Coronavirus: China reports 105 more deaths, taking global toll to 1775, as new local Communist Party chief urges less bureaucracy – The Star Online

Mainland China’s health authority on Monday reported 2,048 new coronavirus cases and 105 deaths, taking its totals to 70,548 and 1,770 respectively as of midnight on Sunday.

Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, accounted for 100 of the new deaths and 1,933 of the newly confirmed cases – of which 1,690 were in the provincial capital of Wuhan. The figures took the totals announced by the province’s health commission to 1,696 and 58,182 respectively, while the global death toll stood at 1,775.

New infections for the province and the country were up on the previous day, when China had reported 2,009 newly confirmed cases and 142 fatalities. The number of new cases had previously dropped three days in a row after a near-10-fold increase in confirmed cases on Thursday when the diagnostic criteria were widened.

Hubei party chief sets priorities

Ying Yong, the new Communist Party chief of Hubei, presided over a meeting of leaders of the province’s Prevention and Control Command on Sunday afternoon, The Beijing News reported.

In his first public actions since becoming the province’s party chief, Ying stressed the need for less bureaucracy to ensure the command could act quickly and decisively, and said it was crucial to improve distribution of medical resources and education on disease prevention and control.

The former Shanghai mayor replaced Jiang Chaoliang – the most high-profile official to be dismissed during the outbreak – as Hubei party secretary on Thursday. The move suggested that the country’s top leadership was dissatisfied with the province’s response to the crisis and was holding Hubei officials accountable.

‘Impossible to predict’

Global concern remained high about the outbreak’s spread, emphasised by the United States’ announcement that more than three dozen Americans from a cruise ship quarantined off Japan were infected.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said late on Sunday that the future path of the outbreak was “impossible” to predict, as international experts began meeting their counterparts in China.

As the Chinese government scrambles to contain the outbreak, restrictions have been tightened further in Hubei. Vehicles excluding those for essential services have been banned from the roads in the province, and companies have been told to stay shut until further notice. Xiaogan, a city neighbouring Wuhan, has banned all of its citizens from leaving their homes, effective from Sunday.

China’s mask shortage hits global supply as coronavirus outbreak rages on

Mi Feng, a spokesman for the National Health Commission, said on Sunday that the proportion of people confirmed to be infected who were critically ill had fallen to 22 per cent on Saturday, from 32 per cent on January 27, which he said showed that “the effect of the coronavirus controls is appearing”.

The contagion has spread to at least 25 other countries, sickening nearly 700 and killing five outside mainland China.

Fresh military support

About 1,200 military medical specialists were sent to Wuhan on Monday by military aircraft and railway to help combat the outbreak.

It is the second phase of the military deployment of 2,600 medical staff announced by China’s People’s Liberation Army on Thursday. The latest arrivals will work at a new hospital that was due to open in May but has been refurbished with 700 beds to treat coronavirus patients, state broadcaster CCTV said.

The first batch of 1,400 are working in another hospital, which is able to treat 860 patients.

Wuhan nurse mourned

Another health care worker, a 59-year-old male nurse named Liu Fan, died as a result of the coronavirus on Friday evening, Wuhan Wuchang Hospital said in a post on Weibo on Saturday.

The National Health Commission had said on Friday that 1,716 medical workers, including 1,502 from Hubei, had been infected with the coronavirus – 3.8 per cent of mainland China’s total – and six had died.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of such a good nurse,” the hospital said in response to Liu’s death. “We sincerely hope that all of our medical staff will be safe and healthy and return safely after the battle [against the virus].”

Help for Chinese businesses

China’s central bank cut the interest rate on its medium-term lending on Monday as policymakers sought to ease the effect on businesses from the severe disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The move is expected to pave the way for further measures, set to be announced on Thursday, to lower borrowing costs and reduce the financial strains on companies.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse and Reuters

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