Surge in Chinese virus cases fuels public distrust of official data

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption The Westerdam was finally able to dock in Sihanoukville Cambodia

The death toll rises by 121 to 1,380.

The central province's health commission reported 116 more deaths and 4,823 new cases, the majority involving "clinically diagnosed" patients.

The death toll from China's coronavirus epidemic rose to 1,483 on Friday but the number of new infections in hard-hit Hubei province fell after a change in case definitions caused a massive increase the previous day.

A preclinical trial of remdesivir, meanwhile, an antiviral drug being studied in China's outbreak that has been used on a compassionate basis for some COVID-19 patients, showed promising results in rhesus monkeys against a related coronavirus, a team from the US National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) reported today in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (PNAS).

Health officials in Hubei, the epicenter of the 2-month-old outbreak that has killed 1,367 people in all of China, said they changed their detection methods from a laboratory test to computerized body scans.

Experts also saw it as a reflection of a chaotic crush of people seeking treatment and the struggle to keep up with a backlog of untested samples in Hubei province and its capital city, Wuhan, where the disease first surfaced in December.

So far, 5,911 people have been discharged from the hospital. "This allows clinicians to move and report cases more quickly, not having to wait for lab confirmation, ensuring that people get to clinical care more quickly, and also allows public health responses in terms of contact tracing and other important public health measures to be initiated", Ryan added.

Later in the day, WHO's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said on Twitter that 20 passengers tested negative for the virus, and he thanked Cambodia's health ministry and government for their act of global solidarity.

"This outbreak could still go in any direction", World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

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"I think it's way too early to try to predict the beginning, the middle or the end of this epidemic right now", WHO Health Emergencies Program executive director Michael Ryan said.

Heilongjiang province in the northeast reported two new deaths, with the other fatalities in the provinces of Anhui and Henan and the municipality of Chongqing.

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 vessel has no sick patients on board, but the case of another cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, stirred fears that the passengers may carry the deadly virus.

The Diamond Princess has been under quarantine since last week, following word that a former passenger who had disembarked in Hong Kong had tested positive for the disease, known also as COVID-19.



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