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China Reports 121 More Coronavirus Deaths, Spike in New Cases

China’s National Health Commission said Friday that 121 more people have died from the new coronavirus, bringing the death toll to nearly 1,400.

The commission has also recorded 5,090 more confirmed cases of infections.

Speaking to reporters, commission Vice Minister Zeng Tixin said 1,716 health workers have also been infected by the coronavirus and six of them have died.

With the most recent update, the total number of infected people stands at 63,851 as of Thursday night. 

World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told Reuters Thursday the increase in the number of new cases reflects a “broader definition” of a coronavirus diagnosis and that his organization wants China to provide “further clarity” about the new methodology.

WHO health emergencies program director Michael Ryan told reporters in Geneva Thursday the new, higher numbers do “not represent a significant change in the trajectory of the outbreak,” but rather “a change in how the cases are being reported.” 

The outbreak has led to the firing of Jiang Chaoliang as the ruling Communist Party chief in Hubei, just days after the province’s top two health officials were removed from their posts. The official Xinhua news agency says former Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong will replace Jiang, who had been criticized by the public for his handling of the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.

The virus is believed to have emerged late last year at a seafood market in the city of Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife. Wuhan is the capital of Hubei.

Workers produce protective suits at a factory in Binzhou in China’s eastern Shandong province, Feb.y 13, 2020.

The Vietnamese government ordered the lockdown of a village of 10,000 people Thursday, official media reported, making it the first country except China to impose a mass quarantine. Checkpoints were established in Son Loi, located northwest of the capital of Hanoi. An increase in cases has been reported in Son Loi.

In Japan, officials say an 80-year-old woman who died in a hospital on the outskirts of Tokyo has become the nation’s first coronavirus fatality. She was the third person to die of the virus outside of China, with the other fatalities occurring in the Philippines and Hong Kong.  

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that a 15th case of the coronavirus has been confirmed in the United States. The person, along with other evacuated U.S. citizens, arrived at an Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas, Feb. 7 aboard a State Department-chartered flight from China. The person is being treated at an area hospital. 

“There will likely be additional cases in the coming days and weeks, including among other people recently returned from Wuhan,” the CDC said in a statement.

The outbreak is also wreaking havoc on regional sporting events. World Rugby says the Singapore and Hong Kong rounds of the popular Sevens Series have been moved from April until October. The two events are among the many sporting events that are either being postponed or canceled, including the World Track and Field Championships scheduled for next month in the Chinese city of Nanjing.

But Yoshiro Mori, president of the organizing committee of this year’s Tokyo Olympics, told reporters Thursday the committee is not considering postponing or canceling the Games, which begin in July.  

The death toll from the coronavirus is higher than the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002-03, which is believed to have killed 774 people and sickened nearly 8,100 in China and Hong Kong.