FILE - A medical worker in a protective suit moves a coronavirus patient in a wheelchair at a hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, Feb. 10, 2020.
FILE - A medical worker in a protective suit moves a coronavirus patient in a wheelchair at a hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, Feb. 10, 2020.

WASHINGTON - China’s National Health Commission reports that nearly half a million Chinese citizens have had close contact with individuals with confirmed diagnoses of the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan.   

“So far, 471,531 people have been identified as having had close contact with infected patients. There are now 181,386 people under medical observation,” the Health Commission reported Thursday on its official website. 

The figures suggest the previously unknown respiratory disease, labeled by international health officials as COVID-19, has considerable capacity to spread far beyond the 59,804 cases confirmed in China as of Thursday. They also indicated a dramatic increase in the number of people who have been in direct contact with an infected person, which stood at 189,583 in a report from the same commission on February 3. 

The commission started publishing the daily briefing on the latest developments in China on that date.

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