Virus Outbreak: Death toll soars as China changes counting methods

China's new virus cases fall again, deaths now exceed 1100

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a combined news conference following a two-day worldwide conference on COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine research and a meeting to decide whether Ebola in DR Congo still constitutes health emergency of global concern on January 12, 2020 in Geneva.

"Those in the Hubei province will no longer have to wait for lab tests or confirmation of their infections - anyone with symptoms will be automatically considered to have the virus and counted under a new clinical cases" category.

Nearly 34,000 patients have been hospitalized across Hubei, the central Chinese province of which Wuhan is capital, including 1,400 or so in a critical condition.

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 first installment of 1,400 military medical personnel touched down in the city in central China worst affected by the ongoing viral epidemic on Thursday, the Chinese Defense Ministry reported.

The reports did not give a reason for the dismissals but the two are the most high-profile Chinese officials to be removed from duty following the coronavirus outbreak that began in Wuhan late previous year.

Earlier in the day, Hubei officials asserted that they had discovered a new way to diagnose the deadly strain.

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

A total of 242 people died from the flu-like virus on Wednesday - the fastest rise since the pathogen was identified in December. Check points were established in Son Loi, located northwest of the capital of Hanoi. An increase in cases has been reported in Son Loi.

The biggest cluster of cases outside China is on a cruise ship quarantined off the Japanese port of Yokohama, where a further 44 cases were reported on Thursday. In all, 219 of about 3,700 people on board have tested positive. All passengers have been confined to their cabins and will be not be allowed to leave the ship until February 19.

Dr Tedros also praised Cambodia for taking in the Westerdam, a USA cruise ship that had earlier been turned away from ports in Japan, Thailand and Taiwan despite having no sick patients on board.

Medical officers prepare a sample for loading on to a helicopter for testing in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Feb. 13, 2020.

Passengers on board the ship have been subjected to regular health checks throughout the troubled journey.

The move is the latest disruption to global travel that has paralysed businesses and played havoc with major conferences and sporting events. World Rugby says the Singapore and Hong Kong rounds of the popular Sevens Series have been moved from April until October.

But Yoshiro Mori, president of the organizing committee of this year's Tokyo Olympics, told reporters Thursday the committee is not considering either postponing or canceling the Games, which begins in July.

A second person evacuated from Wuhan to a USA military base near San Diego has been diagnosed with the new coronavirus, raising the tally of confirmed cases in the United States to 14, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday.

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