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China records largest number of infections; Japan reports first death

Hubei authorities now include those 'clinically diagnosed' through lung imaging

BEIJING: China recorded its largest number of infections, Japan reported its first death and Vietnam has quarantined more than 10,000 as Covid-19 continued to rattle the region.

China's official number of infections from the coronavirus spiked yesterday after the authorities changed their counting methods, fuelling concern that the epidemic is far worse than reported.

Another 14,840 people were confirmed to be infected in Hubei alone, with the new cases by far the biggest one-day increases since the crisis began. The coronavirus outbreak has now killed more than 1,370 people and infected more than 59,800 in China.

Hubei authorities said the increases were because they had broadened their definition of infection to include people "clinically diagnosed" through lung imaging.

Up until now, they had confirmed cases solely with a sophisticated laboratory test.

Health officials said they looked into past suspected cases and revised their diagnoses, suggesting older cases were also included in yesterday's numbers.

As the deaths mounted, President Xi Jinping said yesterday China will definitely be able to minimise the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and maintain the development momentum of its economy.

China will strive to achieve this year's development targets, Mr Xi added, in a telephone call with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Chinese media reported.

The Chinese government said it has taken strict measures to curb the virus and that treatment methods continue to see breakthroughs.

SACKED

The Communist Party also sacked two top-ranking health officials earlier this week in the fallout of the handling of the outbreak. The leaders of Hubei and Wuhan are the highest-profile political casualties of the crisis.

Shanghai mayor Ying Yong took over the top provincial post while an official from eastern Shandong province was appointed in Wuhan.

Both are seen as "Xi's men" with security backgrounds, said Mr Richard McGregor, senior fellow at the Lowy Institute think-tank.

Japan saw its first death of an infected person yesterday - a woman in her 80s, according to the country's Health Minister, Mr Katsunobu Kato - making it the third outside China after the Philippines and Hong Kong.

"The relationship between the coronavirus and the death of the person is still unclear," Mr Kato said.

He cautioned that although the woman had the virus, it may not have caused her death.

The minister added that the woman, living in Kanagawa prefecture, developed symptoms on Jan 22 and was hospitalised on Feb 1.

"She was suspected of being infected with the coronavirus so... testing was conducted. Her positive test result was confirmed after her death," he said.

A new front opened as neighbouring Vietnam placed 10,000 people under quarantine after six cases were discovered in a cluster of villages - the first such lockdown overseas.

In the first mass quarantine outside of China, the Son Loi farming region, about 40km from Hanoi, will be locked down for 20 days. Checkpoints have been set up around the six villages that make up Son Loi. - AFP, REUTERS

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