Published: Fri, February 14, 2020
Markets | By Otis Pena

China's coronavirus toll revised downward after deaths double-counted

China's coronavirus toll revised downward after deaths double-counted

China's death toll from the new coronavirus epidemic was revised downwards to 1,380 on Friday after officials said some fatalities had been counted a few times.

Hubei authorities have been criticized fiercely for not having responded to the deadly virus in the early stage of the outbreak, which, as of Thursday, had killed 1,368 people and infected more than 50,000 in China.

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A spokesman for China's health commission, Mi Feng, said the change was aimed at identifying suspected cases in which the patient has pneumonia so they can be treated quicker and reduce the likelihood of more serious illness or death.

The extent of the epidemic seemed to deepen on Thursday after authorities in Hubei started counting patients who were diagnosed through lung imaging, in addition to those who undergo lab tests.

In Hubei and its capital, Wuhan, where tens of millions of people have been trapped as part of an unprecedented quarantine effort, 242 new deaths were reported yesterday.

Although people in Hubei were expected to return to work Friday after an extended Lunar New Year holiday from late January, the province on Thursday extended the break by another week until next Thursday.

Almost 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.

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The drastic jump comes after official figures showed coronavirus cases had dropped for two days in a row. There have been inaccurate reports of the death toll being 112,000 in China as of late January, when in reality it was only around 80 at the time.

Paul Hunter, a professor of health protection at the University of East Anglia in England, expressed frustration with the revised numbers from China, but said he believed it did not represent an increase in the rate of infections. "It nearly certainly does not mean that there has been a resurgence of the epidemic overnight".

Meanwhile, Vietnam has ordered a lockdown on a community of 10,000 residents northwest of the capital Hanoi, becoming the first location outside of China to have ordered a quarantine for at least 20 days.

Many critically sick patients with symptoms but no confirmation of infection had complained that they were being turned away from hospitals.

In Cambodia, the cruise ship MS Westerdam was allowed to dock in the port town of Sihanoukville after being turned away by five countries over fears that someone on board may have the coronavirus. The ship has 218 infections among its 3,700 passengers and crew.

The Westerdam began its cruise in Singapore last month and its last stop before it was refused further landings was in Hong Kong, where 50 cases of the viral disease have been confirmed.

A Vietnamese health official wearing a protective suit amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak sprays disinfectant on a motorcyle at a checkpoint in Son Loi commune in Vinh Phuc province on Thursday.

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