As the death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak exceeds 1,000 people, the top two health officials in central China’s Hubei’s province, the epicenter of the outbreak, have been removed from their posts.
Chinese state media reported Tuesday that Zhang Jin, the Communist Party boss of Hubei’s provincial health commission, and Liu Yingzi, the commission’s director, have been dismissed.
The firings come a day after another 103 deaths were reported in Hubei province, where millions remain under lockdown and people are complaining of food shortages. A total of nearly 43,000 cases across China have been confirmed by the central government.
President Xi Jinping visited coronavirus patients at a Beijing hospital Monday and called for “more decisive measures” to contain the outbreak, Chinese state television reports.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday the spread of coronavirus between people who had no history of travel to China could be “the spark that becomes a bigger fire.”
“In recent days, we have seen some concerning instances of onward transmission from people with no travel history to China,” he said, citing new cases in Britain and France.
Britain declared the virus a “serious and imminent threat” to public health after reporting four new cases Monday, bringing the number of confirmed British cases to eight. Health Minister Matt Hancock’s declaration gives the government more power to isolate people to keep the virus from spreading.
The center of the outbreak is China’s Hubei province, where millions of people remain under lockdown and complaints of food shortages are rising.
China’s central bank is making $43 billion available to help businesses involved in fighting the epidemic.
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.
U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday he expects the coronavirus outbreak to disappear in April because of the warmer weather. “The heat, generally speaking, kills this kind of virus,” he said.
Health experts say the spread may ease in warm weather when people get out of doors and are not in such close contact with each other. But this is a new strain of coronavirus and some of the experts believe it is too soon to say if spring and summer will kill it off.