Coronavirus’s deadliest day: behind the rising numbers

Sharp spike in cases of Covid-19 comes after hopes that rate of infection was slowing

Commuters wearing protective masks walk through Hong Kong station
(Image credit: Paul Yeung/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The new strain of coronavirus claimed the highest number of lives so far in China on Wednesday.

A total of 14,840 new cases and 242 deaths were recorded in the Chinese province of Hubei, the centre of the outbreak. The latest national figures are yet to be revealed.

The spike in deaths came after hopes that the rate of infection was slowing. On Tuesday, China recorded the lowest number of deaths from the Covid-19 virus in a fortnight.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

What is behind the rise?

Hubei “has started using a broader definition to diagnose people - which accounts for most of the rise in cases”, if not the spike in deaths, says the BBC.

The broadcaster explains: “The province - which accounts for more than 80% of overall Chinese infections - now includes ‘clinically diagnosed cases’ in the number of confirmed cases.

“This means it includes those showing symptoms, and having a CT scan showing an infected lung, rather than relying only on the standard nucleic acid tests.”

However, health experts “question the accuracy of China’s official data, saying the testing system captured only a fraction of the cases in China’s hospitals, particularly those that are poorly run”, says the Financial Times.

Neil Ferguson, a professor of epidemiology at Imperial College London, has estimated that the official figures from Wuhan, the Hubei city where the virus was first detected, may capture only one in every 19 cases.

“Getting a proper gauge on infections is seen as critical to ending the outbreak and restarting the world’s second-largest economy,” says the newspaper.

Meanwhile, Hubei’s top official, Jiang Chaoliang, has been replaced by former Shanghai mayor Ying Yong

The FT says the “reshuffle of high-ranking party members is the latest escalation of drastic measures taken by the Communist Party to bring under control the outbreak, which has become the greatest challenge to [President Xi Jinping’s] rule since he took office in 2012”.

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––For a round-up of the most important stories from around the world - and a concise, refreshing and balanced take on the week’s news agenda - try The Week magazine. Start your trial subscription today –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

What about elsewhere?

Across the world, at least 60,395 coronavirus cases have been recorded and 1,369 deaths, according to Worldometer figures. All of the deaths have been in mainland China apart from one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines. More than 6,000 people have recovered.

Japan has confirmed another 44 cases on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, quarantined in Yokohama, taking the total number to 218.

In the UK, nine cases of the new coronavirus have been identified so far. All of the patients are receiving treatment, and one is said to have recovered. The most recent case is that of a woman who flew in to London from China.

Although doctors says the risk of infection in the UK is still very low, public health experts warn that London’s transport hub status means any virus in the capital could spread quickly.

The London Underground in particular could be a hotbed for transmission, experts told Sky News. However, they insist the risk for commuters remains low.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.