February 14, 2020

Coronavirus Outbreak: The Details So Far

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By the Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe

By the end of Wednesday, the overall confirmed cases had reached 59,804 and 1,367 people had died of the disease on the Chinese mainland.

13,435 were suspected of being infected with the virus.

A total of 5,911 people had been discharged from hospital after recovery.

Wednesday saw:

  • 15,152 new confirmed cases
  • 254 deaths
  • 2,807 new suspected cases
  • 1,171 people were discharged from hospital after recovery.

A total of 471,531 close contacts had been traced, among them, 181,368 others still under medical observation.

By the end of Wednesday, 49 confirmed cases including one death had been reported in the Hong Kong SAR, 10 in the Macao SAR and 18 in Taiwan. One patient in Macao and one in Taiwan have been discharged from hospital after recovery.

Hubei Province, center of the novel coronavirus outbreak, reported 14,840 new confirmed cases and 242 new deaths Wednesday, the highest daily increases so far, after the diagnosis criteria for confirmed COVID-19 cases were further loosened for timely treatment of more patients.

The Hubei Provincial Health Commission said Thursday the number of new cases included 13,332 clinically diagnosed cases, which now have been seen as confirmed cases. The 242 new deaths also include 135 people who were only clinically diagnosed.

The latest report brought the total confirmed cases in the hard-hit province to 48,206. The province had a total of 1,310 deaths as of Wednesday. The provincial capital Wuhan, with 32,994 total confirmed cases and 1,036 deaths, accounted for the majority of the provincial tally.

The commission said the province now has 9,028 suspected cases of infection, after 3,317 suspected cases were ruled out on Wednesday.

The province also saw 3,441 patients discharged from hospital after recovery as of Wednesday. Among the 33,693 hospitalised patients, 5,647 were still in severe condition and another 1,437 in critical condition.

Clinical diagnosis explained

Clinically diagnosed cases are unique to Hubei statistically. The inclusion of those cases drives the surge in the number of new confirmed cases.

Any suspected cases with pneumonia-related computerised tomography (CT) scan results are counted as clinically diagnosed cases, according to the latest version of the diagnosis and treatment scheme released by the National Health Commission. Experts said that would include those who had yet to be tested positive in the nucleic acid testing (NAT), which previously was the threshold for hospitals to receive patients and give treatment.

The provincial health commission said the diagnosis criteria revision was made to give those who had been clinically diagnosed the timely and standard treatment in order to further improve the treatment success rate.

“These ‘yet-to-test-positive’ patients could easily spread the virus in society. Categorising them as confirmed cases will lead to quarantine and hospitalisation, which would be good for both the patients and the public,” said Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It is the right step to stop the spread of the virus,” Zeng said.

Approved by Chairman of the Central Military Commission Xi Jinping, 2,600 additional medical personnel from the armed forces will be tasked with treating patients in two hospitals in Wuhan, capital city of Hubei Province and the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

They will follow the operation model of Huoshenshan Hospital and be tasked with treating confirmed patients of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in Taikang Tongji Hospital and a branch of Hubei’s Maternity and Child Health Care Hospital.

The two hospitals, with a planned capacity of 860 and 700 beds, respectively, have clinical wards, as well as departments for infection control, examination, special diagnosis, radiation diagnosis, medical equipment, sterile supply, information and medical engineering.

The reinforcement medics come from healthcare institutions affiliated with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Rocket Force, Strategic Support Force and Joint Logistic Support Force, as well as the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force.

Of them, a first group of 1,400 medical and nursing professionals are set to arrive in Wuhan Thursday before starting treating patients there immediately.

So far, the armed forces have dispatched healthcare professionals in three batches, totaling 4,000, to support Wuhan in the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak.

Ordered by the Central Military Commission, 11 transport aircraft of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force Thursday sent medics and supplies provided by the armed forces to virus-hit Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province.

This was the first time for China’s domestically developed large transport aircraft Y-20 to take part in non-military action. It was also the first time for the Air Force to send large and medium transport aircraft on active service to carry out urgent air transport tasks on a large scale.

The participation of the Y-20 in this task is an actual test to the strategic delivery capabilities of the Air Force, said Du Baolin, commander of a division in the Air Force that was equipped with the Y-20.

More than 1,000 patients infected with the novel coronavirus had been admitted to a makeshift hospital in Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus outbreak, as of the end of Wednesday.

The hospital has reached its full capacity, with all beds occupied, including those in the ICU, said Zhang Sibing, head of the Huoshenshan (Fire God Mountain) Hospital, one of the two newly-built temporary hospitals for treating patients infected with the virus. The majority of the patients receiving treatment at the hospital have shown trends toward a stable condition. The hospital provides patients with personalised treatment in combination with nutrition therapy, psychological counseling and rehabilitation training.

China had shipped a total of 726,700 protective suits among other medical supplies to Hubei as of Wednesday to help the hardest-hit province fight the COVID-19 outbreak, according to an official with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

“We are working to put key factories back into production and boost their productivity to meet the demands of epidemic prevention and control in Hubei and Wuhan,” Cao Xuejun, a senior official with the MIIT, the leading ministry to guarantee medical supplies in the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak, told a press conference Thursday.

Other medical supplies that had been delivered to Hubei as of Wednesday include 358,400 medical masks and protective goggles, 156 negative pressure ambulances, 2,286 respirators, 6,929 electrocardiograph monitors and 761 automatic infrared thermometers, she said, pledging further support of medical equipment to the virus epicenter.

As it advances epidemic control with all-out efforts, China will enhance macro-economic regulation, and step up production, allocation and supply of key materials, to maintain social and economic progress.

These arrangements were made at a State Council’s executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday.

At the meeting, competent departments reported their work on provision of key supplies and orderly resumption of production and life. There is a fast increase in essential medical supplies, ample supply of daily necessities, and steady energy supply including coal, electricity, oil and gas. Multiple steps such as spacing out return trips have prevented large-scale flows of people on the back of the Spring Festival. Relevant departments excluded the possibility of any travel rush in the coming week like previous years.

Li urged continued efforts to advance science-based epidemic control, and resume production in an orderly way to better support outbreak response and preserve normal economic and social order.

“While ensuring effective outbreak response, a category-based approach should be adopted in resuming production in an orderly manner,” Li said.

The meeting underscored the need to encourage enterprises to resume production in a category-specific and well-organized manner. The immediate priority for Hubei Province is to stay concentrated on epidemic containment while ensuring the normal running of companies vital for outbreak response and key urban services. Other provinces shall take well-targeted measures in epidemic control and prevention based on local realities. For most cities in other provinces with limited numbers of cases, local authorities should facilitate the orderly resumption of production.

The meeting urged producers of key medical supplies to promptly resume full-capacity production to meet front-line epidemic control needs. Transportation arteries and key logistics hubs must be kept unimpeded. In places where the situation is not that serious, coach services and urban public transportation can be resumed in an orderly way.

“We must make every effort to ensure the supplies for outbreak response and daily necessities to maintain economic progress and people’s life,” Li said.

The meeting urged well-planned return of workers, including better coordination and services for key groups of people such as migrant workers. Any one-size-fits-all practices to stop non-local vehicles and personnel from coming in must be redressed.

“We must keep transportation arteries open and shipment unimpeded. Concentrated flows of people must be averted by staggering return trips,” Li stressed.

The meeting urged sub-national governments to establish special mechanisms to help companies cope with the outbreak impact to ease the difficulties facing businesses, especially private and smaller firms. Temporary measures should be implemented to support businesses, including cutting or waiving rent for private firms in state-owned properties, lowering lending rates, and improving tax relief policies.

The supply of essential goods including grains, oil, vegetables, meat, eggs and dairy products will be ensured with greater efforts. Illegal activities such as price gouging will be dealt with pursuant to law. To facilitate production in agriculture and animal husbandry, supplies of seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and animal feeds will be guaranteed and their smooth shipment ensured. The timely launch of key projects will be promoted.

Employment is another priority and massive lay-offs must be prevented. Local governments will be encouraged to allocate funding, including tapping the balance in unemployment insurance funds, to help businesses keep their payrolls stable. In places where conditions permit, deferral or refund on social insurance contributions and other possible means will be encouraged.

“All ministries and departments under the State Council must act on the requirements of the State Council’s inter-agency task force, and introduce, in a timely way, supportive policies as the outbreak situation evolves, to promote social and economic development on all fronts,” Li said.

The following is Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang’s daily briefing online on February 12, 2020 concerning the outbreak of COVID-19:

Q: On February 11, Russia issued a Brics Chairmanship Statement in support of China’s efforts against the epidemic outbreak on behalf of all Brics countries. Can I have your comment on that?

A: The Russian Brics Chairmanship Statement on the Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia Epidemic Outbreak in China issued on February 11 expresses support to China’s fight against the epidemic on behalf of the Brics countries. It says that the Brics countries support the firm commitment and decisive efforts of the Chinese government to combat the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic. The Brics countries are ready to cooperate closely with China and call on the international community to strengthen cooperation and coordination within the WHO framework to protect regional and global public health security. It stresses that the Brics countries commit to work together in a spirit of responsibility, solidarity and cooperation to bring this outbreak under control as fast as possible. They underline the importance of avoiding discrimination, stigmatisation and overreaction while responding to the outbreak. They support strengthening of scientific research cooperation in infectious diseases that pose threat to public health.

The Brics countries are all major emerging markets and developing countries. They are also important partners for China. This statement delivers positive and constructive messages, voices support for China’s efforts and calls for greater international cooperation in safeguarding public health security. At this critical stage, the Statement demonstrates the Brics spirit of helping each other during difficult times. It is also an epitome of the support China has received from the international community. We highly appreciate it. We will continue to work with the international community including the Brics countries to combat the epidemic and safeguard regional and global public health security.

Q: Health ministers of the 27 EU member states will hold a special meeting on the NCP epidemic on February 13 to coordinate action. Last month the European Commission allocated 10 million US dollars for research on the virus. The EU will continue to offer assistance to China in combating the epidemic. I wonder if you have a comment?

A: We note relevant reports. The EU crisis management commissioner also stressed the importance for the entire international community to maintain solidarity and jointly respond to the virus.

Epidemic prevention and control goes beyond border. Stronger communication, coordination and cooperation is needed to win this fight. We hope relevant countries will remain cool-headed, make science-based assessment and rational responses, and heed WHO recommendations.

Our thanks go to the international community including the EU for their support and assistance. To defeat the virus as early as possible, China will continue to enhance communication and cooperation with the WHO and the world in an open, transparent and responsible manner.

Q: The Canadian foreign ministry said recently that Canada supports China’s efforts in fighting the epidemic. It talked about the assistance that Canada provided and expressed readiness to offer more. Also, not long ago, the Canadian health minister said specifically that Canada won’t impose travel restrictions on Chinese nationals. I wonder if you have any comment?

A: Our heartfelt thanks go to Canada for its support and assistance in China’s fight against the epidemic. We commend the statement from the Canadian health minister, which reflects Canada’s science-based and rational judgment.

I’d like to reiterate that countries need to respect WHO’s professional advice. Overreactions will only make things worse.

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