At least 242 more people died and an additional 14,840 infections of the novel coronavirus were recorded as of Wednesday in Hubei province. The disease which was recently given the official name COVID-19 continues to spike as Hubei authorities tweaked their way of tallying infections. The updated figures now included “clinically diagnosed” cases — 13,332 of them — to give these patients early treatment and also because the specialized testing kits are in short supply.
The World Health Organization said it’s normal for the definition of the coronavirus to evolve.
“It’s normal during the course of an outbreak to adapt the case definition,” said Sylvie Briand, director of the WHO’s Infectious Hazards Management Department, during a press conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. “When the situation is evolving, you change your definition just to make sure you can monitor the disease accurately, and this is what they have done recently — change the case definition to incorporate more cases that were not in the initial case definition, but also integrate cases that are both asymptomatic or with little symptom.”
WHO also cautioned it’s still too soon to predict the peak or the end of the outbreak.
“The number of newly confirmed cases reported from China has stabilized over the past week, but that must be interpreted with extreme caution. This outbreak could still go in any direction,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“I think it’s way too early to predict the beginning, the middle or the end of this epidemic right now,” said Michael Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies programme,
That brings the national death toll to at least 1,355 and the confirmed cases in the country at 48,206, the majority of them occurring in the city of Wuhan and its surrounding Hubei province, the center of the outbreak.
The global number of confirmed cases now exceeds 60,015, the majority still confined in mainland China.
The disease popped up in at least 25 countries with two deaths recorded outside China: one in the Philippines and another in Hong Kong. Several countries have evacuated their citizens from Hubei and imposed a travel ban from Chinese nationals and foreigners who recently traveled from China, even including Hong Kong and Macau.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday that the coronavirus testing kits sent to state laboratories in the US were faulty. The failure of the kits will delay test results by several days as states would depend on the CDC’s central lab.
As CDC confirmed the 14th confirmed case in the US and the eighth in California, the agency also said they’re bracing for a possible coronavirus outbreak in the US. Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a call with reporters, “Most of the disease is in China, however, we can and should be prepared for this new virus to gain a foothold in the US. The goal of the measures we have taken to date are to slow the introduction and impact of this disease in the United States, but at some point we are likely to see community spread in the US or other countries and this will trigger a change in our response strategy.”
Messonnier added, “CDC does not currently recommend the use of face masks for the general public. This virus is not spreading in the community.”
Singapore’s confirmed infection cases hit 50 with 125 suspected cases. The country prompted the evacuation of 300 employees at the DBS bank after one of its employees tested positive of the novel coronavirus. More than half of the confirmed cases are believed to be the result of local transmissions since the patients did not have any travel history or links to China. Singapore last week raised its alert level to orange, the same level raised during the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003.
Below are the recent cancellations/flight suspensions amid growing fears over the outbreak:
- Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest trade show for the mobile phone industry, slated in Barcelona, Spain in less than two weeks
- His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s public events, including his teaching event in Dharamsala, India on March 9
- United Airlines extended its suspension of flights to China and Hong Kong until April 24 (Many major international airlines also suspended, reduced, or canceled flights to China and its territories)
The United Kingdom reported its ninth confirmed case and its first in London.
Its first five cases are believed to be linked to a “super-spreader,” a British businessman identified as Steve Walsh. Mr. Walsh is also believed to be the cause of the five infections in France. He issued a statement Wednesday that he has been released from the hospital and returned home.
“He is no longer contagious and poses no risk to the public,” said Prof. Keith Willett, strategic incident director of Britain’s National Health Service, in a statement. “He is keen to return to his normal life and spend time with his family out of the media spotlight.”
The UK declared Monday the coronavirus a serious and imminent threat.
IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said in an interview with Ivanka Trump from a State Department event on economic empowerment for women, how the current outbreak is more impactful on the world economy than SARS. “China was different [then], the world was different,” she said, referring to how China accounted to only eight percent of the global economy during the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic. “Today, China manufactures 28%, with possible impact through value chains on other countries.”