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First death from coronavirus reported in Japan

China has reported 1,367 deaths among 52,526 cases on the mainland

Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

Updated Feb 13th 2020, 7:50 PM

JAPAN HAS ANNOUNCED its first death from the coronavirus, hours after confirming 44 more cases on a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo.

It comes as fears of the spreading disease, officially named Covid-19 by the World Health Organisation, mount in the country.

Health minister Katsunobu Kato said the first fatality is a woman in her eighties who had been in hospital since 1 February when she was diagnosed with pneumonia.

Her confirmed diagnosis came after her death, he said.

The woman, a resident of Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo, was the mother-in-law of a taxi driver who also became a newly confirmed case, Japanese media reported.

The country also announced 44 new cases on the Diamond Princess, which is still carrying nearly 3,500 passengers and crew members.

The ship now has 218 people infected with the virus out of 713 tested since it entered Yokohama Port on 3 February, the largest cluster of infections outside China.

Japan has 250 confirmed cases of the new disease that apparently started in Wuhan, a city in central China, in December.

China

China has reported 1,367 deaths among 52,526 cases on the mainland.

Two top-ranking politicians overseeing the epicentre of the outbreak were also fired, adding to questions over China’s handling of the crisis, just hours after President Xi Jinping claimed “positive results” in battling the outbreak.

The World Health Organisation also quickly countered Chinese reassurances that the epidemic, which has now officially killed more than 1,350 people in China, would peak in a matter of weeks.

“I think it’s way too early to try to predict the beginning, the middle or the end of this epidemic right now,” said Michael Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies programme.

The virus has had massive ramifications globally since emerging from the central Chinese province of Hubei last month, with many countries banning travellers from China in a bid to stop people spreading the disease.

In Hubei, where tens of millions of people are trapped as part of an unprecedented quarantine effort, 242 new deaths were reported today. 

Another 14,840 people were confirmed to be infected with the virus, with the new cases and deaths by far the biggest one-day increases since the crisis began.

The jumps raised the death toll to 1,355 and the total number of nationwide infections of the virus – officially named COVID-19 – to nearly 60,000.

Hubei authorities said the huge increases were because they had broadened their definition for cases to include people “clinically diagnosed” via lung imaging.

Up until now, authorities had been documenting cases using a more sophisticated laboratory test.

The commission said it looked into past suspected cases and revised their diagnoses, suggesting that older cases were included in Thursday’s numbers.

About 56 million people in Hubei and its capital, Wuhan, are being banned from leaving as part of the quarantine efforts.

Tens of millions of other cities far from the epicentre are also enduring travel restrictions.

Ireland

This evening, the HSE that its policy and approach to Covid 19 “has not changed and remains in line with recommendations from the WHO”. 

“The Department is seeking to make provision for this disease to be added to the list of notifiable disease so that doctors can routinely notify the HSE when a case is diagnosed,” the statement said. 

The HSE said that Covid-19 will also be added to the list of infectious diseases that “allows a doctor to detain a probable case of infection in the highly unlikely event that a person refuses to comply with infection prevention and control protocols”. 

This list includes smallpox and the same approach was taken for the SARs epidemic in 2002. 

Continued skepticism 

China had been praised by the World Health Organization for its transparent handling of the outbreak, in contrast to the way it concealed the extent of the deadly SARS virus epidemic in 2002-2003.

But it has faced continued scepticism among the global public, and US officials have also called for more openness from China’s Communist Party rulers, leading to fears that there may be similarities with the way it dealt with SARS.

Authorities in Hubei have been accused of concealing the gravity of the outbreak in late December and early January.

The death of an infected doctor who had tried to raise the alarm about the outbreak in December, but was silenced by authorities, triggered an outpouring of anger in China. 

In the UK dozens of people who were rescued from the Chinese city of Wuhan are to be freed after two weeks in quarantine, as a woman in London became the ninth person to test positive for the illness.

Eighty-three people will leave Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside today, 14 days after they arrived on an evacuation flight.

All of the group – who had signed a contract agreeing to the quarantine period – have tested negative for the virus.

It comes after a ninth UK case was confirmed yesterday evening – the first instance of coronavirus in London.

The patient, who is now being treated at a specialist NHS centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ in the capital, got the virus in China, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said.

As with the previously confirmed cases, officials are working to identify recent contacts she had.

Kharn Lambert, one of the quarantined patients in Merseyside, told the PA news agency ahead of the release: “I’m ecstatic and I’m so happy that everyone has come back with negative test results.”

During their time in quarantine one of the group had threatened to abscond from the isolation unit, prompting the Government to announce new legal powers allowing people with the illness to be forcibly quarantined, and forcibly sent into isolation if deemed to pose a threat.

There have been more than 44,700 cases of the virus in China, with more than 1,100 deaths.

With reporting from AFP and Dominic McGrath

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