Beijing: The death toll in China’s novel coronavirus epidemic climbed to 2,345 with 109 more deaths reported, while the confirmed cases rose to 76,288 as a team of WHO experts, currently in the country to investigate the COVID-19 outbreak, is expected to visit the worst-affected Wuhan city on Saturday, Chinese health officials said.
A total of 397 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported on Friday, while 109 deaths were reported from 31 provincial-level regions, Chinese health authority said on Saturday.
By the end of Friday, a total of 2,345 people died of the disease and 76,288 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection had been reported from all over the country, a daily report from the National Health Commission (NHC) said on Saturday.
Among the deaths, 106 were from the Hubei Province, the epicentre of the virus, one each from Hebei province, Shanghai and Xinjiang, it said. Hubei Province reported 366 new confirmed cases and 106 new deaths on Friday, the provincial health commission said Saturday.
The latest report brought the total confirmed cases in the hard-hit province to 63,454, it said. All over China, 20,659 patients infected with the virus have been discharged from hospital after recovery by the end of Friday, NHC said.
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WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told media in Geneva on Friday that the WHO-led team of international experts, currently in China to investigate the coronavirus outbreak, will travel Wuhan on Saturday.
The 12-member team, which arrived in China on Monday, was initially designated to visit only Beijing, Guangdong and Sichuan provinces, while the worst-affected Hubei province and its capital Wuhan were missing from the list.
However, the team was finally given permission to visit Wuhan by the Chinese government.
Besides controlling the spread of the virus, a major task of the WHO team along with their Chinese counterparts was to come up with a standard medicine to cure the disease.
Tedros said WHO is also working with partners to safeguard the health of the members of the team and take appropriate measures when they return to their countries of origin.
The WHO team includes US specialists, according to Chinese officials.
Chinese President Xi Jinping warned the ruling Communist party officials on Friday that the virus is yet to peak as it has spread to prisons across the country.
The coronavirus epidemic had not reached its peak despite a drop in the daily number of infections, state broadcaster CCTV quoted Xi as saying at a meeting of the Communist party’s Politburo on Friday. He said that the situation in Hubei was still serious.
“The battles to defend Hubei and Wuhan should be well fought, and measures should be taken to contain the spread of the outbreak,” Xi was quoted as saying by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
It is expected that once the virus peaks, it will begin to abate.
Also, much to the horror of health officials, the disease has now spread to five Chinese prisons in the provinces of Hubei, Shandong and Zhejiang where 447 cases of the virus have been reported, He Ping, an official in-charge of the Bureau of Prison Administration of the Ministry of Justice told media here on Friday.
This led to the sacking of officials in nearly a dozen prisons and the justice department, state-run Global Times reported.
He pledged all-out efforts to quarantine suspected cases and their close contacts and timely treatment for all of those confirmed of the virus. Prisons across the country were also ordered to step-up monitoring track records of all prison guards and officers to prevent the spread of the virus, He added.
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On Friday, Beijing saw a sudden spike in the cases after the central city hospital reported 36 novel coronavirus infections, a sharp increase from the nine cases two weeks earlier, leading to fears of a potential explosion of number of infection cases in the city, the Global Times reported.
Beijing has so far reported 396 cases of novel coronavirus infection, with four deaths.
Meanwhile, China has postponed the Boao Forum for Asia, its most prestigious annual meeting held in the picturesque Hainan province where it would invite top world leaders, CEOs to discuss economy, trade and related issues.
The forum was expected to take place from March 24-27.
China also hinted at postponing the annual parliament session to be held in the first week of March.
Plans are also afoot to postpone the National People’s Congress — the country’s parliament — and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) — China’s top political advisory body, official media reported.
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