Coronavirus death toll leaps in China’s Hubei province

A man pushes a man on wheelchair past a propaganda banner on a wall in a hutong, following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country, in Beijing, China February 11, 2020. The Chinese characters on the banner read, "Strengthen self-protection, do not panic, believe in science, do not spread rumours". REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Britain is reported to to stepping up its preparations as it braces itself for more cases of the coronavirus. This announcement was done by health officials after the diagnosis of the first patient in London, a day when the spread of the disease continued to cause disruption across the world.

The Chinese province at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak reported a record rise in the death toll on Thursday under a new diagnostic method, and Beijing sacked two local leaders after criticisim of their handling of the crisis.

Health officials in Hubei province said 242 people had died from the flu-like virus on Wednesday, the fastest rise in the daily count since the pathogen was identified in December, and bringing the total number of deaths in the province to 1,310. The previous highest daily rise in the toll was 103 on Feb. 10.

Reports in state-run media said provincial Communist Party boss Jiang Chaoliang had been sacked as secretary of the Hubei Provincial Committee, and Ma Guoqiang had been removed as party chief in the provincial capital Wuhan. 

The reports did not state a reason for the dismissals, but the two are the most high-profile Chinese officials to date to be removed from duty following the coronavirus outbreak that began in Wuhan late last yet. 

“Thank you Communist Party. It should have been done earlier,” Wuhan resident Wang You told Reuters.

Dozens of low-level health officials across the country have also lost their jobs for failing to contain the spread of the epidemic, which is believed to have emerged from a seafood market in Wuhan where wildlife was traded illegally. 

The spike in the death toll came a day after China had reported its lowest number of new cases in two weeks, bolstering a forecast by the country’s senior medical adviser that the epidemic could end by April.