BEIJING | The toll of the epidemic of the new coronavirus exceeded 1,500 deaths in China on Saturday, and the first case of contamination in Africa was noted in Egypt.
The Egyptian Ministry of Health announced Friday that it has registered the first case on the African continent. The carrier, who is not Egyptian, was hospitalized in quarantine.
More than 66,000 cases of contamination have now been recorded in China, including at least 1,716 among doctors and nurses working with patients, according to the National Health Commission, which acts as a ministry.
Authorities have revealed that six health workers have died, highlighting the risks they face in overcrowded hospitals.
The vast majority of hospital contaminations took place in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province, in central China, and home of this epidemic of viral pneumonia called Covid-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The announcement of the number of hospital infections comes a week after the death, due to the virus, of a doctor who had tried to alert the authorities but had been reprimanded by the police. His death had caused anger on social networks.
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Due to an influx of patients in Hubei hospitals and a shortage of protective supplies (masks, full suits), some of the healthcare staff find themselves at the mercy of contamination.
The Hubei Health Commission announced on Saturday that in the past 24 hours the epidemic has left an additional 139 people died in the province and that 2,420 new cases of contamination have been detected there. The total number of new cases of contamination in mainland China (excluding Hong Kong and Macao) is 2,641.
In addition, four deaths have been reported elsewhere than in Hubei.
This brings the total number of deaths recorded in mainland China since the start of the epidemic to 1,523 dead.
“Big test” for China
China accounts for 99.9% of all coronavirus deaths worldwide. So far, Japan and the Philippines are the only other countries that have reported deaths (one each) on their territory.
The fight against the virus constitutes “a great test for the system and the capacities of governance of the country”, recognized on Friday Chinese President Xi Jinping. The epidemic has revealed “gaps and shortcomings,” he conceded, calling for improvements to the national health care system, comments made at a meeting of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
On the American side, after initially congratulating Beijing on its “very professional work”, the White House distanced itself from Thursday. “We are a bit disappointed with the lack of transparency on the part of the Chinese,” Larry Kudlow, President Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser, told reporters.
He notably regretted that Beijing had, according to him, declined American proposals to send experts to China.
In response, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Geng Shuang, assured Friday that Beijing had shown “transparency” since the beginning of the epidemic.
WHO defends China
“”China has always viewed cooperation with the United States in a positive and open manner,” he said.
WHO defended Beijing on Friday, saying the Chinese government “cooperates with us, invites international experts, has shared footage (of the virus), continues to work with the outside world.”
Health authorities in Hubei announced Thursday, to everyone’s surprise, expansion of their definition of people with viral pneumonia Covid-19.
Until now, a screening test was essential to declare a case “confirmed”. From now on, patients “clinically diagnosed”, in particular with a simple chest X-ray, will also be counted.
This new method has automatically inflated the number of dead and officially infected people, with the announcement of a surge of more than 15,000 new cases of contamination on Thursday and around 5,000 on Friday.
These figures depict a more serious situation than what has been reported so far, but this “does not represent a significant change in the trajectory of the epidemic,” tempered the head of the health emergency department of WHO, Michael Ryan.
The city of Wuhan, where the new coronavirus appeared in December, and the surrounding province of Hubei remained cut off from the world on Friday via a draconian sanitary cordon in force for more than three weeks.
The two CCP chiefs for Hubei and Wuhan, castigated by public opinion for their handling of the crisis, were dismissed on Thursday.
Elsewhere in the world, the Covid-19 epidemic is keeping authorities on the alert, with several hundred confirmed cases of contamination in twenty states.
People sick in the United States with flu symptoms but screened negative for the disease will be tested for the new coronavirus, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Friday
The main source of infection outside of China remains the cruise ship, Diamond Princess, in quarantine in Japan near Yokohama (east): 218 cases of contamination have been confirmed there, including 44 new cases announced on Thursday.
Hundreds of passengers from an American cruise ship, the Westerdam, were able to land in Cambodia on Friday. The boat had wandered at sea for more than 10 days, five Asian ports forbidding it to dock for fear of the coronavirus.
In France, 181 first returnees from Wuhan left Friday a holiday center near Marseille (south), where they had been confined for 14 days.