China has handled the new coronavirus outbreak in a transparent and "highly responsible" way, the country's United Nations ambassador said Wednesday, after criticism that local authorities did not react quickly enough. This morning, state media announced that Jiang Chaoliang, head of the party in Hubei province, was removed and replaced by Ying Yong, mayor and deputy chief of the Shanghai party.
At least 1,355 people have now died nationwide and almost 60,000 have been infected after Hubei's health commission reported the new numbers.
Hubei health commission said the change would mean patients could get treatment "as early as possible" and be "consistent" with the classification used in other provinces. Pressure on local officials for their perceived incompetence has mounted particularly after the death last week of a Chinese doctor who was punished by Wuhan authorities for raising the alarm about the new virus.
The reports did not give a reason for the dismissals but the two are the most high-profile Chinese officials to be removed from duty following the coronavirus outbreak that began in Wuhan late a year ago. Wuhan residents said hospitals were overcrowded and lacked sufficient medical supplies.
Hundreds of infections have been reported in more than two dozen other countries and territories, but only two people have died from the virus outside mainland China - one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.
China drew global condemnation for covering up cases during the 2002-03 SARS outbreak, whereas the World Health Organization has praised measures taken by Beijing to combat COVID-19.
"It is our current understanding that the new case definition widens the net, and includes not only lab-confirmed cases but also clinically diagnosed cases based on symptoms and exposure", Jasarevic said in an email to The Associated Press.
In an unprecedented measure to contain the disease, recently named COVID-19, the Chinese government has placed the hardest-hit cities - home to more than 60 million - under lockdown.
"The new charts of infection rates look much more worrying, and have certainly dealt a blow to the narrative that things were beginning to improve, putting the gains of the past few days in doubt", said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG. Cambodia later said none of 20 passengers from the ship who had been tested had coronavirus.
Even though no one on board has fallen ill, the ship was denied permission to dock by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand.