China virus death toll surges past 1,500, new cases fall

1 / 2
A man wears a face mask as a preventative measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, as he stands in a train at Mong Kok MTR station in Hong Kong. (AFP)
2 / 2
A scanning and transmission electron microscope image of coronavirus released by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' (NIAID) Rocky Mountains Laboratories (RML). (NIAID-RML)
Short Url
Updated 16 February 2020

China virus death toll surges past 1,500, new cases fall

  • More than 66,000 people have now been infected

BEIJING: The death toll from China’s new coronavirus epidemic jumped past 1,500 on Saturday but new infections fell following a mid-week surge caused by a change in the way cases are counted.
More than 66,000 people have now been infected in China from a virus that emerged in central Hubei province in December before spreading across the country a month later and causing global panic.
Some 1,700 medical workers have been infected, with six dying from the COVID-19 illness, officials said, underscoring the country’s struggle to contain the deepening health crisis.
Chinese President Xi Jinping acknowledged that the outbreak exposed “shortcomings” in the country’s health emergency response system.
Battling the outbreak is a “big test for the country’s governance system and governance ability,” Xi said as he chaired a political meeting on government reforms this week, according to state media.
Chinese authorities have placed some 56 million people in Hubei under quarantine, virtually sealing off the province from the rest of the country in an unprecedented effort to contain the virus.
A number of cities far from the epicenter have also imposed tough measures limiting the number of people who can leave their homes, while schools remain closed nationwide and many companies have encouraged employees to work from home.
Several countries have banned arrivals from China and major airlines have cut services with the country.
But the epidemic has continued to spread across China and hundreds of cases have emerged in more than two dozen countries.
In Singapore, which has 67 confirmed cases, the Roman Catholic Church said it was suspending all masses indefinitely to help prevent the spread of the virus and urged the faithful to follow services on YouTube or the radio.

The National Health Commission reported 143 new deaths on Saturday, with all but four in Hubei, raising the toll to 1,523.


The commission also reported 2,641 new cases of the COVID-19 strain, with the vast majority in Hubei.
The number, however, was almost half those reported the previous day.
The scale of the epidemic swelled this week after authorities in Hubei changed their criteria for counting cases, adding thousands of new patients to their tally.
Previously, they were counting only cases with a positive lab test result but are now also including those “clinically diagnosed” through lung imaging.
Officials said the change was necessary to ensure that patients get treated early amid reports of backlogs in lab tests.
The revision added nearly 15,000 patients to Hubei’s tally on Thursday, with the World Health Organization noting that cases going back weeks were retroactively counted.
“We’re seeking further clarity on how clinical diagnosis is being made to ensure other respiratory illnesses including influenza are not getting mixed into the COVID-19 data,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday.
There were over 4,800 cases reported in Hubei on Friday and 2,420 on Saturday.
The number of new confirmed cases has been steadily falling outside Hubei, with 221 infections reported on Saturday.
A top Chinese scientist had predicted that the epidemic could peak by the end of this month after the number of new cases had fallen earlier in the week.
The WHO cautioned that it was “way too early” to make any predictions about the disease’s trajectory.
Authorities said Friday 1,716 medical workers have been infected during the outbreak, with six dying from the illness.
Most of the infections among health workers were in Hubei’s capital, Wuhan, where many have lacked proper masks and gear to protect themselves in hospitals dealing with a deluge of patients.
The grim figures come a week after grief and public anger erupted over the death of a whistleblowing doctor who had raised the alarm about the virus in December and been reprimanded and silenced by police in Wuhan.

The US government is preparing to evacuate American citizens aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, the site of the most coronavirus infections found outside China and currently quarantined off Japan, the Wall Street Journal reported.
About 380 people will be offered seats on two planes back to the United States and could arrive back home as early as Sunday, the newspaper said, adding that those with a fever, cough or other symptoms will not be allowed on the flights.
Evacuees will have additional health screenings in the United States and some will probably undergo a mandatory quarantine, which will likely be 14 days, Henry Walke, an official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was quoted as saying.


Harvey Weinstein found guilty of sexual assault, rape

Updated 24 February 2020

Harvey Weinstein found guilty of sexual assault, rape

  • Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein was convicted of sexual assault and rape by a New York jury
  • He was convicted of sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006 and raping Jessica Mann, a onetime aspiring actress, in 2013

NEW YORK: Harvey Weinstein was convicted Monday of sexual assault and rape but cleared of the most serious predatory sexual assault charges, a partial victory for the #MeToo movement that sparked a cascade of allegations against the disgraced Hollywood mogul.
The jury of seven men and five women found the producer guilty of criminal sexual acts in the first degree and rape in the third degree, a measure of vindication for the dozens of women who came out against the one-time all-powerful filmmaker.
However, the 67-year-old Oscar-winner who produced films including "Shakespeare In Love" was found not guilty of first-degree rape and predatory sexual assault charges that could have seen him jailed for life.
The Time's Up foundation, formed in the wake of the Weinstein case, hailed the verdict as marking "a new era of justice."
"Abusers everywhere and the powerful forces that protect them should be on notice: There's no going back," it said in a statement.
The limited win for #MeToo presents the most high-profile sex assault conviction in the United States since Bill Cosby was found guilty in 2018 of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman 15 years ago.
The decision was announced in a packed New York courtroom where some 100 people had gathered. The defendant, who attended the trial hunched over a walker, was shielded from view by police officers.
More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct since allegations against him ignited the #MeToo global reckoning against men abusing positions of power in October 2017.
But the jury considered charges related to just two: ex-actress Jessica Mann and former production assistant Mimi Haleyi, with many claims too old to prosecute.
One of the predatory sexual assault charges also included testimony from "The Sopranos" actress Annabella Sciorra, who said Weinstein raped her in her New York apartment in the winter of 1993-94.
Six women took the stand from the opening of testimony on January 22, to say they had been sexually assaulted by Weinstein.
Weinstein's team subjected the women to ferocious cross-examination, as they argued that his relationships were consensual and transactional.
The prosecution cast Weinstein as a conniving predator who demanded sex in exchange for access to a film universe where he was king, but presented no forensic evidence or witness accounts.
The state's case instead rested on asking the jury to believe the women.
Weinstein, who has always said his sexual relations were consensual, was charged with raping former actress Mann in the DoubleTree hotel in midtown Manhattan in 2013.
He was also charged with forcing oral sex on former production assistant Mimi Haleyi at his New York apartment in July 2006 while she was on her period.
Mann and Young both testified that Weinstein's genitals appeared deformed, during graphic and at times uncomfortable testimony, as the prosecution showed jurors nude photos of Weinstein to corroborate their accounts.
The charges of predatory sexual assault, a serious sex crime committed against more than one person, were the most serious and carried a sentence of life in prison.
For the jury to convict Weinstein of that they would have had to believe either Mann or Haleyi plus Sciorra.
Sciorra's allegation was too old to be prosecuted as an individual crime but she was included in the indictment to bolster the predatory sexual assault charge.
Ex-model Lauren Young also told the court that Weinstein sexually assaulted her in the bathroom of a Beverly Hills hotel room in 2013 when she was a 22-year-old aspiring actress.
Judge Burke dismissed the jury just after noon Monday, thanking them for their "care" and "attention."
Eyes now turn to Los Angeles, where Young's allegations form part of a separate sex crimes investigation against Weinstein being carried out by prosecutors in the California city.
Los Angeles prosecutors accuse him of raping an Italian model in February 2013 and of assaulting Young the following night.