China Reports Huge Spike in New Coronavirus Cases, 254 More Deaths
By VOA News February 13, 2020
Authorities in the central Chinese province of Hubei say 254 more more have died from the new coronavirus and they announced a huge increase in the number of cases.
Health officials in Hubei, the epicenter of the two-month outbreak that has killed 1,367 people in all of China, said they changed their detection methods from a laboratory test to computerized body scans.
The news of new deaths and infections came a day after China had said the number of new cases had dropped for a second consecutive day.
The changes in detection methods have boosted the number of total confirmed cases across China to about 60,000, and by additional 15,000, to more than 48,000 in Hubei province, where the death toll was raised by 242.
World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told Reuters Thursday the increase in the number of new cases reflects a "broader definition" of a coronavirus diagnosis and that his organization wants China to provide "further clarity" about the new methodology.
The outbreak has led to the firing of Jiang Chaoliang as the ruling Communist Party chief in Hubei, just days after the province's top two health officials were removed from their posts. The official Xinhua news agency says former Shanghai mayor Ying Yong will replace Jiang, who had been criticized by the public for his handling of the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.
The virus is believed to have emerged late last year at a seafood market in the city of Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife.
The Vietnamese government ordered the lock down of a village of 10,000 people Thursday, official media reported, making it the first country except China to impose a mass quarantine. Check points were established in Son Loi, located northwest of the capital of Hanoi. An increase in cases has been reported in Son Loi.
In Japan, officials say an 80-year woman who died in a hospital on the outskirts of Tokyo has become the nation's first fatality of the new virus. The news comes as 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 Diamond Princess has been under quarantine since last week after it was learned a former passenger who had disembarked in Hong Kong had tested positive for COVID-19. All passengers have been confined to their cabins and will be not be allowed to leave the ship until Feb. 19.
Meanwhile, another cruise ship, the Westerdam, finally docked Thursday in the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville Thursday, ending a two week long saga that saw the ship being turned away by Japan, Thailand, Taiwan and the Philippines due to unsubstantiated fears that someone on board has been infected.
A team of health officials will board the ship to conduct health checks on the 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members before they will be allowed to finally disembark.
The outbreak is also wreaking havoc on regional sporting events. World Rugby says the Singapore and Hong Kong rounds of the popular Sevens Series have been moved from April until October. The two events are among the many sporting events that are either being postponed or cancelled, including the World Track and Field Championships scheduled next month in the Chinese city of Nanjing.
But Yoshiro Mori, president of the organizing committee of this year's Tokyo Olympics, told reporters Thursday the committee is not considering either postponing or canceling the Games, which begins in July.
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 nearly 8,100 in China and Hong Kong.
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