China Reports Steep Rise in Virus Deaths, Infections

China reported a massive surge in coronavirus deaths and infections in Hubei province Wednesday-but that didn't mean the disease now known as COVID-19 had become much deadlier overnight. That raised the global tally to nearly 60,000, dashing hopes that the epidemic might be easing.

Authorities in Hubei have been accused of concealing the gravity of the outbreak in early January because they were holding key political meetings at the time.

Under criticism at home over the handling of the crisis, China's Communist Party sacked two top-ranking officials in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak.

Airlines say part of the reason is a dramatic drop-off in demand, but the U.S. has also introduced strict restrictions on travellers to the United States who have visited China, barring almost all non-US residents if they have been in China within the previous14 days.

The study comes after news that a newborn tested positive for the virus roughly 30 hours after the mother, who had the virus, gave birth. "The new party secretary needs a new starting line".

To get an idea of the significance of this, the figure for confirmed new cases for Wednesday was 2,015.

The GSMA, which organises the annual show, set for Barcelona, said it was cancelled due to "the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances".

Xi has ordered "all-out" efforts to contain the disease and forcibly quarantined more than 40 million people in Hubei, while the party appointed a task force led by Premier Li Keqiang to coordinate the nationwide response.

It also followed the sacking on Tuesday of two top health officials in Hubei - Zhang Jin, party chief of the Hubei Health Commission, and Liu Yingzi, provincial health commission director - over their flaws in responding to the epidemic.

"We now have a name for the disease and it is COVID-19".

Health officials said Wednesday it is too soon to tell if the coronavirus is showing signs of slowing, after new infection numbers were down.

An advance team of World Health Organization experts has been in China since Monday.

The reshuffle raises the stakes for Xi as he takes greater personal responsibility for the response.

Before his experience in Shanghai, Ying served as the president of the provincial high court in eastern China's Zhejiang Province.

The public has widely criticized local officials for failing to respond quickly and decisively to the new virus.

Hundreds of infections have been reported in more than two dozen other countries and territories, but only two people have died from the virus outside mainland China - one in Hong Kong and another in the Philippines.

The issue has cropped up outside China, as well.

"We have shipped diagnostic kits to laboratories around the world and we will continue to do so", Ghebreyesus said. In an update to its treatment guidelines on February 5, China's National Health Commission added the category of "clinically diagnosed cases" in recognition of a shortage of nucleic acid tests. Hubei didn't include that category in its count until Thursday, a week later.

"For the moment we don't see any reason to have shortages in the following months, said De Block".

-With assistance from Iain Marlow.

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