Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 February 2020

Coronavirus cases top 60,000 with 254 dead in one day

Drastic rise in number of coronavirus infections and deaths in China this week

China reported a surge in coronavirus deaths and infections after changing the way the disease is diagnosed.

The number of deaths rose to more than 1,300 on Thursday as confirmed cases exceeded 60,000, with 15,152 new patients and 254 fatalities reported in one day.

It is the largest increase yet for the virus, named Covid-19, which was first detected in Wuhan, the capital of the Chinese province of Hubei.

Mi Feng, a spokesman for China’s National Health Commission, said Hubei had adopted a revised plan aimed at accelerating diagnosis and treatment.

The new classification system broadens the scope of diagnoses for the outbreak.

Mr Mi said the measure should “reduce severe illness and mortality” among people showing symptoms of the new coronavirus.

People who receive a “clinical diagnosis” of pneumonia will now be admitted to hospital as soon as possible and treated as confirmed cases of Covid-19.

Previously, diagnosis was dependent on the results of a blood test, which take time to be processed by laboratories.

One expert said the changed definition in Hubei was probably put in place to stem the flow of patients into the health system and reduce the backlog of untested samples.

“Clearly in Wuhan, the health system is under extreme pressure and so the first priority has to be the patient,” said Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh.

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Prof Woolhouse said it was not unprecedented for case definitions to be dependent on doctors’ diagnoses rather than results confirmed by a laboratory.

He said this change of approach usually occurred in fast-moving outbreaks, when health services became overwhelmed.

Shortly after the latest figures were announced, Beijing said senior officials in Hubei after public criticism of how authorities have handled the epidemic.

Deaths from the virus have overtaken the Sars outbreak that killed 774 people worldwide in the early 2000s.

Japan confirmed its first death from Covid-19 – a woman in her eighties.

The patient was Japanese and had not come from the Diamond Princess cruise ship near Yokohama, which has confirmed more than 200 infections on board.

Updated: February 14, 2020 02:43 AM

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