Latest Surge of Infections Drives Beijing to Oust Top Hubei Party Officials

A total of 1,310 deaths have been reported from Hubei.

The Chinese province at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak reported a record rise in the death toll on February 13 under a new diagnostic method, and Beijing sacked two top provincial officials after criticism of their handling of the crisis.

Another 14,840 people were confirmed to be infected in Hubei alone, with the new cases and deaths by far the biggest one-day increases since the crisis began.

Moreover, the Standing Committee of the Provincial People's Congress of Hubei on Tuesday made a decision to appoint Wang Hesheng as the new director of the provincial health commission.

A total of 48,206 cases of COVID-19 are now being treated in Hubei province alone, a lot of them in the city of Wuhan. Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong - a former top judge who once served under President Xi Jinping - was named to replace embattled provincial boss, Jiang Chaoliang.

The spike in the death toll came a day after markets were cheered when China reported its lowest number of new cases in two weeks, bolstering a forecast by the country's senior medical adviser that the epidemic could end by April. "CDC has among the most experienced first responders", he added.

Hubei had previously only allowed infections to be confirmed by RNA tests, which can take days to process.

Many countries have implemented travel restrictions on recent visitors to China, which has more than 99 per cent of the world's reported infections. Excluding cases confirmed using the new methods, the number of new cases rose by only 1,508, the official data showed.

It also followed the sacking on Tuesday of two top health officials in Hubei - Zhang Jin, party chief of the Hubei Health Commission, and Liu Yingzi, provincial health commission director - over their flaws in responding to the epidemic.

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The patient, who was not identified, was among a group of people who returned from China on a State Department chartered flight, the agency said. Vietnam has confirmed 16 cases of the diseases, a lot of them in Son Loi.

The developments came hours after Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) claimed "positive results" from efforts to contain an epidemic that has now officially killed 1,367 people and infected almost 60,000. In Wuhan, people with symptoms like fever and coughing wait for hours in line to get tested.

Those who disobeyed the unified command or shirked responsibilities would be punished, Xi said, and party and government leaders supervising them would also be held accountable in severe cases, according to Xinhua.

On board another cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, 44 more people have tested positive for COVID-19.

"This outbreak could still go in any direction", he told reporters.

"I think we will find a vaccine", she said.

According to the ship's operator, Holland America, none of the 1,400 passengers and 800 crew members were infected with the virus.

In breaking down the large number of new cases in China, National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng said Hubei had adopted a revised diagnosis and treatment plan aimed at accelerating the identification and treatment of patients.

Thailand refused to allow the Westerdam to dock this week after it had already been turned away by the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan and Guam over virus concerns.

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