Feb 7, 2020
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Wuhan Rounds Up the Infected as the Death Toll Climbs Again

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The mass quarantine was ordered in the city at the center of the outbreak, but it’s not clear if the authorities there would be able to provide even basic care.

RIGHT NOW More than 70 more deaths were reported in China. The doctor who warned of the outbreak — and was silenced by the police — was among the victims.

Death toll in China surpasses 600.

The death toll and the number of infections continued to climb in China, according to official data released early Friday.

Nationwide, more than 70 new deaths and 3,100 new cases emerged in the previous 24 hours, the national health authorities said Friday morning.

The new figures brought the total number of deaths in China to at least 636. And the total number of confirmed cases rose to 31,161.

Sixty-nine of the newly reported deaths occurred in Hubei Province, the heart of the outbreak, the authorities said, but there were also four deaths outside of the province: one each in Jilin, Henan, Guangdong and Hainan Provinces.
So far, the vast majority of deaths have been in Hubei, though deaths have also been reported in the Philippines, Hong Kong and other Chinese provinces. There are also more than 200 cases of infection outside China.

Many doctors believe that deaths and infections in China are undercounted because hospitals and laboratories are under severe strain to test for the virus. Local officials in Hubei Province, the center of the outbreak, have called on health care workers to speed up the process.

Many sick residents in Hubei also say that they have been turned away by overstretched hospitals, which lack test kits and beds.
Health officials focus on faster diagnoses.
The World Health Organization said on Thursday that it was working to strengthen global diagnostic capacity for the new virus, saying that efforts to control the disease’s spread “depend critically on the ability to detect the pathogen quickly.”

The W.H.O. said it had activated an international “network of specialized referral laboratories” to support individual countries’ labs in confirming new cases. It also said it would ship 250,000 test kits to 159 laboratories across the world, to help speed up diagnoses.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday that it would distribute a new test to diagnose coronavirus infection to state and international laboratories.

Until now, the C.D.C. has performed all of the diagnostic testing being done in the United States and assisted with diagnoses of patients abroad. Doctors had to send patient samples to an agency laboratory and wait for a response, and the process could take days.

The distribution of the new test kit is expected to greatly speed efforts to diagnose patients. It will be sent to 200 labs in the United States and about 200 labs internationally.

Each test kit can process 700 to 800 patient specimens. Results are available in about four hours.

Wuhan is told to round up infected residents for mass quarantine camps.
A senior Chinese official has ordered the authorities in the city of Wuhan to immediately round up all residents who have been infected with the coronavirus and place them in isolation, quarantine or designated hospitals.
Sun Chunlan, a vice premier tasked with leading the central government’s response to the outbreak that is centered in Wuhan, said city investigators should go to each home to check the temperatures of every resident and interview infected patients’ close contacts.

“Set up a 24-hour duty system. During these wartime conditions, there must be no deserters, or they will be nailed to the pillar of historical shame forever,” Ms. Sun said.

The city’s authorities have raced to meet these instructions by setting up makeshift mass quarantine shelters this week. The shelters are meant for coronavirus patients with milder symptoms, the government has said. But concerns are growing about whether the centers, which will house thousands of people in large spaces, will be able to provide even basic care to patients and protect against the risk of further infection.

According to a widely shared post on Weibo, a popular social media site, “conditions were very poor” at an exhibition center that had been converted into a quarantine facility. There were power failures and electric blankets could not be turned on, the user wrote, citing a relative who had been taken there, saying that people had to “shiver in their sleep.”

There was also a staff shortage, the post said, where “doctors and nurses were not seen to be taking note of symptoms and distributing medicine,” and oxygen devices were “seriously lacking.”

The quarantine comes amid a lockdown of the city and much of the surrounding province of Hubei that has exacerbated a shortage of medical supplies, testing kits and hospital beds.

The lockdown — encircling roughly 50 million people — is unprecedented in scale and experts have questioned its ethics.
The Chinese government says the quarantine has prevented a broader outbreak, but Wuhan and its home province, Hubei, have borne the brunt of the epidemic as the sudden shutdown of transportation links into and around the area slowed the shipping of vital medical supplies.

The fatality rate in Wuhan is 4.1 percent and 2.8 percent in Hubei, compared to 0.17 percent elsewhere in mainland China.

“This is almost a humanitarian disaster” for the central Chinese region, said Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at the Center for China Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who cited insufficient supplies of medical equipment, food and other necessities. “The Wuhan people seem to be left high and dry by themselves.”

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