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A man wearing a mask and covered with a plastic bag walks on a street in Shanghai, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus. (REUTERS)
A man wearing a mask and covered with a plastic bag walks on a street in Shanghai, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus. (REUTERS)

Virus pain worsens after China widens definition

  • Under the new methodology, CT scans that give images of the lungs were used to identify cases and isolate them
  • The epidemic has given Beijing’s communist leaders one of their biggest tests in years

The Chinese province at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak reported a record rise in deaths and thousands more infections using a broader case definition on Thursday, while Japan became the third place outside mainland China to suffer a fatality.

In India, two passengers who arrived at Kolkata international airport from Bangkok were placed in isolation for suspected novel coronavirus, officials said on Thursday. However, the state health and family welfare department said nobody in the state has tested positive for coronavirus so far.

A third passenger, on board a SpiceJet Bangkok-Delhi flight, was also quarantined on Thursday after the plane landed at Delhi airport, the airline said.

Graphic by Sarvesh Kumar Sharma/Mint
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Graphic by Sarvesh Kumar Sharma/Mint

A Kerala student from Wuhan University, who was the second Indian to test positive for the virus, was discharged from the isolation ward of Alappuzha Medical college hospital, PTI reported citing health department officials.

The government said India has ample stocks of drugs for the next two months, allaying concerns over shortage of medicines in the wake of the epidemic in China, one of the largest suppliers of active pharmaceutical ingredients to India.

“We have planned everything beforehand...There is no shortage of medicines so far, and if there is any in future, (it) will also be tackled swiftly," health minister Harsh Vardhan said on Thursday.

The epidemic has given Beijing’s communist leaders one of their biggest tests in years, constrained the world’s second-largest economy and brought a purge of provincial bureaucrats. It has spread to around two dozen places beyond mainland China.

With China’s streets, restaurants and flower markets bare, a miserable Valentine’s Day was expected on Friday.

Japan confirmed its first coronavirus death—a woman in her 80s living in Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo—adding to two previous fatalities in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

In Hubei province, in central China, officials said 242 people died on Wednesday, the biggest daily rise since the flu-like virus emerged in the provincial capital Wuhan in December. Total deaths in China are 1,367.

The rise, following a forecast earlier this week by China’s senior medical adviser that the epidemic may end there by April, halted a global stocks rally.

But it appeared in large part to be due to methodology. Hubei had previously only allowed infections to be confirmed by RNA tests, which can take days. RNA, or ribonucleic acid, carries genetic information allowing identification of viruses.

But it has also begun using computerized tomography (CT) scans, which give images of the lungs, the Hubei health commission said, to identify cases and isolate them faster.

As a result, another 14,840 new cases were reported in the province on Thursday, from 2,015 new cases nationwide a day earlier. But excluding cases confirmed using the new method, the number of new cases rose by only 1,508.

“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," World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told Reuters.

About 60,000 people have been infected in total, the vast majority of them in China.

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