Coronavirus: China death toll reaches 1,523

International Desk Published: 15 February 2020, 08:31 AM | Updated: 15 February 2020, 08:33 AM
Coronavirus: China death toll reaches 1,523
Medical staff in discussion at a makeshift hospital to treat coronavirus patients in Wuhan on Friday. Photo: EPA-EFE

China reported 2,641 new confirmed cases and 849 new severe cases on Saturday. A total of 143 more people have died, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 1,523.

There are 2,277 suspected new cases. The total number of confirmed cases across the country stands at 66,492, of which 11,053 are severe.

In Hubei province - epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak - 2,420 new confirmed cases were reported with 1,923 of those in provincial capital Wuhan. The city also accounted for 107 of the 139 new deaths reported in Hubei on Saturday.

Medical response surpasses Wenchuan earthquake

National Health Commission deputy director Wang Hesheng said nine medical shelters had been opened to accommodate patients with mild symptoms, as well as people with suspected infections.

It was Wang’s first press conference since his arrival in Wuhan - provincial capital of Hubei where the novel coronavirus emerged - about a week ago.

Wang and Chen Yixin, secretary general of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, the Communist Party’s top law enforcement body, were sent to Wuhan in response to public uproar about the death of ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, widely regarded as a whistle-blower about the new virus.

Wang said China had sent 217 medical teams across provinces, including a total of 25,033 medical professionals to Hubei. These were in addition to the 181 teams of army doctors in Wuhan and a further 36 military medical teams in other cities in the province.

Wang said the scale of medical help had surpassed the assistance given to Wenchuan after the 2008 earthquake.

Jiao Yahui, deputy director of the National Health Commission: Right now severe cases take up 18% of all cases. National, provincial and local experts have been evaluating the status of these patients everyday and developing treatment plans. In Jinjintan hospital and Wuhan Pulmonary Hospital, the discharge rate has reached 30-39%.

Wang Hesheng: More than half of the confirmed cases in Hubei are being treated with traditional Chinese medicine as well, and TCM doctors have been participating in prevention and cure at the community level, distributing herbal medicine among residents.

On makeshift hospitals

Wang said more stadiums would be set aside for the medical shelters to make sure all patients can be treated. So far there are 6,906 beds in these medical shelters, a total of 5606 have been occupied. Jiao Yahui , head of the Bureau of Medical Administration , the National Health Commission said there would not be cross infections in these medical shelters because only confirmed cases with mild symptoms were admitted to these makeshift hospitals. She said the approach was valid because “the cost is low but it is effective.”

She said by sending mild patients to these medical shelters, beds in conventional hospitals can be spared for patients of serious symptoms.

On severe patients:

Jiao said 5,000 beds are available now in hospitals designated for serious patients. She said when medical teams from other provinces were sent to hospitals, they had to bring with them their medical equipment for severe cases.

Hubei reports 139 new deaths

A total of 2,420 new confirmed cases were reported in Hubei, with 1,923 of those in Wuhan. New deaths in Hubei numbered 139, of which 107 in Wuhan.

The province changed the diagnostic criteria used to confirm cases on Thursday, with doctors now having broader discretion to determine which patients are infected. The change in diagnostic criteria led to a spike in confirmed cases on Thursday, which were nearly 10 times more than the day before.

Of the new cases announced on Saturday, 1,138 were confirmed through clinical diagnosis including CAT scans and other tests, and 1,282 were confirmed through test kits.

Some 1,923 of the new cases were confirmed in Hubei’s capital of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated at a seafood and meat market.

As the Chinese government scrambles to contain the outbreak, the contagion has spread to at least 25 other countries, sickening more than 500 outside China.