China switches coronavirus reporting methodology again

Beijing: Chinese health officials expressed new optimism on Thursday over a deadly virus outbreak while authorities in South Korea's fourth-largest city urged residents to hunker down as fears nagged communities far from the illness' epicentre.

Vissel Kobe fans are tested for signs of the coronavirus ahead of the AFC Champions League Group G match between Suwon Samsung Bluewings and Vissel Kobe in Suwon, South Korea. Credit:Getty

The confidence voiced by China's government came as it reported a reduced number of new infections. But doubts remained about the true trajectory of the epidemic as China again changed its method of counting and new threats emerged outside the country.

"The downward trend will not be reversed," insisted Ding Xiangyang, deputy chief secretary of the State Council and a member of the central government's supervision group.

Whatever promises were aired where the illness poses its biggest threat, countries around the world continued to grapple with the rippling effects. The latest front in the widening global fight against COVID-19 emerged in Daegu, South Korea, where the city's 2.5 million residents were urged to stay inside, wearing masks even indoors to stem further infection.

Mayor Kwon Young-jin made a nationally televised appeal for those preventative measures, warning that a rash of new cases could overwhelm the health system. He pleaded for help from the country's central government.

Daegu and surrounding towns reported 35 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday.

The flare-up came more than 1400 kilometres from COVID-19's epicentre across the Yellow Sea in China's Hubei province and its capital of Wuhan, a sign of the risks the virus potentially poses to communities across the region and beyond.

"Everything that is not known about this is causing concern," said Dr. David Heymann, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Though all but about 1000 of more than 75,000 reported cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in China, scattered cases have erupted elsewhere.

Chinese security guard wears a protective mask as he stands at a barricade to control the entry and exit from a residential area in Beijing.Credit:Getty

The stringent moves have followed public fury over Hubei authorities' handling of the outbreak at its outset. The risk of human-to-human transmission was played down and doctors who tried to warn the public were reprimanded by police. Wuhan residents reported overcrowding in hospitals and futile attempts to seek treatment.

Many countries have also set up border screenings and airlines have cancelled flights to and from China to prevent further spread of the disease, which has been detected in about two dozen countries.

AP

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