Infections surge on count change

Top News | Charlotte Luo,Mary Ann Benitez 14 Feb 2020

Hubei recorded a massive increase of 14,840 confirmed Covid-19 cases in 24 hours after the province at the center of the Wuhan coronavirus epidemic adopted a broader definition for confirmed infections.

The death toll in the province also leaped by 242 to 1,310, according to the provincial health commission.

The increases came as the commission said it started to include cases that have been "clinically diagnosed" in its official figures.

Xiang Hao, head of the global health department at Wuhan University, said a suspected case is clinically diagnosed when the patient shows pulmonary lesions typical of the new virus following a computerized tomography scan.

Previously, the standard tests had to come back positive to diagnose a patient, but some patients died waiting for the results or before they could be tested.

The revision will make Hubei consistent with the classification used in other provinces and allow patients to get the same standard treatment as confirmed cases as early as possible to further increase the success rate, the commission said.

The new classification accounted for 13,332 of the new confirmed cases and over 100 new deaths, it said.

On Tuesday, the province recorded 1,638 new cases and 94 new deaths.

There were a total of 52,526 confirmed cases and 1,367 deaths in the mainland as of midnight Wednesday, the National Health Commission said yesterday.

Ho Pak-leung, head of the University of Hong Kong's Centre for Infection, yesterday said the changes made in Hubei will better reflect exactly how many people have been infected by the coronavirus.

Ho said another change for the mainland is to classify the severity of the pneumonia the patient is suffering into four categories: mild, moderate, serious and critical.

The new approach would enhance transparency and show the seriousness of the epidemic, as he called on the Hong Kong government to study it.

Meanwhile, World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the number of newly confirmed cases reported from China "has stabilized over the past week, but that must be interpreted with extreme caution." He added: "This outbreak could still go in any direction.

The number of countries reporting cases, at 24, also has not changed since February 4.

But Japan confirmed its first coronavirus death - a woman in her 80s living in Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo - adding to two previous fatalities in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Of the 48 new cases confirmed outside China, 40 were on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama, Tedros said.

He said the WHO is developing a master plan for coordinating clinical trials that could lead to potential therapies for patients and that two out of four vaccine candidates could proceed to clinical trials in weeks.

The WHO and the International Maritime Organization issued a communique to all countries "to respect the principle of 'free pratique' for ships and the principle of proper care for all travelers."

Three cruise ships have experienced delayed port clearance or have been denied entry to ports, "often without an evidence-based risk assessment," Tedros said.

He praised the Cambodian government's decision to allow the Westerdam cruise ship to dock, after being refused by four other countries.

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