Coronavirus: Daily deaths soar to 242 in China’s Hubei province, WHO says too early to predict end

The sharp increase in the number of daily deaths on Wednesday came after authorities changed the methodology of counting infections.

China’s Hubei province, which is at the centre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, reported a record 242 deaths due to the disease in its daily update on Thursday. The sharp increase in the number of daily deaths came after authorities changed the methodology of counting infections.

At least 1,355 patients have died of the virus infection in mainland China so far, and nearly 60,000 have been infected, AFP reported. Hubei recorded 14,840 new cases on Wednesday.

Announcing the change in methodology, the Hubei health commission said it would now include cases that were “clinically diagnosed” in its official toll. Lung imaging on suspected cases can now be sufficient to diagnose the virus, instead of the standard nucleic acid tests. This accounted for 13,332 of the new cases and over half of the new toll reported in Thursday’s update.

The changed methodology will let patients get treatment as early as possible, the authorities in Hubei said.

The virus is believed to have originated in a live seafood market in the province’s city of Wuhan in Hubei province. Its symptoms can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The novel coronavirus causes respiratory illness, and is similar to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, which had also emerged from China in 2002. SARS killed 774 people around the world.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday said it was “way too early” to say whether the virus outbreak has peaked or when it might end. “I think it’s way too early to try to predict the beginning, the middle or the end of this epidemic right now,” Michael Ryan, head of the United Nations agency’s health emergencies programme, told reporters.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “The number of newly reported cases from China has stabilised in the past week but that has to be interpreted with extreme caution. This outbreak could go in any direction.”

The remarks came after China’s daily update on Wednesday put the number of deaths on Tuesday at 97, a decline since the previous day. On Monday, the toll was 108, the first time the daily deaths crossed three digits.

The World Health Organization had on Tuesday officially named the disease COVID-19 at a conference in Geneva. The “co” is to indicate corona, “vi” indicates virus and “d” is for disease.

Two Indian crew aboard a cruise ship off a Japanese coast tested positive for the novel coronavirus, officials at the Indian Embassy in Japan said on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, the ship Diamond Princess quarantined at the port city of Yokohama, Japan, had confirmed 174 total cases of the disease. A total of 138 Indians, including passengers and crew, are on board the ship.

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