China reveals new cases including dozens of asymptomatic patients

Beijing: Mainland China reported 39 new coronavirus cases as of Sunday, up from 30 a day earlier, and the number of asymptomatic cases also surged, as Beijing continued to struggle to extinguish the outbreak despite drastic containment efforts.

The National Health Commission said in a statement on Monday that 78 new asymptomatic cases had been identified as of the end of the day on Sunday, compared with 47 the day before.

Residents chat along the Yangtze River in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province on Sunday. Quarantine in the the epicentre of China’s coronavirus outbreak is to be formally lifted on Wednesday.Credit:AP

Imported cases and asymptomatic patients, who have the virus and can give it to others but show no symptoms, have become China's chief concern in recent weeks after draconian containment measures succeeded in slashing the infection rate.

Of the new cases showing symptoms, 38 were people who had entered China from abroad, compared with 25 a day earlier, authorities said. One new locally transmitted infection was reported, in the southern province of Guangdong, down from five a day earlier in the same province.

The new locally transmitted case, in the city of Shenzhen, was a person who had travelled from Hubei province, the original epicentre of the outbreak, Guangdong provincial authorities said.

People wear protective masks as they walk while enjoying the spring weather on April 5, 2020 at a park in Beijing.Credit:Getty Images

The Guangdong health commission raised the risk level for a total of four districts in the cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Jieyang from low to medium late on Sunday.

Mainland China has now reported a total of 81,708 cases, with 3331 deaths – numbers US intelligence agencies have said they do not trust.

Daily infections have fallen dramatically from the peak of the epidemic in February, when hundreds were reported daily, but new infections continue to appear daily.

The country has closed off its borders to foreigners as the virus spreads globally, though most imported cases involve Chinese nationals returning from overseas.

The central government also has pushed local authorities to identify and isolate the asymptomatic patients. At the same time as restrictions in some previously locked down cities appear to be easing, with thousands of people reportedly flocking to the Yellow Mountains and other open areas.

Singapore has reported 120 new coronavirus cases, by far its highest daily rise, and quarantined nearly 20,000 migrant workers in their dormitories.

While the number of daily new coronavirus infections in South Korea has dropped below 50 for the first time since late February, but the country's vice health minister urged vigilance to maintain hard-won gains against the virus.

Kim Gang-lip expressed concerns over loosened attitudes toward social distancing that he said puts the country at potential risk of an infection "explosion" similar to Europe and the United States.

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Coronavirus cases could be in half of its care homes, leading charity warns


A LEADING charity has warned coronavirus cases could be in half of its care homes.

MHA revealed they have confirmed or suspected cases in more than half of its 220 facilities.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

MHA say 750 of its staff are now unable to work, and that confirmed deaths from the disease are continuing to rise.

They have 4,400 older people living in their care homes, with 3,000 older people living independently in retirement living communities.

The group have now warned homes are using up weekly face mask supplies in just one day, and nine of its centres now have “dangerously low” amounts of kits.

Chief executive Sam Monaghan said: “The adult social care sector must not be treated as the poor relation of the NHS.

“Our people are also working day and night with those who are most vulnerable to coronavirus and we are yet to be included in the testing that is being rolled out for the NHS.

“This and personal protective equipment needs addressing urgently so we can keep our staff and those we care for safe.

“We are anxious that we may see an increase in staff expressing concern about coming into work without being supplied with adequate equipment.”

Workers told the Guardian staff and residents mixing with people confirmed to have the virus feel as if they were being treated like “cannon fodder”.

A care assistant in a home not operated by MHA said staff had been left terrified after residents said they would prefer to stay in the home if they got sick.

They said: “How do we contain it in a home? We have people with dementia and we can’t keep them in their rooms.

“All we have for PPE is the generic paper mask, gloves and plastic aprons. We are risking our lives. It makes us feel like we are cannon fodder.”

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Another carer at a home in Edinburgh explained he burst out crying last week after realising staff looking after an infected resident were also looking after others.

Now Labour MP Margaret Hodge has written to Matt Hancock demanding more supplies and increased testing for care workers.

She said: “The government must act faster to protect both the most vulnerable people in our communities and care home staff.

“The pronouncements they are making in parliament and the situation on the ground simply doesn’t add up.”

The Unison union, which represents care workers, has also demanded drastic action.

Unison leader Dave Prentis has written to the Prime Minister claiming care workers “feel like they’ve been forgotten – their safety a mere afterthought, despite the critical work they do”.

It comes as a care home in Liverpool today declared itself “desperate for help”, with 48 of its elderly residents showing symptoms of coronavirus after two deaths.

Oak Springs care home currently has 50 staff self-isolating after displaying symptoms.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "We are working around the clock to give the social care sector the equipment and support they need to tackle this outbreak.

“We have provided PPE equipment to over 26,000 care homes including home care and hospices across the country.

“The full weight of the Government is behind this effort and we are working closely with industry and social care providers to make sure care staff have the protection they need to continue to deliver care safely.”

A No10 spokesperson this morning said: "We have provided face masks to over 25000 care homes, including home care and hospices across the country so far.

"We have prioritised face masks as gloves and aprons are already in use in these settings."

There are now 25,150 confirmed cases of coronavirus with 1,829 deaths in the UK.

It comes as Piers Morgan ripped into ministers for failing to explain WHY Britain can't test as many people for coronavirus as Germany.

The Good Morning Britain host lost his temper with Robert Jenrick, who couldn't explain why the UK wasn't able to get 500,000 tests done like seen in other countries.


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Alfred cases prompt calls for more tests and masks for cancer patients

Two cancer patients at The Alfred have tested positive to COVID-19, after another two cancer patients died from the virus there, prompting calls for Melbourne hospitals to do more to protect vulnerable patients.

The diagnosis of the two patients has prompted calls for at-risk patients to wear masks and for a rapid ramp-up of testing to stop further outbreaks in Victorian hospitals.

Two cancer patients at Melbourne’s The Alfred hospital have been daignosed with coronavirus, after two other oncology patients there died of the condition. Credit:Luis Ascui

The Australian Medical Association has also called for a rapid escalation of testing in Victoria as the state dramatically falls behind NSW and Queensland.

AMA federal president Tony Bartone said "many hospitals" were now reviewing their procedures to prevent a repeat of The Alfred's coronavirus outbreak, with emergency departments already separating COVID-19 patients from general admissions.

But hospital doctors are waiting too long to receive test results and there were not as many tests being done per capita in Victoria compared with other states, the association's Victorian president Julian Rait warned.

Associate professor Rait called for a rapid escalation of tests in Victoria, with 27,800 tests done in that state, compared with 77,689 in NSW and 42,965 in Queensland, according to a Monash University website tracking testing.

"Victorian hospital doctors have expressed concern to the AMA regarding the fewer number of COVID-19 tests being conducted in Victoria compared to other states and the time taken to provide a result," Professor Rait said.

More than 100 drive-through testing facilities across the country been identified but not yet fully established, he said.

"I'm concerned that they would need to be up and running quickly and not all the sites identified have been commissioned."

The Age yesterday revealed two cancer patients at The Alfred had died of COVID-19, while another three haematology and oncology ward staff had also tested positive for the virus.

The Alfred hospital confirmed that the two men who died did not receive their COVID-19 diagnoses until after their condition worsened.

The hospital said there was no delay in receiving tests results and each patient is considered to be positive from the moment they are suspected of having the virus.

The other two cancer patients are understood to be in a stable condition.

Four emergency staff at Werribee Mercy Hospital also tested positive for the virus this week.

University of NSW infection control expert Mary-Louise McLaws said hospitals treating cancer and respiratory disease patients could consider putting protective masks on high-risk patients to avoid another outbreak, even if they were not suspected of having the virus.

Due to the worldwide shortage of masks, it may be more beneficial for the patients to wear the masks rather than health care workers on the ward, the technical adviser to the World Health Organization's Infection Prevention and Control Global Unit said.

"In a case like this, the hospital may decide that the susceptible patients who cannot maintain a distance from their carers may need to wear a mask rather than a healthcare worker," Professor McLaws said.

Doctors are hopeful that new technology will eventually enable rapid testing of staff when they show up to work, with many hospitals now temperature-testing staff upon entry.

But as it stands, test results were taking up to eight days to be returned, which is adding to patients' anxiety while also chewing up resources, Royal Australasian College of Physicians's president-elect John Wilson said.

"The resources that could have been used to manage a coronavirus patient, for example PPE, are being used in situations where they may not be required," he said.

Establishing dedicated coronavirus hospitals would be beneficial if the number of coronavirus cases continued to escalate, Professor McLaws said.

These hospitals helped to fight SARS and Ebola epidemics, by separating patients from general healthcare settings, while providing dedicated, continuous cleaning and highly stringent protocols on PPE, she said.

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New coronavirus cases in NYC jails outpacing rest of the city

The city Department of Correction said on Wednesday that the number of inmates testing positive for coronavirus has jumped to 75, up from 52 reported on Tuesday.

The number of DOC employees with confirmed COVID-19 cases was 37, an increase of seven from Tuesday, the department said.

The department does not provide information on which facilities the cases were reported from, though the vast majority of inmates are held on Rikers Island.

With about 5,200 inmates in custody, DOC’s infection rate for prisoners is higher than the rest of the city, according to an analysis by the Legal Aid Society.

There are 14.5 infections per 1,000 inmates in city jails compared with about 2 per 1,000 people in New York City, which has more than 16,700 cases.

“COVID-19 is spreading rapidly at Rikers Island and other local jails, endangering our clients, correction staff and all of New York City,” said Tina Luongo of the The Legal Aid Society in a news release. “Based on this analysis, New York City jails have become the epicenter of COVID-19.”

Compared with federal and state lock-ups in New York, coronavirus has spread like wildfire.

On Wednesday, the federal Bureau of Prisons reported that two of its inmates in New York tested positive — one in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center and one in Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision reported positive tests for 33 of its employees and three inmates. One of them is disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who began his 23-year sentence at Wende Correctional Facility in Erie County.

As the number of confirmed cases builds, attorneys with clients in city and federal facilities have filed motions in droves to get them released.

Legal Aid filed a lawsuit against the city on Wednesday in Bronx Supreme Court demanding the release of 110 at-risk Rikers inmates who are being held on technical parole violations.

That’s on top of the 148 vulnerable inmates that Legal Aid said should be released from Rikers in a pair of Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuits filed in recent days.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday that the city plans to release 300 inmates and that his administration would review several hundred more in the coming days to determine if they could be set free.

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NYC coronavirus cases continue to grow with nearly 4,000 infected, 26 dead

Four more people in the Big Apple have died from the coronavirus and 339 more are confirmed to be infected as testing increased across the five boroughs on Thursday, City Hall said.

The new figures bring the city’s total number of coronavirus cases to 3,954 — a significant jump from the 3,615 cases that were reported earlier on Thursday.

A total of 26 city residents have now died from the illness.

Brooklyn continues to be the borough with the most infected, at 1,195 cases, according to the new tally. In Queens there are 1,042 cases; 1,038 in Manhattan; 496 in the Bronx; and 179 on Staten Island.

As the city numbers continue to grow, Mayor de Blasio demanded the federal government step up to provide a shipment of medical supplies by April to help city health workers battling the pandemic.

“From the very beginning, New York City has been fighting COVID-19 with one hand tied behind our back,” de Blasio said in a statement.

“We cannot leave our healthcare workers vulnerable, and we need the federal government to step up and give our frontline workers the tools they need to save lives all across our City.”

By Thursday night, 1,700 medical providers — up from 1,000 on Wednesday — have voluntarily joined the city’s medical reserve to help treat patients infected with the coronavirus.

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Wales confirms 22 more cases of coronavirus bringing total to 60

Wales confirms 22 more cases of coronavirus bringing the total number of infected to 60 after health minister warned the death toll in the country could reach 20,000

  • Public Health Wales confirmed the new cases today in a statement  
  • Health minister Vaughan Gething said up to 20,000 people could die in Wales
  • He also suspended non-urgent procedures and outpatient appointments 
  • Mr Gething was criticised for not cancelling Wales’s Six Nations Scotland game 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Public Health Wales has confirmed that the country has 22 more cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of those infected to 60. 

The news comes the day after the country’s health minister, Vaughan Gething, warned that up to 20,000 people in Wales could die from the pandemic.  

Dr Chris Williams, incident director for the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said: ‘We can confirm that 22 new cases have tested positive for the new coronavirus in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 60.’ 

Mr Gething laid bare the scale of the challenge the Welsh NHS is facing in a press conference in which he also announced non-urgent surgical procedures and outpatient appointments would be suspended.

Up to 20,000 people in Wales could die amid the coronavirus outbreak in a worst-case scenario. Pictured is the University Hospital of Wales

Mr Gething gave the worst-case figures while responding to criticism about his repeated refusal to ask the Welsh Rugby Union to postpone Wales’s Guinness Six Nations clash against Scotland in Cardiff on Saturday, following the union’s own decision to do so 24 hours before kick-off.

On Thursday, he had said ‘science doesn’t tell us that it really makes a difference’ that cancelling large events could save lives.

On Friday, Mr Gething said: ‘This is actually about how we make choices based on the best scientific advice available, based on the best advice of our chief medical officers.

‘That’s going to be the way the government behaves, because our priority is to save as many lives as possible. And it should not get away from the fact that is what we are talking about.

‘In an average flu season across the UK, there are 8-10,000 deaths. In the worst-case scenario, as you know in Wales, for coronavirus could be over 20,000 deaths.

‘That’s the choice we are making in how to use our resources.’

Mr Gething announced non-urgent surgical procedures and outpatient appointments would be suspended to ease pressure on the Welsh NHS and free up resources.

The country’s health minister Vaughan Gething announced non-urgent surgical procedures and outpatient appointments would be suspended

He said: ‘I’m choosing to act now before we see a significant surge in demand so that our services can be ready to act as we move towards the peak.

‘A larger number of people requiring high levels of care are highly likely over the coming weeks.’

Health and social care providers will have permission to relax targets and monitoring arrangements, he said, as well as to cancel internal and professional events, including study leave, to free up staff for preparations.

Health boards will also be able to suspend NHS emergency service and health volunteer support to mass gatherings and large events.

Access to cancer and other essential treatments such as renal dialysis would be maintained, he said.

Responding to Mr Gething’s announcement, Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, said his organisation wanted to reassure the public NHS organisations were ‘well prepared’ to provide care.

The Welsh Rugby Union decided to postpone Saturday’s Six Nations clash with Scotland despite the health minister not asking them to 

Mr Hughes said: ‘We are pleased that the minister has taken the action today following feedback from NHS chief executives and medical directors to ensure that preparations to Covid-19 are planned, co-ordinated and proportionate.’

Earlier on Friday, Public Health Wales said a further 13 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the country, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 38.

The official number of people tested for the virus now stands at 945, while those suffering a cough or high temperature are being asked to self-isolate at home for seven days.

The new cases include four people in the Caerphilly area and two in the Swansea area.

The other seven cases are in the local authority areas of Anglesey, Cardiff, Carmarthenshire, Flintshire, Monmouthshire, Newport, and Powys.

The Welsh Government said it would extend delivery hours for supermarkets and food retailers to ensure the food industry is able to respond to increased demand by shoppers during the outbreak.

Local Government Minister Julie James said a temporary relaxing of planning conditions which currently restrict night-time and early morning deliveries would allow retailers access to deliveries throughout the day and night.

Ms James said: ‘Given the exceptional challenges facing Wales and the United Kingdom as a whole from Covid-19, it is vital deliveries of food, sanitary and other essential products over the coming weeks can be made as quickly and safely as possible, minimising disruption to the supply chains on which communities depend.

‘We are working closely with the UK Government and food industry representatives to ensure supermarkets and other food retailers are able to respond to the outbreak as best as they can.’

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Coronavirus cases top 100,000 worldwide as virus upends lives

Crossing more borders, the new coronavirus has hit a milestone, infecting more than 100,000 people worldwide as it weaves itself deeper into the daily lives of millions, infecting the powerful, the unprotected poor and the vast masses in between.

The virus, which has killed nearly 3,400 people, edged into more and more US states, popped up in at least four new countries and even breached the halls of the Vatican on Friday, local time. It forced mosques in Iran and beyond to halt weekly Muslim prayers. It brought Israeli and Palestinian authorities together to block pilgrims from Jesus' birthplace in Bethlehem. And it upended Japan's plans for the Olympic torch parade.

A firefighter disinfects a shopping area in northern Tehran, Iran.Credit:AP

"Who is going to feed their families?" asked Elias al-Arja, head of a hotel owners' union in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where tourists have been banned and the storied Church of the Nativity shuttered.

Questions swirled around whether Iran could control its outbreak, as the number of reported infections jumped beyond 4,700 on Friday, with 124 deaths. Iran planned to set up checkpoints to limit travel, urged people to stop using paper money and had firefighters spray disinfectant on an 18-kilometre length of Tehran's most famous avenue.

"It would be great if they did it every day," grocery store owner Reza Razaienejad said after firefighters sprayed outside his shop. "It should not be just a one-time thing."

Fresh fruit and vegetable stands are disinfected in Tehran.Credit:AP

The 100,000 figure of global infections is largely symbolic but dwarfs other major outbreaks in recent decades. SARS, MERS and Ebola affected far fewer people but had higher mortality rates.

The economic impact grew along with the number of infected people. World stocks and the price of oil dropped sharply again on Friday. A sharp drop in travel and a broader economic downturn linked to the outbreak threatened to hit already-struggling communities for months to come.

The head of the UN's food agency, the World Food Program, warned of the potential for "absolute devastation" as the outbreak's effects ripple through Africa and the Middle East.

The Grand Princess cruise ship has been quarantined off the California coast.Credit:AP

In the US the number of cases passed 230 people scattered across 18 states. President Donald Trump cancelled a trip to the Centres for Disease Control in Atlanta even as he prepared to sign a $US8.3 billion ($12.5 billion) bill for vaccines, tests, potential treatments, and to help state and local governments.

China reported 143 new cases on Friday, the same as a day earlier and about one-third of what the country was seeing a week ago. Just a month ago, China was reporting several thousand new cases a day. The problem has now flipped, with the outbreak moving to Europe – where Italy, Germany and France had the most cases – and beyond.

South Korea reported 505 additional cases on Friday, down from a high of 851 on Tuesday.

The new virus has spread to about 90 countries. The Netherlands reported its first virus death on Friday while Serbia, Slovakia, Peru and Cameroon announced their first infections. Even Vatican City was hit, with the tiny city-state confirming its first case on Friday but not saying who was infected. The Vatican has insisted that 83-year-old Pope Francis, who has been sick, only has a cold.

The new coronavirus is known to affect the elderly more than other groups.

And in the United States, officials in Washington state are so concerned about having space to care for the sick they were expected to close a $US4 million deal on Friday to take over a roadside motel. The plan to turn the 84-room EconoLodge into a quarantine facility was not sitting well with everyone, including the police chief.

To the south, cruise passengers awaited test results aboard the Grand Princess ship. The vessel, with 3500 aboard, was ordered to stay at sea after a traveller from its previous voyage died of the coronavirus and at least four others were infected. The cruise line said samples were collected from 45 passengers and crew members and results were expected later on Friday.

The Grand Princess is operated by the same line as the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined at a Japanese port last month. More than 700 people on board were infected.

In a sign of hope, a woman infected with the virus gave birth to a girl in Qom, the Iranian Shiite holy city particularly hard-hit by the virus.

AP

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