益新) said that 1,716 health workers had been infected and six had died as of Tuesday, with the number of infected staff rising.

The Chinese province at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak reported a record rise in the death toll on February 13 under a new diagnostic method, and Beijing sacked two top provincial officials after criticism of their handling of the crisis. The new deaths also include eight who were clinically diagnosed.

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