Jump in fatal coronavirus cases as WHO warns 'too early' to predict end of outbreak
TORONTO -- China’s Hubei Province has reported a spike in the number of fatal COVID-19 infections, as the World Health Organization warns it’s too early to predict the end of the coronavirus epidemic.
Hubei health officials said 254 people had died overnight -- the biggest single-day total yet.
The province also broadened its definition of COVID-19 cases to include “clinically diagnosed” patients, which results in a steep rise of 15,152 new cases.
The change in definition allows for doctors to provide an on-the-spot diagnosis rather than waiting for lab results.Chinese officials say the revised diagnosis plan will accelerate the identification and treatment of the illness.
Meanwhile, more than 300 health experts from around the world met at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, to pool their knowledge about the new COVID-19 disease and decide which research should receive priority funding in a bid to stop the outbreak.
“This outbreak could still go in any direction,” said WHO director general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Dr. Mike Ryan, head of emergencies for the WHO, said it is "way too early to try to predict the beginning of the end" of the crisis in China.
"The stabilization in cases in the last number of days is very reassuring and it is to a great extent the result of the huge public health operation in China," he said.
Test kits for the virus are in short supply around the world, creating a backlog, and available kits are not sensitive enough to pick up whether a person was infected and healed.
Leading Canadian microbiologist Dr. Gary Kobinger told CTV’s Genevieve Beauchemin in Geneva that the virus is “tenacious.”
“We have to be ready for this pathogen which could go around the world,” he said.
The WHO now has a blueprint to fight the spread, but its application will be a test of international solidary.
“We have shipped diagnostic kits to laboratories around the world and we will continue to do so,” Ghebreyesus said.
“And we’re also sending supplies of masks, gloves, gowns and other personal protective equipment to protect frontline health workers in 18 countries that need our support, and we have more in the pipeline.”
- With files from the Associated Press