February 13, 2020 10:38:10 AM
BEIJING -- China on Thursday reported 254 new daily deaths and a spike in daily virus cases of 15,152, after new methodology was applied in the hardest-hit province of Hubei as to how cases are categorized.
The total deaths from the more than 2-month-old outbreak stood at 1,367, with the total number of confirmed cases mounting to 59,804. The change in categorization appeared to push forward the process to a doctors' on-the-spot diagnosis rather than waiting for the results of laboratory tests.
In breaking down the large number of new cases in China, National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng said Hubei at the epicenter had adopted a revised diagnosis and treatment plan aimed at accelerating the identification and treatment of virus cases.
That adds a "clinical diagnosis case" classification to identify suspected cases who appear to have pneumonia so that patients can be accepted as soon as possible and treated as confirmed cases, Mi said, adding that should "reduce severe illness and mortality."
China also replaced its top officials in Hubei and its capital, Wuhan.
Former Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong succeeds Jiang Chaoliang as the ruling Communist Party's chief in the beleaguered province, the Xinhua state news agency reported, while Wang Zhonglin will take over from Ma Guoqiang as the party secretary in Wuhan.
The high-level appointments follow the sacking earlier this week of two leaders of the provincial health commission. State media also reported that a slew of others were expelled from the party for transgressions related to the epidemic.
The public has widely criticized local officials for their handling of the outbreak. The virus first surfaced December in Wuhan, and has since spread to more than two dozen countries.
Many countries have implemented travel restrictions on recent visitors to China, which has more than 99 percent of the world's reported infections.
In Vietnam, official media reported that a village of 10,000 northwest of the capital Hanoi was put in lockdown due to a cluster of cases there.
The online newspaper VN Express cited a senior official of Vinh Phuc province as reporting an increase in cases in Son Loi. Vietnam has confirmed 16 cases, most of them in the province.
In an unprecedented measure to contain the disease, recently dubbed COVID-19, the Chinese government has placed the hardest-hit cities -- home to more than 60 million -- under lockdown.
Japan's Health Ministry announced Thursday that 44 more people on a cruise ship quarantined in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo, have tested positive for COVID-19. The ship has 218 infections among its 3,700 passengers and crew.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters five of the patients who were already sent to hospitals for isolation and treatment of COVID-19 have severe symptoms and are on artificial respirators or under intensive care.
Another cruise ship, the Westerdam, finally anchored Thursday off Cambodia after being turned away by several Asian and Pacific governments. No cases of the viral illness have been confirmed among its 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members, according to operator Holland America Line.
Thailand refused to allow the Westerdam to dock this week after it had already been turned away by the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan and Guam over virus concerns.
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.
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