Coronavirus: No change in outbreak despite China spike, WHO says

Coronavirus cases are not rising dramatically outside China despite a spike in Hubei province, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

The only exception was on a cruise liner docked in Japan, where 44 new cases were reported, bringing the total there to 218.

There was also no major shift in the coronavirus’s pattern of mortality or severity, according to the WHO.

The latest figures show 121 new deaths in China, bringing the total to 1,380.

The total infections jumped by 5,090 to 55,748 cases on 13 February, the National Health Commission said on Friday.

The latest figures from Hubei recorded 116 deaths and 4,823 new cases. That is a smaller increase than the previous day when there was a spike with 240 new deaths and nearly 15,000 new cases.

However, most of this was down to Hubei using a broader definition to diagnose people, said Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies programme.

“This does not represent a significant change in the trajectory of the outbreak,” he said.

Outside China there had been two deaths and 447 cases in 24 countries, he said.

On Thursday Japan announced its first coronavirus death – a woman in her 80s who lived in Kanagawa, south-west of Tokyo.

The woman’s diagnosis was confirmed after her death and she had no obvious link to China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, Japanese media reported.

On Thursday, the US state department said it was “deeply concerned” about the possible effect of an outbreak in North Korea, which has so far not reported any cases.

The US would facilitate assistance from US and international aid organisations to the country, the department said.
What is happening on the Diamond Princess?

The vessel is in quarantine in Yokohama. Not all the 3,700 people on board have been tested yet.

People with the virus are taken to hospitals on land to be treated, while those on board are largely confined to their cabins.

However, on Thursday Japan said it would allow those aged 80 or over who have tested negative for the coronavirus to disembark.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said they could be allowed off the ship as early as Friday but would have to stay in accommodation provided by the government, the Japan Times reported.

Meanwhile, another cruise ship – the MS Westerdam – carrying more than 2,000 people docked in Cambodia after being turned away by ports in Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand despite having no sick patients on board.
What’s behind the Hubei spike?

Until Wednesday’s increases, the number of people with the virus in Hubei was stabilising.

The new cases and deaths in the province have pushed the national death toll above 1,350 with almost 60,000 infections in total.

White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said there had been “surprise” in the US at the new cases.

“We’re a little disappointed in the lack of transparency coming from the Chinese, these numbers are jumping around,” he said.

The Trump administration was also disappointed that China had not accepted a US offer to send experts to help China respond to the outbreak, Mr Kudlow said.

China sacked two top officials in Hubei province hours after the new figures were revealed.

Mr Ryan, from the WHO, said the spike reflected a change in the way cases were diagnosed.

“Most of these cases relate to a period going back over days and weeks and are retrospectively reported as cases since sometimes back to the beginning of the outbreak itself,” he said.

Only Hubei province – which accounts for more than 80% of overall Chinese infections – is using the new definition to diagnose new cases.

The final members of a WHO team were expected to arrive in China over the weekend to investigate the epicentre of the outbreak, Mr Ryan said.

BBC

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