World Health Organization gives new coronavirus a name

Friday, 14 Feb, 2020

Hospitals in Wuhan, China - the largest city in Hubei province and the center of the epidemic - have struggled to diagnose infections with scarce and complicated tests that detect the virus's genetic signature directly.

On Thursday, following the release of the new figures, Chinese state media announced that the party secretary of Hubei province, Jiang Chaoliang, was sacked and would be replaced by the mayor of Shanghai, Ying Yong.

It also said it had revised its old data and previous assessments of suspected cases.

The sharp increases came after Hubei authorities said they had introduced using a new, quicker diagnostic method using computerized tomography (CT) scans, which health authorities said had diagnosed 13,332 of the new infections.

China has reported its lowest daily number of new coronavirus cases since late January, lending credence to a prediction from the country's senior medical adviser that the outbreak could be over by April.

Officials in Hubei said they were broadening their definition for COVID-19 cases by including people "clinically diagnosed" with the virus in the daily tally. Vietnam has confirmed 16 cases of the diseases, a lot of them in Son Loi.

The WHO now has a blueprint to fight the spread, but its application will be a test of worldwide solidary.

The death of an infected doctor who had tried to raise the alarm about the outbreak in December, but was silenced by authorities, triggered an outpouring of anger in China.

"Oddly, this now is a moment of greater transparency", Sam Crane, political science professor at Williams College in MA, told AFP.

Dozens of low-level health officials across the country have also lost their jobs for failing to contain the spread of the epidemic, which is believed to have emerged from a seafood market in Wuhan where wildlife was traded illegally.

"We have to be ready for this pathogen which could go around the world", he said.

United Airlines said it would extend cancellations of all US flights to China through late April, meaning all USA passenger carriers flying to China had now cancelled flights into late April. Even before now, epidemiological information from China has been incomplete, and in any event, outbreaks like this one may advance fitfully, receding and then roaring back.

Zhong Nanshan, a renowned scientist at China's National Health Commission, had said on Tuesday he thought the outbreak would peak in mid- to late-February.

The Mobile World Congress, an annual telecoms industry gathering that draws more than 100,000 visitors to Barcelona, was cancelled on Wednesday after a mass exodus by exhibitors due to coronavirus-related concerns.

United States planemaker Boeing warned that there was "no question" the outbreak would hammer the aviation industry and the broader economy.

The Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix, set for Shanghai on April 19, was postponed, as was Singapore's rugby sevens tournament scheduled for April 11-12, a source said.