China's virus cases, deaths rise, but count revised again

China's virus cases, deaths rise, but count revised again

BEIJING-The Associated Press
Chinas virus cases, deaths rise, but count revised again

Clinical support technician extracts viruses from swab samples so that the genetic structure of a virus can be analyzed and identified in the coronavirus testing laboratory at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, on Feb. 19, 2020. (AFP Photo)

New virus cases in China have again declined, up just 394, after authorities on Feb. 20 again changed how they count new daily infections. They are now discounting cases that had come back negative after laboratory tests.

Another 114 people were reported to have died from the new illness, COVID-19, as health inspectors went door-to-door to find every infected person in the worst-hit city of Wuhan.

Japan's health ministry said two former passengers of a virus-stricken cruise ship have died, raising the number of deaths in Japan to three. The Diamond Princess has the most cases outside China with 621 passengers and crew testing positive.

Mainland China has reported 2,118 deaths and 74,576 total cases. While the overall spread of the virus has been slowing, the situation remains severe in Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan, where the new coronavirus was first detected in December. More than 80 percent of the country's cases are in Hubei and 95 percent of the deaths, according to data from China's National Health Commission.

The new daily figure is a notable drop from the 1,749 cases recorded the previous day. The NHC said 279 cases were deducted from the daily report after nucleic acid tests showed negative results.

Inspectors in protective suits went door-to-door on Feb. 19 in Wuhan to try to find every infected person. "This must be taken seriously," said Wang Zhonglin, the city's newly minted Communist Party secretary.

Cities in Hubei with a combined population of more than 60 million have been under lockdown since the Lunar New Year holiday.

Authorities halted nearly all transportation and movement except for quarantine efforts, medical care, and delivery of food and basic necessities. "Wartime'' measures were implemented in some places, with residents prevented from leaving their apartments.

The stringent measures have followed public fury over Hubei authorities' handling of the outbreak when it began in December. The risk of human-to-human transmission was downplayed, and doctors who tried to warn the public were reprimanded by police. Wuhan residents reported overcrowding in hospitals and futile attempts to seek treatment.

Many countries have also set up border screenings and airlines have canceled flights to and from China to prevent further spread of the disease, which has been detected in around two dozen countries and caused more than 1,000 confirmed cases outside mainland China.

Eight deaths have been confirmed outside the mainland three in Japan, two in Hong Kong and one each in Taiwan, the Philippines and France.

The new virus has killed two elderly Iranian citizens, Iran's state-run IRNA news agency reported on Feb. 19.

IRNA quoted Alireza Vahabzadeh, an adviser to the country's health minister, as saying that both victims had been carrying the coronavirus and were located in Qom, about 140 kilometers (86 miles) south of the capital Tehran.

The state news agency said later that schools and universities in Qom would be closed so an investigation could take place. No additional details were released.

Chinese scientists reported some troubling findings about how the virus spreads. Swabs were taken on 14 people who returned to Guangdong province in January after visiting Wuhan and developing the disease.

High amounts of the virus were detected soon after symptoms started, more in the nose than in the throat, and the virus was also found in one of their close contacts who never showed any symptoms.

That adds to concern about the potential spread of the virus by people who may not know they're infected. The report from the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention was published by the New England Journal of Medicine.