Virus cases surge after China revises way count is tallied

Confirmed new coronavirus cases near 64,000 in China

Column: Misinformation spreads faster than the coronavirus

In a formidable campaign across China to discipline officials who have mishandled the coronavirus outbreak, Beijing has removed and replaced two top party heads in Central China's Hubei province, the epicenter of the crisis, according to state media reports on Thursday.

The death toll from the virus in Hubei province also jumped by a record 242 fatalities on Thursday, more than doubling the previous record number of 103 deaths set on Monday.

A surge in China's reported cases on Thursday reflected a decision by authorities to reclassify suspected cases as confirmed by using patients' chest scans, and did not indicate a wider epidemic, the World Health Organization said.

Almost 90% of the new cases reported Thursday were "clinically diagnosed" patients, meaning they were confirmed under the new rules.

Another 2,450 new suspected cases were reported Thursday, said the Commission.

The extent of the epidemic seemed to deepen on Thursday after authorities in Hubei started counting patients who were diagnosed through lung imaging, in addition to those who undergo lab tests. The first cases emerged in December in Wuhan, Hubei's capital.

At least 25 countries have confirmed cases and several nations have evacuated their citizens from Hubei.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that a 15th case of the coronavirus has been confirmed in the United States. There have been inaccurate reports of the death toll being 112,000 in China as of late January, when in reality it was only around 80 at the time.

The epidemic has given China's ruling Communist Party one of its sternest challenges in years, constrained the world's second-largest economy and triggered a purge of provincial bureaucrats.

The new figures for total infections gave no sign the outbreak was nearing a peak, said Adam Kamradt-Scott, an infectious diseases expert at the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney. "It nearly certainly does not mean that there has been a resurgence of the epidemic overnight".

In Vietnam, official media reported that a village of 10,000 northwest of the capital, Hanoi, was put in lockdown due to a cluster of cases there.

The online newspaper VN Express cited a senior official of Ving Phuc province as reporting an increase in cases in Son Loi commune.

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A team of health officials will board the ship to conduct health checks on the 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members before they will be allowed to disembark.

Thailand refused to allow the Westerdam to dock this week after it had already been turned away by the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan and Guam over virus concerns.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen greeted the passengers with handshakes and bouquets of roses as they stepped off the ship and boarded a waiting bus.

The Westerdam began its cruise in Singapore last month and its last stop before it was refused further landings was in Hong Kong, where 50 cases of the viral disease have been confirmed.

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