China’s leaders shake up political ranks as coronavirus cases near 60,000; Japan announces first virus death

China’s Communist Party removed senior officials in the virus-stricken province of Hubei, as the country’s leadership looks to tighten control over its epidemic response and assuage public outrage over authorities’ handling of the coronavirus crisis.

The ruling party said Thursday that it fired Jiang Chaoliang, a former banker who had been party secretary of Hubei province since 2016. He will be replaced by Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong. Ma Guoqiang, the party boss overseeing Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak, has been replaced by Wang Zhonglin, an official from eastern Shandong province.

News of the reshuffle came hours after China announced a significant jump in infection numbers in Hubei. The surge followed a change in official methodology for diagnosing and counting cases, a shift that revived questions about the reliability of China’s data and testing methods.

China revised the total case numbers in Hubei province by an additional 15,000 – and raised the death tally by 242 – after it took into account cases in which doctors are allowed to diagnose patients based on clinical methods. The National Health Commission said Thursday the new case total for the country is 59,804, with 1,367 deaths.Meanwhile

Meanwhile, Japan reported its first fatality from coronavirus, only the second worldwide outside China. It also announced that 44 more people have tested positive for the new coronavirus on board the quarantined cruise liner Diamond Princess, bringing to 218 the number of infected.

Global markets dropped after China announced the increase in cases. The slip follows a promising rally the day before, when the outbreak appeared to have slowed.

Asian and European markets fell overnight, and at Wall Street’s opening bell, the Dow Jones industrial average fell by 115.39 points. The Standard & Poor 500 index fell by 13.55 points and Nasdaq’s index fell by 68.92 points. Oil prices initially slipped but rose again when U.S. markets opened, even as demand has dropped dramatically in China, the largest oil importer in the world.

Thursday’s slump indicates that uncertainty over how long the outbreak could last has frightened investors. China is facing major economic consequences amid a widespread lockdown and fears of the virus that have shuttered offices and factories. Several major airlines have also canceled flights to China.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the 15th case of coronavirus. The person is being held under federal quarantine at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, after arriving on a State Department chartered flight from China on Feb. 7.

The CDC said the person is the first of those quarantined in Texas who had symptoms and tested positive for the virus.

“There will likely be additional cases in the coming days and weeks, including among other people recently returned from Wuhan,” the CDC said in a statement.

Speaking to the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday morning, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar noted that both the 15th U.S. case of coronavirus and the 14th, which was announced Wednesday evening, came from Wuhan.

But Azar also said the United States has begun working with health departments in five cities to use its flu surveillance network to begin testing individuals with flu-like symptoms.

“Many questions about the virus remain, and this effort will help see whether there is broader spread than we have been able to detect so far,” Azar said.

In London, a woman infected with the coronavirus who arrived in Britain from China took an Uber to a hospital in the Lewisham area of London, after falling ill on Sunday.

The hospital’s chief executive, Ben Travis, confirmed Thursday that the woman had “self-presented” in the emergency room over the weekend despite the latest government advice asking those who think they might have been infected to stay home and avoid contact with others.

Public Health England also advises those experiencing symptoms to call the National Health Service’s 111 helpline for information. It says those returning from China or other specified areas should not use taxis or other methods of public transport until at least two weeks after their return.

“In this case, the patient self-presented,” Travis said in a statement. “As soon as the patient did this, the patient was given a mask and then escorted to be tested in the dedicated area we have assigned for coronavirus testing outside the A&E building – while awaiting the installation of a purpose-built ‘pod.’ ”

All staff who came into contact with the patient “were undergoing active surveillance as a precautionary measure,” he added.

According to the hospital, the woman did not come into contact with any other patients and was later moved to a specialist unit at another hospital in central London.

The patient is the first coronavirus patient confirmed in the British capital, bringing the total number to nine.

In Vietnam, officials have locked down a village in Vinh Phuc province, just an hour north of Hanoi, after discovering a spike in coronavirus cases there – the first effort at a mass quarantine outside of China.

Vietnam has also just announced its 16th confirmed case of coronavirus, and the patient is also from the same province.

The village, Son Loi commune, will be shut off for at least two weeks, starting on Thursday, according to the Vietnam Express newspaper. Eight cases have been confirmed in Son Loi commune, and 11 of the 16 confirmed cases in Vietnam were recorded in Vinh Phuc province, including that of a 3-month-old baby.

Singapore’s Health Ministry confirmed eight new coronavirus cases, bringing the city-state’s total up to 58. Authorities also confirmed links between the new cases and already known clusters of infections, including one at a construction site and another one at a church.

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