Virus death toll nears 1,400 in China, with 5,090 new cases

Coronavirus patients, medical staff dance at Wuhan hospital to stay positive

Coronavirus patients, medical staff dance at Wuhan hospital to stay positive

Japan now has 252 confirmed cases, including 218 from a cruise ship that has been quarantined in Yokohama.

The virus has killed more than 1,100 people and infected 44,600 since it was first reported on December 31.

The changes in detection methods have boosted the number of total confirmed cases across China to about 60,000, and by an additional 15,000 to more than 48,000 in Hubei province, where the death toll was raised by 242.

That announcement came from Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato, who confirmed later in the day that a woman in her 80s from the Kanagawa prefecture had died after contracting the virus, marking the country's first death related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Reuters reported Thursday that "elderly passengers on the Diamond Princess who have pre-existing conditions or are in windowless rooms would be allowed to leave starting from Friday, rather than the originally targeted date of February 19".

The death toll from the coronavirus is higher than the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002-03, which is believed to have killed 774 people and sickened almost 8,100 in China and Hong Kong.

Fever patients and close contacts of the confirmed infection cases will be placed under centralized quarantine.

"We thought there was better transparency coming out of China, but it doesn't appear to be", Kudlow said.

There was a happy ending for another cruise ship, the MS Westerdam, which docked in Cambodia after being denied docking rights in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Guam and the Philippines over fears one of its 1,455 passengers and 802 crew might have the virus, even though none had tested positive.

It had anchored offshore early in the morning to allow Cambodian officials to board and collect samples from passengers with any signs of ill health or flu-like symptoms.

Many critically sick patients with symptoms but no confirmation of infection had complained that they were being turned away from hospitals.

"I think it's way too early to try to predict the beginning, the middle or the end of this epidemic right now", WHO Health Emergencies Program executive director Michael Ryan said.

"I suspect but can't be certain that the underlying trend is still downwards", Professor Hunter said.

But Trump's top White House economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, was more critical.

Dozens of low-level health officials across the country have also lost their jobs for failing to contain the epidemic, which is believed to have emerged from a market in Wuhan where wildlife was traded illegally.

On Thursday, the central government held a high-level meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang in which a further strengthening of the "control of outbound traffic" from Hubei Province and Wuhan was stressed to prevent the infection from spreading outside, according to official media.

But Yoshiro Mori, president of the organizing committee of this year's Tokyo Olympics, told reporters Thursday the committee is not considering postponing or canceling the Games, which begin in July. They were the two highest-profile officials to be axed since the outbreak.

China's economy will grow at its slowest rate since the global financial crisis in the current quarter, according to a Reuters poll of economists who said the downturn will be short-lived if the outbreak is contained.

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