China’s National Health Commission said Friday that 121 more people have died from the new coronavirus, bringing the death toll to nearly 1,400.
The commission has also confirmed 5,090 new infections, a significant increase for the second straight day since the government changed its methodology for diagnosing and counting new cases.
Speaking to reporters, commission Vice Minister Zeng Tixin said 1,716 health workers have also been infected by the coronavirus and six of them have died.
With the most recent update, the total number of infected people stands at 63,851 as of Thursday night.
A joint mission with China led by the World Health Organization will launch an investigation this weekend into the coronavirus. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters Friday in Geneva he expects a team to arrive in China this weekend and that “particular attention will be paid to understanding transmission of the virus, the severity of the disease and the impact of ongoing measures.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping called for stronger public health legislation Friday as the country grapples with the outbreak. Xi “stressed the need to strengthen areas of weakness and close loopholes exposed by the current epidemic,” according to China Global Television Network.
In Beijing, city officials are requiring all people returning to the capital city to self-quarantine for 14-days. The state-run Beijing Daily newspaper reported Friday that those who refused to seclude themselves or violate other containment rules “will be held accountable under the law.”
Hundreds of passengers aboard the cruise ship Westerdam who were turned away by several Asian countries finally disembarked in Cambodia Friday after Prime Minister Hun Sen welcomed them. The authoritarian leader, a staunch ally of Chinese President Xi, handed flowers to them as they cheered and walked to buses while waving to other passengers who remained aboard the ship. Hun Sen said all of the nearly 1,500 passengers will be allowed to disembark after no cases were found aboard.
The outbreak has led to the firing of Jiang Chaoliang as the ruling Communist Party chief in Hubei, just days after the province’s top two health officials were removed from their posts. The official Xinhua news agency says former Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong will replace Jiang, who had been criticized by the public for his handling of the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.
The virus is believed to have emerged late last year at a seafood market in the city of Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife. Wuhan is the capital of Hubei.
The Vietnamese government ordered the lockdown of a village of 10,000 people Thursday, official media reported, making it the first country except China to impose a mass quarantine. Checkpoints were established in Son Loi, located northwest of the capital of Hanoi. An increase in cases has been reported in Son Loi.
In Japan, officials say an 80-year-old woman who died in a hospital on the outskirts of Tokyo has become the nation’s first coronavirus fatality. She was the third person to die of the virus outside of China, with the other fatalities occurring in the Philippines and Hong Kong.
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. The person, along with other evacuated U.S. citizens, arrived at an Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas, Feb. 7 aboard a State Department-chartered flight from China. The person is being treated at an area hospital.
“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.
The outbreak is also wreaking havoc on regional sporting events. World Rugby says the Singapore and Hong Kong rounds of the popular Sevens Series have been moved from April until October. The two events are among the many sporting events that are either being postponed or canceled, including the World Track and Field Championships scheduled for next month in the Chinese city of Nanjing.
But Yoshiro Mori, president of the organizing committee of this year’s Tokyo Olympics, told reporters Thursday the committee is not considering postponing or canceling the Games, which begin in July.
The death toll from the coronavirus is higher than the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002-03, which is believed to have killed 774 people and sickened nearly 8,100 in China and Hong Kong.