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AFP
February 15, 2020

Coronavirus: Sharp rise in deaths, cases worries world

Top Story

AFP
February 15, 2020

BEIJING: Doctors in China adopted a new way of diagnosing the novel coronavirus, leading to a huge jump in the official number of deaths blamed on the disease and the number of confirmed cases in the country.

Officials in Hubei province, the Chinese region where the virus is believed to have jumped into the human population from wild animals, reported 254 new deaths and 15,152 new cases of the flu-like virus.

The increase brought the worldwide death toll to at least 1,370, including Japan's first fatality. The vast majority of cases have occurred in mainland China. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Thursday that a 15th case of the disease — now called COVID-19 — in the United States.

The sharp increase in China came after two days of reported declines in confirmed new cases in the country. It was the result of Chinese doctors in Hubei province starting to use lung imaging to diagnose the disease, in addition to the standard nucleic acid tests they had been using.

Meanwhile, the largest cluster of coronavirus cases outside of China, on a cruise ship that has been quarantined for almost two weeks in Japan, continued to grow Thursday. With 218 cases confirmed from the Diamond Princess, Japan's government said it would allow some elderly passengers to move into government-provided housing on land, where they would be monitored apart from the general population.

Six health workers have died from the new coronavirus in China and more than 1,700 have been infected, health officials said Friday, underscoring the risks doctors and nurses have taken due to shortages of protective gear.

The figure comes a week after public anger erupted over the death of a whistleblowing doctor who had been reprimanded and silenced by police after raising the alarm about the virus in December.

The majority, 1,102, have been diagnosed with the COVID-19 illness in Wuhan, the central city at the epicentre of the crisis, Zeng said. Another 400 were infected in other places in Hubei province.

Chinese authorities have scrambled to deploy protective equipment to Wuhan's hospitals, where doctors and nurses have been overwhelmed by an ever-growing number of patients. Many doctors in Wuhan have had to see patients without proper masks or protective body suits, resorting to reusing the same equipment when they should be changed regularly.