China coronavirus death toll nears 1,400

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BEIJING – The death toll from China’s virus epidemic neared 1,400 on Friday, as the United States complained of a “lack of transparency” from Beijing over its handling of a crisis that has fuelled global panic.

Nearly 64,000 people are now recorded as having been made ill by the virus in China, with the last two days showing a steep rise after a change in diagnostic methods.

The National Health Commission disclosed a statistical error, however, saying it removed 108 deaths in Hubei that had been double-counted, but the nationwide toll still rose to 1,380 on Friday.

The deepening crisis in China has caused fears of more global contagion, with Vietnam locking down villages after finding new cases and Japan becoming the third place outside the mainland on Thursday to report a death.

More than two-dozen countries have now reported hundreds of cases among them.

While the World Health Organization has praised China’s handling of the epidemic — in contrast to its cover-up of the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003 — a top White House official on Thursday said Beijing should be more open.

“We are a little disappointed that we haven’t been invited in and we’re a little disappointed in the lack of transparency coming from the Chinese,” Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, told reporters.

Kudlow said President Xi Jinping had assured President Donald Trump that Beijing would accept US help, but “they won’t let us”.

Kudlow’s comments contrasted with Trump’s apparent confidence in China, with the US leader telling a radio show that Xi is “extremely capable” and that the US was “working with them” and “sending a lot of people”.

The extent of the epidemic seemed to deepen on Thursday after authorities in central Hubei province, the epicentre of the crisis, started counting patients who were “clinically diagnosed” via lung imaging, in addition to those who undergo lab tests.

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