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COVID-19 cases fall in China epicentre, cruise ship passengers disembark in Cambodia


BEIJING/TOKYO — The death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in China’s Hubei province rose by 116 on Friday, health officials said, less than half the number of deaths from the day before, when Japan reported its first fatality.

Hubei province’s health commission said it had recorded 4,823 new cases of the flu-like virus that emerged in the provincial capital, Wuhan, in December.

The number of infections was down sharply on the previous day, when a change in the methods of diagnosing patients led to a record spike in cases.

The epidemic has given China’s ruling Communist Party one of its sternest challenges in years, constrained the world’s second-largest economy and triggered a purge of provincial bureaucrats.

Japan confirmed its first coronavirus death on Thursday — a woman in her 80s living in Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo — adding to two previous fatalities in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Japan is one of the worst affected of more than two dozen countries and territories outside mainland China that have seen hundreds of infections from the flu-like sickness.

A cruise liner quarantined off a Japanese port has more than 200 people confirmed with the disease, including 12 Canadians. Authorities have said they will allow some elderly people to disembark on Friday.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said four Standing Rapid Deployment Team members landed in Tokyo on Wednesday, with three Canadian public health officials set to arrive on Friday and and two Canadian Armed Forces medical officers to soon be deployed.

Passengers on another cruise ship that spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by five countries over coronavirus fears started disembarking in Cambodia on Friday.

The MS Westerdam, carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, docked in the Cambodian port town of Sihanoukville on Thursday. It had anchored offshore early in the morning to allow Cambodian officials to board and collect samples from passengers with any signs of ill health or flu-like symptoms.

The surge of new cases reported on Thursday dented hopes the epidemic might soon be reaching a peak and halted a global stocks rally.


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