The death toll from China’s deadly novel Coronavirus — officially known as COVID-19 — neared 1,400 on Friday, as the United States complained of a “lack of transparency” from Beijing over its handling of a crisis that has fuelled global panic.
Nearly 64,000 people are now recorded as having been made ill by the virus in China, with the last two days showing a steep rise after a change in diagnostic methods.
The National Health Commission disclosed a statistical error, however, saying it removed 108 deaths in Hubei that had been double-counted, but the nationwide toll still rose to 1,380 on Friday.
The National Health Commission said that it received reports of 5,090 new confirmed cases and 121 deaths on Thursday from 31 provincial-level regions and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. Among the deaths on Thursday, 116 were in Hubei province, two in Heilongjiang, and one each in Anhui, Henan and Chongqing.
The deepening crisis in China has caused fears of more global contagion, with Vietnam locking down villages after finding new cases and Japan becoming the third place outside the mainland on Thursday to report a death.
Authorities have placed some 56 million people in Hubei under quarantine since late last month, in an unprecedented effort to stop the new coronavirus from spreading.
Some cities in Hubei tightened restrictions this week, sealing off neighbourhoods in what they liken to “war-time” measures.
Under criticism at home over the handling of the crisis, China’s Communist Party sacked two top-ranking officials in Hubei and replaced them with senior cadres with security backgrounds.
While the World Health Organization has praised China’s handling of the epidemic — in contrast to its cover-up of the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003 — a top White House official on Thursday said Beijing should be more open.
Outside China, there has been three deaths — Hong Kong, the Philippines and Japan, with 447 cases in 24 countries, according to Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies programme.
On Thursday Japan announced its first coronavirus death – a woman in her 80s who lived in Kanagawa, south-west of Tokyo.
More than two dozen countries have now reported hundreds of cases among them.
As of Friday, the number of reported cases outside of China were Japan (203), Hong Kong (53), Singapore (50), Thailand (33), South Korea (28), Taiwan (18), Malaysia (18), Germany (16), Vietnam (16), Australia (15), the US (14), France (11), Macau (10), the UK (nine), the UAE (eight), Canada (seven), India (three), the Philippines (three), Italy (three), Russia (two), Spain (two), Cambodia (one), Finland (one), Nepal (one), Sri Lanka (one), Sweden (one) and Belgium (one), according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
WHO, which has declared the coronavirus outbreak as a global health emergency, has stated that it poses a “very grave threat for the rest of the world” and should be viewed as “Public Enemy Number 1”.
The novel Coronavirus outbreak has caused alarm as it has crossed global fatalities in the 2002-03 SARS epidemic.
Over 770 people had died worldwide during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak.
(With agency inputs)