Cases of coronavirus in China jump by 30% overnight
As of Wednesday, there were 5,974 confirmed cases of the virus in China, including 132 deaths, according to the National Health Commission (NHC).
The number of cases grew by almost 1,500 from Tuesday, a more than 30% increase.
From Sunday to Monday the number of cases confirmed in China had jumped by 65%.
With the number of confirmed cases increasing day by day, concern is growing over the global spread of the virus. Numerous countries, including the US, have stepped up airport screenings and warned their citizens not to travel to China. Some countries, including Indonesia and the Philippines, have restricted Chinese tourists.
Chinese authorities say they are throwing everything they have into containing the infection within its borders.
Wuhan’s Communist Party chief Ma Guoqiang said in a press conference that the sudden increase in confirmed cases is down to more efficient testing measures.
Before January 14, all the testing for the Wuhan coronavirus was done by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which as a “very long process,” Ma said.
“To confirm a case in Wuhan, (we) needed to send his sample to the national CDC,” he said.
To speed up that process, from January 16 the Chinese central government allowed the Hubei provincial CDC to conduct the tests.
“So our samples are no longer required to be sent to Beijing, and can be tested at the provincial CDC, with a capacity of testing about 300 cases (per day),” Ma said.
The rate of testing also increased from January 24, as nine hospitals could test the samples, “which drastically increased our testing capacity and efficiency.”
This does not mean the speed of the disease has increased drastically,” Ma said.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that his government will be evacuating Australian citizens from Hubei.
Morrison said they’ll be “focusing on the young, especially infants and the elderly” for repatriation.
There are more than 600 Australian citizens in the province of Hubei, including its capital city of Wuhan, according to CNN affiliate Nine News.
“This will be done in a last in, first out basis,” Morrison said, adding that they are looking into “those who have been there who do not have established support infrastructure in where they are living.”
The operation, which will be aided by Australian flag carrier Qantas Airways, is still tentative, however.
“I want to stress that we cannot give a guarantee that this operation is able to succeed,” Morrison said. “I also want to stress very clearly that we may not be in a position if we’re able to do this on one occasion to do it on another.”
The move comes as Australia raised its travel advice to “reconsider all travel” to China, due to concerns over the coronavirus.
Controversy of Christmas Island used as a quarantine
Morrison said that “Christmas Island will be used as a quarantine area,” for returning Australians from Hubei.
While the Australian citizens will wait out their quarantine on the Pacific island before heading home, the use of Christmas Island to house them has drawn uneasy comparisons with the plight of refugees who have been detained there.
Australia has a strict border protection policy and sends all asylum seekers arriving on its shores by boat to detention centers for processing — Christmas Island houses one such facility.
There have been repeated allegations of abuse and even torture of those held in Australia’s offshore detention centers.
Morrison said that Australian returnees who do arrive on the island, “would be there, we envisage, for up to 14 days. But that will be subject to the medical advice we receive.”
He said that measure would be put in place to ensure support is “provided directly to the Christmas Island community completely separate and quarantined from the support that is being provided in the quarantine zone.”
Speaking at a press conference after they landed, Takeo Aoyama and Takayuki Kato, both board members of the Japan Chamber of Commerce in Wuhan, said the situation in the city — which is ground zero for the outbreak — is rapidly deteriorating, and while they can still access food and other necessities, they cannot freely shop and work.
Both evacuees urged support for the Chinese people in Wuhan and spoke of their Chinese colleagues and other citizens who stayed behind.
The two were among 206 Japanese nationals who arrived on a chartered flight operated by ANA, according to Japanese officials.
The passengers are all quarantined on board and those with any pneumonia-like symptoms will be taken to a special medical center for treatment. Passengers without symptoms will be taken to separate hospitals for further screening.
Japanese citizens who live close to the Huanan Seafood Market and highly-populated areas in Wuhan, were given priority on first flight. Chinese authorities have said the market is the likely source of the coronavirus.
Medical supplies for the Chinese government, including thousands of surgical masks, safety goggles and 50 protective suits, were also flown into Wuhan.
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