Shanghai adds aerosol infection to coronavirus risk list

Cissy Zhou

The coronavirus has killed 86 more people in China and been confirmed in a further 3,399, the National Health Commission reported on Saturday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 34,546.

The new deaths, 81 in Hubei and five in other provinces, brought the national death toll to 722, as of Friday, the commission said.

As well as the 81 deaths, Hubei – the epicentre of the novel coronavirus epidemic – reported earlier on Saturday that it had confirmed 2,841 new cases. The province’s totals are now 24,953 confirmed cases and 699 deaths.

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Shanghai warns of aerosol infection

Shanghai’s health commission added aerosol transmission the list of ways of contracting the coronavirus.

But the National Health Commission and the World Health Organisation have not yet included this in the modes of transmission for the coronavirus.

In its latest treatment plan for the virus, the NHC said aerosol transmission had yet to be confirmed.

Aerosol transmission occurs when tiny particles or droplets of the virus suspended in the air are inhaled.

The WHO said close person-to-person transmissions through droplets and contaminated surfaces appeared to the main infection methods. However, more investigation and analysis of the epidemiological data was still required to understand the full extent of the transmission, it said.

NCP chosen as temporary name for virus

China’s National Health Commission has given the virus a temporary official name – novel coronavirus pneumonia, or NCP.

The commission announced the new name at a press conference on Saturday and said it should be adopted by China’s government departments and organisations in China until a permanent name for the infection has been determined.

The naming of a new virus is decided by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. A name has been submitted to scientific journals and the committee hopes to announce it within days, the BBC reported.

US citizen in Wuhan dies

A US citizen has died in Wuhan from the new coronavirus, the US embassy said on Saturday, in what appears to be the first confirmed foreign death from the outbreak.

“We can confirm that a 60-year-old US citizen diagnosed with coronavirus died at Jinyintang hospital in Wuhan, China, on February 6,” a US embassy spokesman confirmed.

“We offer the sincerest condolences to the family for their loss,” the spokesman said.

The New York Times reported that the person was a woman and had underlying health conditions, citing two people familiar with the matter.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Thursday there were 19 foreigners infected, and two of them had been discharged. The remainder were being isolated for treatment.

Japanese man in Wuhan dies from ‘viral pneumonia’

A Japanese man hospitalised with pneumonia in Hubei’s provincial capital Wuhan, where the first cases emerged, has died.

Japan’s foreign ministry, citing Chinese medical authorities, said on Saturday the man, in his 60s, was possibly infected with the coronavirus but – due to difficulties in diagnosing the disease – his death had been attributed to viral pneumonia.

Coronavirus: three new infections on board cruise ship in Japan

The man is potentially the first Japanese to have died from coronavirus. A foreign ministry official said the government was not aware of any Japanese that had died from the coronavirus epidemic, which has killed more than 700 people in mainland China and infected more than 34,000.

The death in Wuhan coincided with a jump in the number of passengers infected with the virus on board a quarantined cruise liner in the Japanese port of Yokahama. As of Saturday, there are now 64 on board the ship with the virus.

Communist Party sends senior cadres to Wuhan amid rising anger

The former party secretary of Wuhan – the provincial capital of Hubei – and a deputy head of the National Health Commission are taking charge of the local anti-epidemic campaign, as large numbers of patients remain untreated and local officials face a storm of criticism, according to Chinese media.

Chen Yixin, currently general secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, was previously party head in Wuhan as well as deputy party secretary for Hubei. He has been sent to Wuhan to serve as deputy head of the central directing group on Hubei, according to Taoran Notes, a social media account affiliated with the official Economic Daily newspaper.

Joining Chen in Wuhan is the health commission’s Wang Hesheng who has been serving on the central team directing the response to the coronavirus outbreak. Hubei Daily reported that Wang has been named as a member of the party’s standing committee for the province.

The dispatch of the two senior cadres to Wuhan followed the announcement on Friday that the ruling Communist Party’s top anti-corruption body was sending investigators to the city to probe issues relating to whistle-blower doctor Li Wenliang, who died of the coronavirus.

Taoran Notes said the personnel change was imperative to strengthen the organisational power on the front line.

“At present, Hubei province and Wuhan city may not only need more medical workers and various materials, but also need to strengthen the organisational power, people who can judge accurately, make decisive decisions, and implement quickly,” Taoran Notes said.

Wuhan in mourning

Residents in Wuhan are mourning the death of Li, who was reprimanded by police after raising the alarm about the coronavirus which he later contracted.

On Friday night, people took flowers to the Wuhan Central Hospital, where Li had been certified dead in the early hours of the morning. In a sign of respect, some lowered their face masks and blew whistles in front of the hospital. Videos circulating on social media showed local residents chanting “Wuhan, add oil”.

Coronavirus doctor’s death a catalyst for ‘freedom of speech’ demands

Li, 34, died after contracting the coronavirus. He had earlier been reprimanded by police for alerting his friends about the outbreak in December.

In a rare move, China’s anti-corruption body the National Supervisory Commission announced a team would conduct a “comprehensive investigation” into the issues raised by the public in response to Li’s death.

Hubei cases near 2,000 mark

Of the new cases announced on Saturday, 1,985 were confirmed in Hubei’s capital of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated at a seafood and meat market.

The worldwide death total stands at 724 deaths and more than 35,000 confirmed cases of infection.

As the Chinese government scrambles to contain the outbreak, the contagion has spread to at least 24 other countries, sickening more than 270 outside China.

Another hospital opens in Wuhan

Leishenshan, Wuhan’s second temporary hospital built to treat coronavirus patients, opened on Saturday. The emergency facility has 1,500 beds and is staffed by 1,400 military medical personnel.

The first facility, Huoshenshan, opened on February 3 and has 1,000 hospital beds. The two hospitals are treating patients in a serious condition.

In addition, 11 medical shelters are being set up in Wuhan, to provide more than 10,000 hospital beds to treat patients with mild symptoms.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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