Xi Jinping warns coronavirus yet to peak amidst its spread to Chinese prisons; Death toll over 2,200

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Published: February 21, 2020 9:08:33 PM

The deadly coronavirus, which has brought the world's second-largest economy to a standstill, has not yet peaked, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned the ruling Communist party officials on Friday amidst its spread to prisons across the country as the death toll climbed to over 2,200.

Xi Jinping said that the situation in Hubei, the worst-hit province, was still serious.

The deadly coronavirus, which has brought the world’s second largest economy to a standstill, has not yet peaked, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned the ruling Communist party officials on Friday amidst its spread to prisons across the country as the death toll climbed to over 2,200. The death toll has gone up to 2,236 while the overall confirmed infection cases have climbed to 75,567, the country’s health officials said amidst mounting concern over its spread to prisons in different provinces.

The coronavirus epidemic had not reached its peak despite a drop in the daily number of infections, state broadcaster CCTV quoted Xi as saying at a meeting of the Communist party’s Politburo on Friday. He said that the situation in Hubei, the worst-hit province, was still serious. “The battles to defend Hubei province and Wuhan should be well fought, and measures should be taken to contain the spread of the outbreak,” Xi said, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

The peaking of the virus is keenly awaited in China as it also means that the disease will then begin to abate. A noted Chinese health expert, Zhong Nanshan, said early this month that the virus may reach its peak in the next 10 to 14 days, contrary to earlier estimates of climaxing sooner. This means that the cases would drastically increase in the later part of February. Much to the horror of health officials, the disease now has spread to five Chinese prisons where 447 cases of the virus have been reported.

The virus has speared to prisons in the provinces of Hubei, Shandong and Zhejiang, He Ping, an official in-charge of the Bureau of Prison Administration of the Ministry of Justice, told media here. This led to a sacking spree of officials in nearly a dozen prisons and the justice department, state-run Global Times reported. The infections in prisons, experts say, revealed the blind zones in the national campaign against the epidemic. He pledged all-out efforts to quarantine suspected cases and their close contacts and timely treatment for all of those confirmed of the virus.

Prisons across the country were also ordered to step-up monitoring track records of all prison guards and officers to prevent the spread of the virus into prison premises, he added. After the prison cases, Hubei province, the centre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, revised its figures reporting 631 new confirmed cases and 115 new deaths. The local health commission revised up the number of confirmed cases by 220. After the revision, the total confirmed cases in Hubei has reached 62,662. Wuhan, the provincial capital, recorded a total of 45,346 confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, Beijing saw a sudden spike in the cases after the central city hospital reported 36 novel coronavirus infections as of Thursday, a sharp increase from nine cases two weeks earlier, leading many to fear a potential explosion of infection numbers in the capital, the Global Times reported. Among the infected at Fuxing Hospital in Xicheng district were eight medical workers, nine cleaning staff and 19 patients along with their families, the report said.

“Considering 36 confirmed cases were found in Fuxing Hospital, it is more about one case of multiple infections rather than an epidemic of the whole area,” Wang Guangfa, director of the department of respiratory and critical care medicine at Peking University First Hospital, said. Beijing has so far reported 396 cases of novel coronavirus infection, with four deaths. Meanwhile, China has postponed the Boao Forum for Asia, its most prestigious annul meeting held in the picturesque Hainan province where it would invite top world leaders to discuss the economy, trade and related issues.

The forum was expected to take place from March 24-27. China hinted at postponing the annual parliament session to be held in the first week of March. Plans are also afoot to postpone the National People’s Congress — the country’s parliament — and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) — China’s top political advisory body, official media reported. China is the world’s second-largest economy after the US.

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