The unexpected change in diagnostic criteria that led to skyrocketing numbers of COVID-19 cases in China yesterday is nothing to worry about, the World Health Organization said today.
“We’ve seen this spike in the number of cases reported in China, but this does not represent a significant change in the trajectory of the outbreak,” according to Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies program. “Outside the cases on the Diamond Princess cruise ship [in Japan] we are not seeing a dramatic increase in transmission outside China,” Ryan added.
Total numbers of COVID-19 cases continue to increase rapidly, with about 4,000 more diagnoses reported today, the vast majority in Hubei Province — the only place where the new diagnostic criteria applies. Deaths have trickled up to 1,384, while recoveries are increasing rapidly, with the total number of cases declared cured standing at 7,171.
Meanwhile, much of China remains on lockdown. According to a Reuters graphic explainer, approximately 500 million people — more than a third of China’s 1.4 billion population — continue to be affected by at least partial restrictions on movement or activity. Hubei Province extended its work suspension through February 20, and overall, “at least 48 cities and four provinces in China have issued official notices for lockdown policies.”
“From memory, this [type of ban] has never happened in Guangzhou before — not even during the Cultural Revolution,” a 73-year-old man told the South China Morning Post, in reaction to a ban in that city on eating in restaurants. Nearby Hong Kong has closed all schools until March 16, the Hong Kong Free Press reports. Any person returning to Beijing from elsewhere in the country will be required to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine, city officials announced, per Reuters.
To understand the economic impact of all these lockdowns, check out this collection of charts by Capital Economics (screenshot above).
“Six health workers have died from the coronavirus in China and more than 1,700 have been infected, health officials said on Friday (Feb 14), underscoring the risks doctors and nurses have taken due to shortages of protective gear,” AFP reports. For more on related topics, see:
- Coronavirus’ assault on Wuhan mental hospital alarms experts / Sixth Tone
- Xi Jinping calls for overhaul of China’s health crisis response system / SCMP
- In virus-stricken Hubei, locals keep hospitals supplied / Sixth Tone