New virus COVID-19 has infected more than 67,000 people globally

A viral outbreak that began in China has infected more than 67,000 people globally. The World Health Organization has named the illness COVID-19, referring to its origin late last year and the coronavirus that causes it.

The latest figures reported by each government’s health authority as of Saturday in Beijing:

— Mainland China: 1,523 deaths among 66,492 cases, mostly in the central province of Hubei.

— Hong Kong: 56 cases, 1 death

— Macao: 10

— Japan: 262, including 218 from a cruise ship docked in Yokohama, 1 death

— Singapore: 67

— Thailand: 34

— South Korea: 28

— Malaysia: 21

— Taiwan: 18

— Vietnam: 16

— Germany: 16

— United States: 15. Separately, one U.S. citizen died in China

— Australia: 14

— France: 11

— United Kingdom: 9

— United Arab Emirates: 8

— Canada: 8

— Philippines: 3 cases, including 1 death

— India: 3

— Italy: 3

— Russia: 2

— Spain: 2

— Belgium: 1

— Nepal: 1

— Sri Lanka: 1

— Sweden: 1

— Cambodia: 1

— Finland: 1

— Egypt: 1

China reports major drop in new virus cases; 143 new deaths

China reported 2,641 new virus cases Saturday as it escalates measures to contain the outbreak and reassure an anxious public.

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The figure is a major drop from the higher numbers in recent days since a broader diagnostic method was implemented. The number of new deaths rose slightly to 143, bringing the total fatalities in mainland China to 1,523. The number of confirmed cases in the country now stands at 66,492, according to China’s National Health Commission.

COVID-19, a disease stemming from a new form of coronavirus, has spread to more than two dozen countries since December, when the first infections appeared in central China. Egypt on Friday counted the first infection on the African continent.

Saturday marks the second day the number of new cases fell since a spike Thursday, when the hardest-hit province of Hubei began including clinical diagnoses in its official count. Using the wider scope of classification, the central Chinese province reported 15,152 cases, including 13,332 that were diagnosed using doctors’ analyses and lung imaging, as opposed to the prior standard of laboratory testing.

Hubei health authorities said in the notice that the new method was adopted to facilitate earlier treatment for those suspected of infection.

Further confusion surfaced around a discrepancy of more than 1,000 cases between the Thursday and Friday reports. National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng said Friday that the “decrease” in numbers was due to an adjustment made in Hubei’s count after repetitive counting was discovered.

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The ruling Communist Party is seeking to repair public trust broken in 2002 and 2003 during the SARS epidemic, which the government covered up for months.

“The current fight against the novel coronavirus epidemic is a major test of China’s system and capacity for governance,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said during a Communist Party Central Committee meeting Friday, according to state media.

“In response to the shortcomings and deficiencies exposed by the epidemic, (the government) should work to strengthen areas of weakness and close up loopholes,” Xi said.

China has imposed unprecedented measures in a sweeping campaign to contain the virus. Cities in Hubei with a combined population of more than 60 million have been placed under lockdown, with outbound transportation halted and virtually all public activities suspended.

People returning to Beijing will now have to isolate themselves either at home or in a concentrated area for medical observation, said a notice from the Chinese capital’s prevention and control work group published by state media late Friday.