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China sacks officials as coronavirus death toll crosses 1,300

Liang Xiaopeng | AP Liang Xiaopeng | AP
Deanna Wagner | 13 February, 2020, 23:26

Those delays could be significant, with some reports of patients waiting up to a week for their results, as the testing kits were sent from Hubei to a lab in Beijing.

In Asia overnight, China's SSE Composite Index closed down 0.7%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index (^HSI) slid by 0.3%, and Japan's Nikkei (^N225) lost 0.1%.

Hubei's two top health officials had already been sacked this week.

Within 24 hours, 242 more deaths occurred in Hubei province, which brings the number of victims to central China to 1,310. Now, lung imaging can be used to diagnose the virus in a suspected patient, in addition to the standard nucleic acid tests.

Using a new method of diagnosis, Hubei on Thursday reported 14,840 fresh cases of the virus as of February 12, up from 1,638 new cases on Tuesday, with the number of deaths in the province rising by a daily record of 242 to 1,310.

Although provincial authorities have not provided additional details about the new criteria for accounting for patients, the new measures will allow "patients to receive timely treatment", the commission said in a statement. The Communist Party of China (CPC) relieved Jiang Chaoliang, CPC secretary in Hubei, of his duties, and appointed Shanghai mayor Ying Yong in his place.

The appointments follow the sacking earlier this week of two leaders of the provincial health commission.

Wuhan party chief Ma has been replaced by Wang Zhonglin, party boss of Jinan, the capital city of eastern Shandong province, Xinhua reported separately.

The public has widely criticized local officials for failing to respond quickly and decisively to the new virus.

The virus is said to have been transmitted to humans from animals, particularly bats.

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Criticism intensified after the death of a doctor who had tried to raise the alarm about the outbreak in December, but was silenced by authorities.

Fear of contagion has also caused the USA, and much of Asia and Europe, to implement travel restrictions on visitors from China.

Japan is one of the worst affected of more than two dozen other countries and territories that have seen hundreds of infections from the flu-like virus.

Markets had taken comfort from the World Health Organization's (WHO) emergency program head describing the apparent slowdown in the epidemic's spread as "very reassuring".

Hubei, where the majority of the world's infections have been concentrated, added a new category of "clinical cases" to its reporting.

"The objective of the joint mission is that experts of both sides can have in-depth communication on the situation and efforts of prevention and control, and come up with advice for China and other affected countries", Geng said.

On Wednesday night, more than 14,800 new cases of the COVID-19 , the disease which is caused by the coronavirus, were reported in Hubei.

The biggest cluster of cases outside China is on a cruise ship quarantined off the Japanese port of Yokohama, where a further 44 cases were reported on Thursday.

Another cruise ship, the Westerdam, finally docked Thursday in Cambodia after being turned away by several Asian and Pacific governments.