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China reports 1,300 asymptomatic virus cases after public concern

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China on Wednesday said it has more than 1,300 asymptomatic coronavirus cases, the first time it has released such data following public concern over people who have tested positive but are not showing symptoms.

Health officials also reported the first imported case from abroad in Wuhan — the epicentre where the virus first emerged late last year — heightening fears of infections being brought into China from other countries.

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Of 36 new cases reported Wednesday, 35 were imported from abroad.

The National Health Commission (NHC) said 1,367 asymptomatic patients were under medical observation, with 130 new cases newly added in the last day.

The NHC announced Tuesday that it would respond “to public concerns” by starting to publish daily data on asymptomatic cases, which it said were infectious.

There were mass online calls for the government to reveal the number of asymptomatic cases after authorities revealed over the weekend that an infected woman in Henan province had been in close contact with three asymptomatic cases.

AFP / NOEL CELIS Health officials in China have reported the first imported case from abroad in Wuhan — the epicentre where the virus first emerged late last year

However, asymptomatic cases are not being added to the official tally unless they later show clinical symptoms.

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Historical data on those infected without showing symptoms has not been published.

Beijing has announced a series of dramatic measures to curb arrivals into the country and control imported cases — including a ban on foreigners entering China and testing those arriving from overseas — making it easier to determine those who are infected but don’t show symptoms.

China says all detected asymptomatic cases and their close contacts must undergo 14-day centralised quarantine.

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Experts agree that asymptomatic patients are likely to be infectious, but it remains unknown how responsible they are for spreading the deadly virus.

Chinese respiratory expert Zhong Nanshan said in a state media interview last week that asymptomatic carriers could potentially infect “3 to 3.5 people each”.

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Many other countries including South Korea and Japan count asymptomatic cases in their national tallies of confirmed diagnoses.

There have now been 81,554 infections in China, with 3,312 deaths — mostly concentrated in the epicentre of Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province.

The first imported case confirmed in Wuhan, a Chinese national studying in Britain, arrived in the city last week as it starts to gradually lift travel restrictions imposed to control the outbreak.

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Cancer patients twice as likely to die from COVID-19: study

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People with cancer are more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than those without it, a large study published Thursday found.

The data on more than 900 patients in the US, Canada and Spain which appeared in a paper in The Lancet, found that mortality increased the further the cancer had progressed.

Cancer patients with decreased ability to carry out daily life tasks were more at risk than those with higher functionality.

The paper's authors looked at how many people died within 30 days of being diagnosed of COVID-19 of all causes.

"The 30-day all-cause mortality was 13 percent, more than twice the mortality reported as the global average by Johns Hopkins," Toni Choueiri, an oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who co-authored the paper told AFP.

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Ethics complaint filed to force Trump’s COVID-19 Vaccine Czar — a former pharma exec — to submit to ethics rules

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A pair of consumer watchdog groups on Thursday filed a formal federal ethics complaint stating that President Donald Trump's so-called "Vaccine Czar"—a former pharmaceutical executive with deep personal investments in the industry—should be forced to submit to the same conflict of interest and financial disclosure rules as other government officials charged with overseeing large sums of taxpayer money, especially as he stands to personally profit from his duties.

"Slaoui's blatant ties to Big Pharma, including the very drug corporations he's funneling money to, should make even the Trump administration blush."—Margarida Jorge, Lower Drug Prices Now

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COVID-19

Latin America’s slums facing losing battle against virus spread

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As the coronavirus pandemic swept across the globe, Latin America's slum dwellers waited defenseless in its path. Now, with the region becoming the new epicenter of the crisis, the virus is unleashing destruction on its most vulnerable populations.

With limited sanitation and little space, millions of people living cheek by jowl in slums cannot take even the most basic hand-washing and social distancing precautions recommended by health authorities.

"We are increasingly concerned about the poor and other vulnerable groups more at risk from disease and death from the virus," Pan American Health Organization chief Carissa Etienne said this week.

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