Spike in China's Coronavirus Cases Due to New Way of Counting Infections

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Previously, they had been identifying cases on the results of laboratory tests.

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

Hubei authorities said the increases were because they had broadened their definition for infection to include people "clinically diagnosed" via lung imaging.

Japan has, meanwhile, announced the first death of a person infected with Covid-19.

He said the test kits often failed to accurately detect infections and suggested that the new criteria would provide a better measure of the epidemic's scale.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that a 14th case has been confirmed in the United States.

It's also possibly good news for numerous sick in Wuhan, the Hubei capital where the outbreak began, who have been unable to access hospitals without confirmed diagnoses - though there is still an urgent shortage of facilities, staff and medicals supplies. Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong will replace the provincial head, while Wang Zhonglin, the party chief in Jinan, will take on the mantle in Wuhan.

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.

That announcement came from Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato, who confirmed later in the day that a woman in her 80s from the Kanagawa prefecture had died after contracting the virus, marking the country's first death related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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.

The change in reporting requirements has only been implemented in Hubei province, not the rest of China.

In Hubei and its capital Wuhan, where tens of millions of people are trapped as part of an unprecedented quarantine effort, 242 new deaths were reported on Thursday. The worldwide death toll now exceeds 1,300.

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