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China fires 2 Hubei leaders over incompetent handling of crisis

BEIJING: The two most senior health officials at the epicentre of China's coronavirus outbreak have been sacked, state media said yesterday, as local authorities feel the heat over how they are handling the epidemic.

Mr Zhang Jin, the Communist Party boss of the provincial Health Commission in Hubei, and its director Liu Yingzi have been removed from their positions, reported CCTV, after a decision by the province's party committee on Monday.

The outbreak that originated in provincial capital Wuhan has killed more than 1,000 people and infected over 42,500 across China since December.

Local officials have faced pressure for perceived incompetence - particularly after the death of a doctor in Wuhan punished for raising the alarm.

Deputy director of China's National Health Commission Wang Hesheng will take over the two roles, said CCTV.

Meanwhile, new research has shown the median incubation period of the virus is three days,lower than the estimated 5.2 days. The information comes from research conducted by Dr Zhong Nanshan, who is leading a government-appointed panel of experts helping to control the outbreak.Research also found that in extremely rare cases, the incubation can last 24 days.

Mr Guan Weijie, a member of the research team, told Red Star News on Monday that because these are for very rare cases, there is no need to prolong the isolation period for suspected patients. - AFP

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