See More on Facebook


Fall in new infections after China changes criteria again

Lab tests now needed to confirm infections, instead of relying on clinical diagnosis.

Written by

Updated: February 21, 2020

New coronavirus infections in China fell yesterday after the health authorities changed the way new cases are counted, the second time they had done so in a month.

Patients will now require laboratory testing before their infections can be confirmed, a reversal of the earlier decision to tabulate cases based on clinical diagnosis.

With this new guideline, there were 394 cases nationwide on Wednesday – down from nearly 1,700 the day before – bringing the total number of cases to 74,576, the National Health Commission (NHC) announced.

Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, reported 628 new cases on Wednesday.

Health officials said the number was adjusted downwards to 349 after over 200 laboratory tests for the cases came back negative.

There were 114 fatalities, bringing the national death toll to 2,118.

The revision of diagnostic guidelines is the second within a month.

Under the first revision, introduced early this month but coming into effect only on Wednesday last week, infection numbers spiked dramatically in Hubei province.

The criteria for confirmed cases were expanded to include people with symptoms who also had either travel history or contact with confirmed cases, or CT scans showing lung lesions.

A day later, however, the NHC removed 108 deaths from its total number due to “double-counting” in Hubei, raising doubts over the reliability of China’s data on coronavirus infections.

The new guidelines, while in line with World Health Organisation standards, could also mean the pressure is back on laboratories, with doctors previously complaining of a shortage of test kits.

The change, which was announced in a 15-page document posted on the NHC’s website, was because of an “improvement” in the situation in Hubei, with more laboratories available to conduct confirmation tests, health officials said at a briefing yesterday.

The communique also warned of the disease spreading through the air in badly ventilated areas, and emphasised the use of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in treatment, even including two recipes for tonics. TCM is one of the industries China has been pushing to expand under the Belt and Road Initiative.

Communicable diseases expert David Heymann of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said the reversal on how cases are tabulated will offer a more accurate picture of the numbers infected.

He said confirming infections through clinical diagnosis resulted in many cases, “but also brought in other cases of pneumonia patients who didn’t have the virus”.

Professor Gregory Gray, an infectious diseases specialist at the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, said it is common that public health definitions of cases change over time as doctors gain a better understanding of the disease and diagnostic tests improve.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases around the world has risen to 75,700, and the death toll stands at 2,130.

Two Iranian citizens who tested positive for the coronavirus have died, a Health Ministry official told the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

They are the country’s first fatalities from the outbreak.

Enjoyed this story? Share it.

About the Author: The Straits Times is Singapore's top-selling newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia

Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here


Taiwan: 720,000 people registered for purchasing face masks online

Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Friday announced that more than 722,000 people — 600,000 using the NHI app and 122,000 more using the Emask system — had successfully registered for purchasing face masks as of 1 p.m. Asked about people who have reportedly tried to register again, CECC Chief Commander Chen Shih-chung called on the public to stop, stressing that authorities are committed to providing a set of face masks to each user prior to March 18, the official deadline for registration. Regarding some reported phone scams on payment requirements for face masks, Chen asked users to remain vigilant. Access is limited to Taiwan residents who need to register their NHI number, obtain proper digital certification and downloa

By Asia News Network
March 13, 2020


Covid-19 outbreak will continue for a year or longer; more stringent measures may need to be put in place, says PM Lee

 In a video address on his social media channels, PM Lee emphasised that the situation in Singapore remains under control. The Covid-19 outbreak will continue for some time – a year, and maybe longer – said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his second national address on the situation on Thursday (March 12). But if Singaporeans keep up their guard and take practical precautions, the country will be able to keep its economy going and people will be able to carry on with their daily lives, he said. In a video address on his social media channels, PM Lee emphasised that the situation in Singapore remains under control. The disease outbreak response level will not be stepped up to red, the highest level, he said. It is c

By The Straits Times
March 13, 2020


Foreigners play their part in Shanghai’s epidemic prevention

 Expat volunteers have been active in helping the city overcome the COVID-19 outbreak. Twelve foreign residents in Shanghai have joined a volunteer team to help with the city’s COVID-19 prevention and control. Located in Minhang district, the team was established on Feb 10 by the Jinfeng International Community Development Association, which aims to promote the development of Huacao town and the Jinfeng International Community by organising themed activities and public welfare events. Pakistani Amir Shafiq Khan joined the team to give back. “It’s easy to run away to another country, but I felt that my family and I should contribute to China in this difficult time as it has always offered opportunities to us,” says Khan, who has lived in

By China Daily
March 13, 2020


Asian stock markets take cue from US to hit fresh lows

ST Index careens into bear territory for the first time since January 2016 Many stock markets across Asia, including in Singapore, followed the United States into bear territory after US President Donald Trump stopped short of offering a detailed rescue package as the coronavirus outbreak was declared a global pandemic. Adding to fears, oil prices slumped further. The Straits Times Index (STI) careened into bear territory for the first time since January 2016. The last time that the STI was in a bear market – where stocks have fallen at least 20 per cent from their recent high – was during the oil price rout in 2016. The STI finished down 3.77 per cent yesterday, and more than 21 per cent down from a peak of 3,407.02 on April 29 last year.

By The Straits Times
March 13, 2020


askST: Can coronavirus be spread by sweat, or via activities such as singing?

There is currently no evidence showing that the virus can be transmitted through one’s perspiration. Concerns have been raised over social activities such as singing and exercising in the light of the coronavirus outbreak. As of Wednesday (March 11), Singapore’s largest Safra Jurong cluster of confirmed coronavirus cases went up to 40, against a total of 178 cases. The patients, who had attended a Feb 15 Chinese New Year celebration held in the ballroom of Joy Garden restaurant at Safra Jurong, are members of a Hokkien singing group. This has raised concerns as to whether the disease, known as Covid-19, can be transmitted through singing. Similar concerns have been expressed about whether the virus can be spread through sweat b

By The Straits Times
March 12, 2020


Bangladesh to benefit from coronavirus fallout: survey

Study says globally renowned companies are planning to shift work orders from China to other Asian countries, including Bangladesh. Bangladesh will benefit from the fallout of the coronavirus as most of the globally renowned companies are planning to shift work orders from China to other Asian countries, including Bangladesh, according to a new survey. Hong Kong-based QIMA, a leading provider of supply chain compliance solutions and which partners with brands, retailers and importers to secure, manage and optimise their global supply network, surveyed the executives of more than 200 globally renowned companies between February and early March. Half of the survey respondents are considering shifting supplier sourcing away from China to new countries or r

By Daily Star
March 12, 2020