Coronavirus death toll: Chinese government purges Hubei leaders as toll spikes

The Chinese government is axing officials in Hubei province as Beijing faces increasing criticism over its handling of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Senior Communist Party officials have been removed and replaced by figures from other provinces, echoing what happened in China during the SARS outbreak.

Hubei party secretary Jiang Chaoliang has been replaced by Shanghai mayor Ying Yong, 61, a close ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to the country’s Xinhua news agency.

Wuhan city leader Ma Guoqiang will be replaced by Wang Zhonglin, the party secretary of the city of Jinan.

Chen Yixin, another Beijing heavyweight, was flown into Hubei last week to take charge of handling the outbreak.

“Hubei province and Wuhan must further strengthened management and control over exits from the areas … to put a stop of the spread,” state broadcaster CCTV said.

The move comes as Mr Xi called on the nation to get back to business.

According to the South China Morning Post, he said there had been “positive changes” with “positive results”, reiterating that all levels of local government and Communist Party committees must achieve China’s social and development goals this year.

The reshuffle comes as there have been over 60,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with 59,804 in China, most of them in the province of Hubei where it was first detected.

There have also been 1370 deaths, including one each in Hong Kong, the Philippines and Japan.

More than 240 deaths were reported on Wednesday alone, the highest number of fatalities on a single day since the virus was first reported in December.

Of the 15 cases in Australia, six have been cleared and the remaining nine are all stable.

No quarantined Australians at Christmas Island and Darwin have tested positive for the virus, with the first group of evacuees due to return home on Monday. Universities are contacting their Chinese students to ensure they understand how the extension of travel restrictions affect them and to provide support. Work is underway on extending existing domestic tourism campaigns to help businesses impacted by the downturn in foreign visitors.


The Chinese embassy in Australia is unhappy with the federal government’s “extreme” decision to extend a coronavirus-related travel ban for another week.

From Friday, foreign nationals who have been in mainland China will not be allowed to enter Australia for 14 days from the time they left. “We did not take this decision lightly,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday.

“We are very mindful of the disruption and economic impacts of these arrangements, but I note Australia is one of 58 countries that has introduced some form of travel restrictions.”

But the Chinese embassy said the ban should be lifted, saying the World Health Organisation didn’t recommend travel or trade restrictions on China. “We express our deep regret and dissatisfaction over the Australian government’s announcement,” a spokesman said in a statement.

“Only Australia and a small number of countries have taken such extreme measures which are an over-reaction indeed.”

Australian citizens and permanent residents will still be able to enter, as will their immediate family members, but they must self-isolate for 14 days from the time they left mainland China. The restrictions will be reviewed in one week.

— with AAP

Originally published as China’s purge as coronavirus toll spikes

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