A look at latest developments in ongoing coronavirus crisis

Friday, February 7, 2020

BEIJING (AP) — China’s ruling Communist Party faced public anger and recrimination Friday over the death of a doctor who was threatened by police after trying to sound the alarm about the new coronavirus back in December. 

The death toll, meanwhile, rose to nearly 640, and the number of people infected worldwide climbed past 31,400.

A look at the latest developments: 

 

TREATMENT OF DOCTOR INVESTIGATED

Following an online uproar over the government’s treatment of Dr. Li Wenliang, the Communist Party struck a conciliatory note, saying it is sending a team to “fully investigate relevant issues raised by the public.”

Li, a 34year-old ophthalmologist, was one of eight medical professionals in Wuhan who tried to warn colleagues and others when the government did not. He wrote on his Weibo account that on Dec. 30 he saw a test sample that indicated the presence of a coronavirus similar to SARS, which killed nearly 800 people in a 2002-03 outbreak.

Li said that after he reported seven patients had contracted the virus, he was visited on Jan. 3 by police, who forced him to sign a statement admitting to having spread falsehoods and warning him of punishment if he continued. He fell ill with the disease while treating patients, and his death was confirmed early Friday.

 

CRUISE SHIP WOES

Japan confirmed 41 new cases of the virus on the quarantined Diamond Princess, adding to 20 escorted off the ship earlier. The nearly 3,700 passengers and crew still on board remain under 14-day quarantine.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said foreign passengers on another ship, Holland America’s Westerdam, won’t be allowed into Japan. He said suspected virus patients were on board. The ship, with more than 2,000 people, was near Okinawa and was seeking another port, said Overseas Travel Agency official Mie Matsubara. 

 

XI, TRUMP TALK VIRUS RESPONSE, TRADE

China’s state media quoted Xi as saying China has launched “a people’s war against the virus.”

“We hope the U.S. side can assess the epidemic in a calm manner and adopt and adjust its response measures in a reasonable way,” he added. Beijing has complained that the U.S. is flying its citizens out of Wuhan but not providing any assistance to China.

Trump tweeted that “great discipline is taking place in China” and Xi is leading strongly in the fight against the virus.

All but one the deaths in the outbreak have been in China. China’s National Health Commission said about 4,800 of those being treated, or nearly 17 percent, are in serious condition. 

 

WUHAN RESIDENTS SAY GETTING HELP NOT EASY

Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, has added thousands of beds by building two new hospitals and converting gyms and other spaces into places where patients can be held in isolation. Thousands of military and civilian medical workers have been sent in. 

Still, those inside the quarantine zone of some 50 million residents speak of a medical system completely overwhelmed. 

Chen Jiaxin, 22, said by telephone from Wuhan that his father fell ill on Jan. 28 but had to return home because no hospital would accept him. When he called for an ambulance after his father’s fever spiked on Thursday, Chen said, he was told 400 people were ahead of him and “we were just told to wait and wait.”

Mother-of-two Rong Qin, 32, said that her 67-year-old father is feeling sick and is awaiting test results, but that she was told by local officials that even those with a positive diagnosis have to wait for beds. 

“What I am hoping now is to put my father in a public quarantine facility so that he doesn’t pass the infection on to other family members,” she said.

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