Number of deaths from coronavirus approaches 1,400 – television channels

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This photo taken on February 6, 2020 shows a lab technician working on samples of people to be tested for the new coronavirus at the "Fire Eye" laboratory in Wuhan, in central Hubei province, China. PHOTO: STR / AFP

The death toll from the Coronavirus epidemic reached 1,400 on Friday, with six medical workers among the victims, underscoring the country's struggle to contain a deep health crisis.

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Currently, almost 64,000 people are registered as sick with the virus in China, with officials revealing that 1,716 health workers were infected on Tuesday.

The gloomy numbers come a week after public pain and anger arose over the death of a doctor who had been reprimanded and silenced by the police after raising the alarm about the virus in December.

The scale of the epidemic increased this week after officials in central Hubei province, the epicenter of contagion, changed their case counting criteria, adding thousands of new patients to their count.

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The health emergency in China has caused fear of further global contagion, with more than two dozen countries reporting hundreds of cases among them. Three people died outside mainland China.

The United States accused China of a lack of transparency.

Most cases of infections among healthcare professionals occurred in the capital of Hubei, Wuhan, where many lacked masks and equipment to protect themselves in hospitals dealing with a deluge of patients.

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About 80,000 medical workers were involved in fighting the epidemic in Wuhan, the city government said earlier this month.

After the death of whistleblower Li Wenliang, a 34-year-old ophthalmologist in Wuhan, 10 academics circulated an open letter calling for political reform and freedom of expression in the country run by the Communists.

Under criticism of the treatment of the crisis, the Communist Party dismissed two high-ranking officials in Hubei and replaced them with senior security-trained staff.

New count

Hubei officials began on Thursday to count patients who were "clinically diagnosed" by lung imaging, in addition to those undergoing laboratory tests.

The review added nearly 15,000 patients to Hubei's count in a single day, with officials explaining what past cases were included. The first cases came in December in Wuhan.

On Friday, the Hubei health commission said another 116 people died and more than 4,800 new cases were reported. Of these cases, more than 3,000 were "clinically diagnosed".

The WHO said the figures include cases that go back weeks.

The strong one-day increase "does not represent a significant change in the outbreak's trajectory," said Michael Ryan, head of WHO's health emergency program.

The move will ensure that patients are treated as soon as possible, rather than waiting for laboratory tests, health officials said.

"There have been some backlogs in testing and this will also help to ensure that people receive adequate care," said Ryan.

The National Health Commission said the new criteria would apply only to Hubei.

The commission recorded another five deaths and 217 new cases in other parts of China, with the number of new patients outside Hubei falling for the tenth consecutive day.

He also released a statistical error, saying he removed 108 previous deaths in Hubei that were counted twice. The national number still rose to 1,380.

Authorities have quarantined some 56 million people in Hubei since late last month in an unprecedented effort to prevent the new coronavirus from spreading.

Some cities in Hubei have tightened restrictions this week, isolating neighborhoods in what they compare to "wartime" measures.

Authorities have struggled to deploy protective equipment in hospitals in Wuhan, where doctors and nurses have been overwhelmed by an increasing number of patients.

About 26 billion Chinese yuan ($ 3.7 billion) was spent on medical equipment, protective equipment and improving conditions in medical facilities, said Ou Wenhan, an official at the Ministry of Finance.

US reviews

Although WHO praised China's treatment of the epidemic – in contrast to the cover of the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003 – a senior White House official on Thursday said Beijing should be more open.

"We are a little disappointed that we were not invited and that the Chinese lack transparency," Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, told reporters.

Kudlow said President Xi Jinping had assured President Donald Trump that Beijing would accept US aid, but "they will not leave us".

Kudlow's comments contrasted with Trump's apparent confidence in China, with the U.S. leader telling a radio show that Xi is "extremely capable" and that the US was "working with them" and "sending a lot of people".

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing has had an "open and transparent attitude" with the global community since the epidemic began.

"The Chinese side always has a positive and open attitude towards cooperation with the American side," Geng told reporters, adding that the health departments of the U.S. and China maintain close communication and exchange information about the epidemic in a way " timely ".

Several countries have banned the arrival of China, while major airlines have suspended flights to and from the country.

The US State Department said it was "deeply concerned" about the vulnerability of North China's neighbor, North Korea, and offered to support aid work in the country.

AFP

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