China sees rise in new virus cases; death toll climbs by 105

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities on Monday reported a slight upturn in new virus cases and 105 more deaths, as the military dispatched hundreds of additional medical workers and extra supplies to Wuhan, the central city that has been hardest hit by the 2-month-old outbreak.

The 2,048 new cases followed three days of declines but was up by just 39 from the previous day's figure. Another 10,844 people have recovered from COVID-19, a disease caused by the new coronavirus, and have been discharged from hospitals, according to Monday's figures. The death toll is 1,770.

The update followed the publication late Saturday in China's official media of a recent speech by President Xi Jinping in which he indicated for the first time that he had led the response to the outbreak from early in the crisis. While the reports were an apparent attempt to demonstrate the Communist Party leadership acted decisively from the start, it also opened Xi up to criticism over why the public was not alerted sooner.

In his speech, Xi said he gave instructions on fighting the virus on Jan. 7 and ordered the shutdown of the most-affected cities that began on Jan. 23.

The disclosure of his speech indicates top leaders knew about the outbreak’s potential severity at least two weeks before such dangers were made known to the public. It was not until late January that officials said the virus can spread between humans and public alarm began to rise.

Another 1,200 military doctors and nurses began arriving in Wuhan on Monday morning, the latest contingent sent to help shore up the city's overwhelmed health-care system. The city has rapidly built two prefabricated hospitals and converted gymnasiums and other spaces into wards for those showing milder symptoms, but residents still say they are being wait-listed for beds and even ambulance rides.

Wuhan has accounted for the vast majority of China's 70,548 cases. Some 60 million people in that area and other parts of China are under lockdown in a bid to prevent the virus from spreading further.

New cases in other countries are raising growing concerns about containment of the virus , although the numbers remaining relatively low.

Taiwan on Sunday reported its first death from COVID-19, the fifth fatality outside of mainland China. Taiwan's Central News Agency, citing health minister Chen Shih-chung, said the man who died was in his 60s and had not traveled overseas recently and had no known contact with virus patients.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe convened an experts meeting to discuss containment measures in his country, where more than a dozen cases have emerged in the past few days without any obvious link to China.

“The situation surrounding this virus is changing by the minute,” Abe said.

Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said the country was “entering into a phase that is different from before,” requiring new steps to stop the spread of the virus.

Japan has 415 confirmed cases, including 355 from a quarantined cruise ship, and one death from the virus. Japan has the highest number of cases among about two dozen countries outside of China where the illness has spread.

Hundreds of Americans from the cruise ship took charter flights home, as Japan announced another 70 infections had been confirmed on the Diamond Princess. Canada, Hong Kong and Italy were planning similar flights.

The 300 or so Americans flying on U.S.-government chartered aircraft back to the U.S. will face another 14-day quarantine at Travis Air Force Base in California and Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. The U.S. Embassy said the departure was offered because people on the ship were at a high risk of exposure to the virus. People with symptoms were banned from the flights.

About 255 Canadians and 330 Hong Kong residents are on board the ship or undergoing treatment in Japanese hospitals. There are also 35 Italians, of which 25 are crew members, including the captain.

In China's Hubei province, where the outbreak began in December, all vehicle traffic will be banned in another containment measure. It expands a vehicle ban in Wuhan, the provincial capital, where public transportation, trains and planes have been halted for weeks.

Exceptions were being made for vehicles involved in epidemic prevention and transporting daily necessities.

On Thursday, Hubei changed how it recognized COVID-19 cases, accepting a doctor's diagnosis rather than waiting for confirmed laboratory test results, in order to treat patients faster. The tally spiked by more than 15,000 cases in a single day under the new method.

 

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