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More than 1,700 medical workers in China infected with coronavirus

dpa — By Simina Mistreanu dpa

Feb. 14-- BEIJING-More than 1,700 medical workers on the front lines of China's battle with a new coronavirus have been infected, and six have died, medical authorities said on Friday.

The vast majority of the medics-1,502 out of 1,716-have fallen ill in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, said Zeng Yixin, deputy director of the National Health Commission.

It is the first time China is releasing an official count of infections among medical personnel during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Public sympathy for medical workers exposing themselves to the disease has surged in China, especially after the death last week of Li Wenliang, a doctor from Wuhan who sounded an early alarm about the virus and was initially rebuked by authorities for doing so.

Videos were also circulating online about a Wuhan nurse who reportedly walks to work every morning, with her husband driving behind her to light her away, as she has decided to self-quarantine from her family to avoid exposing them to the virus.

Meanwhile, authorities said on Friday that the number of coronavirus infections across the country had reached 55,748, with 1,380 deaths.

In Hubei province alone, there were 4,823 new infections and 116 deaths registered beyond what was reported the previous day, according to regional authorities.

China corrected its national numbers after its initial daily update didn't line up with previous data and figures issued for Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

The National Health Commission said the discrepancy was due to subtracting the number of deaths from previous data because of "duplications" in the statistics from Hubei province.

The data mix-up comes a day after Hubei reported a sharp increase of more than 14,000 new patients battling the Covid-19 illness caused by the virus, which sparked heightened concern around the world.

That rise was mostly due to more than 13,000 earlier cases that were only added to the tally on Thursday, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The numbers appeared to spike after diagnosis rules were changed for hardest-hit Hubei, meaning that going forward lung screening results are also allowed as the basis for confirming infections rather than laboratory tests, which are used in the rest of China and abroad.

"We're not dealing with a spike of 14,000 (new) cases in a day," WHO emergency operations chief Mike Ryan told a press conference Thursday in Geneva.

China has been accused in the past of under-reporting the devastation produced by accidents and natural disasters.

Several European Airlines-including Finnair, Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian Airlines-announced they were extending their suspension of flights to and from China until the end of March.

The world's airlines face potential revenue losses of between $4 billion and $5 billion in the first quarter as the coronavirus outbreak has led to widespread flight cancellations, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The virus broke out in December, with the earliest cases linked to a food market in the central Chinese industrial hub of Wuhan. It has since spread to about two dozen countries, prompting governments to put travel restrictions in place.

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