Coronavirus Deaths Spike with New Diagnosing Criteria, Beijing Fires Hubei Party Head in Response

Tobias Hoonhout

The official Chinese coronavirus death-toll rose over 20 percent on Wednesday after China eased its diagnostic criteria. Nearly 15,000 new cases and 242 new deaths were recorded in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Previously, the government had only confirmed cases in those individuals who tested positive for the virus. With testing kits in short supply amid the outbreak, however, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported that the government is now simply relying on diagnoses from doctors and health professionals in order to treat patients faster.

The new standard yielded a drastic uptick in reported cases of coronavirus, reversing reports 0f the outbreak’s decline. 2,015 new cases were counted on Tuesday, down from 3,900 last week. The new reporting criteria brought the death toll to over 1,300 — still a far lower mortality-rate than the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003.

Beijing responded to the news by firing Jiang Chaoliang, the party secretary of Hubei Province, over his handling of the situation. He was replaced  by Ying Yong, the mayor of Shanghai. Hubei has come under fire in China for playing down initial reports of the virus, and retroactively implementing a lockdown after cases began to rise.

President Trump praised Chinese premier Xi Jinping last week for the country’s handling of the outbreak, after Xi reassured the president that the situation was under control.

“Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation. We are working closely with China to help!” Trump tweeted.

There have been 14 reported cases of coronavirus in the U.S., and one U.S. citizen died in Wuhan after being infected. Last month, the Trump administration instituted a temporary ban on the entry of foreign nationals who have recently visited China, while also mandating 14-day quarantines for any U.S. citizen or their family returning from Hubei province.

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