On Wednesday 12 February, the Chinese province of Hubei recorded around 242 new COVID-19 deaths and 14,840 new confirmed cases, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to almost 60,000, with 1,368 deaths.
Professor David Heymann, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, highlighted that while the confirmed case numbers have increased, it’s worth noting that they have changed the definition of what the disease really is in China, and so are now including people who have lesser symptoms. "The deaths are quite worrisome,” he said, “there are an increased number of deaths reported, but if you look overall at the total number of deaths and the total number of cases, the fatality ratio is about the same as it has been - but it is still high, as high as the death rate in influenza."
By changing the diagnosing criteria many assert that trend mapping has been thrown into ‘chaos’. New ‘clinical diagnosis’ identifies that people who have virus symptoms, plus a CT scan showing chest infection, are now being counted in the ‘definitely infected’ column. But despite increasing case numbers, it is quite possible that via the previous diagnosis criteria, the daily confirmed cases may be decreasing. Indeed, 135 of the 242 deaths on Wednesday are ‘clinically diagnosed’ cases.
In Japan, authorities have confirmed the first COVID-19 death - that of an 80-year-old woman who lived near Tokyo whose name has not been released.
In the UK, a ninth case of COVID-19 has been confirmed – a woman who flew from China to Heathrow is now being treated at Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London. Hers marks the first case to be identified in London. England's chief medical officer has said experts are exploring how to limit a potential epidemic in the UK to avoid an NHS crisis.
And it seems that concerns are continuing to grow among countries near to the virus epicentre. Five separate ports – Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand – turned away the MS Westerdam and its 2,000 passengers despite there being no sick patients onboard the ship. In the end, the cruise ship docked in Cambodia.
As for the Diamond Princess still being held in Yokohama port in Japan, 44 additional cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, bringing the total number of confirmed cases up to 218. Patients continue to be treated at hospitals on land, while the rest of the cruise passengers are more or less confined to their cabins.
It has also been announced that Formula One is postponing the Chinese Grand Prix because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The fourth round of the F1 Championship was due to be held in Shanghai on 19 April.