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Health officials sacked in coronavirus epicentre as deaths top 1,000

Two high-ranking officials have been sacked in China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, as the death toll from the virus topped 1,000 on Tuesday, state media reported.

Two high-ranking officials have been sacked in China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, as the death toll from the virus topped 1,000 on Tuesday, state media reported.

Zhang Jin, the Communist Party secretary of the Hubei Health Commission, and the commission’s director Liu Yingzi were both dismissed by Hubei’s Communist Party Standing Committee, the province’s highest decision-making body, according to the Communist Party-run People’s Daily.

Both roles will now be filled by the deputy head of China’s National Health Commission Wang Hesheng, an ally of President Xi Jinping, who was last week appointed a member of the provincial standing committee.

The decision comes on the back of a wave of public criticism aimed at officials in the province, precipitated by the death of Li Wenliang. Li was one of eight doctors detained by Wuhan police for “spreading rumours” when they alerted others about the new virus, which causes a respiratory illness. Li, 34, contracted the virus from one of his patients and died last week.

On Monday, 108 people died due to the virus, according to figures released by the country’s health authorities, a spike that exceeded the 97 deaths recorded the day before.

The National Health Commission reported that 103 of the 108 new deaths occurred in Hubei. The death toll now stands at 1,016.

Within the same 24-hour period, 2,478 new infections were confirmed across China, bringing the total tally up to 37,626. In Hubei province alone the number of confirmed cases has reached over 30,000.

Since the beginning of the outbreak in December, the virus has spread to about two dozen countries, but so far there have been only two deaths outside mainland China.

In the provincial capital Wuhan, the epicentre of the crisis, the mortality rate stands at over 4 per cent, official statistics reported. Elsewhere in the country, such as the southern province of Guangdong, the official death rate is lower than 1 per cent.

Cruise line Royal Caribbean on Tuesday adapted its temporary ban on all holders of China, Hong Kong and Macau passports. The policy was introduced in reaction to a spate of cruise ships quarantined after passengers and crew were found to carry the virus.

According to the newly introduced policy, publicized on the company’s Twitter account, Royal Caribbean will not allow on board its vessels any passenger, regardless of passport country, who has visited mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau within the past 15 days.

The asymptomatic incubation period for the virus is believed to last up to 14 days, during which time it may be transmitted to others, although research released by Chinese experts on Monday points an incubation period potentially as long as 24 days.

The Diamond Princess, operated by Carnival cruises, remains quarantined off the coast of Yokohama, Japan. At least 135 cases of infection have been confirmed on board the ship.

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