Reportedly, China has removed the top political leaders of the Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, which is the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus. They are, so far the highest profiles to be sacked in an epidemic that has killed 1,355.
Earlier this week, the country had fired Hubei’s two most senior health officials as criticism grew over the way the outbreak had been handled. On Thursday, the province reported a dramatic rise in the number of virus cases, increasing the number of infected to 60,000 after they changed the way they were counting infections. This fueled worries about transparency with claims of under-reporting.
Xinhua news agency reported that Jiang Chaoliang, Hubei’s party secretary, will be replaced by Shanghai mayor Ying Yong, while Wuhan party chief Ma Guoqiang will be replaced by an official from Shandong.
Thursday's surge came after officials in Hubei said they were correcting previous diagnoses to include people “clinically diagnosed” with the virus, adding 14,840 new cases to its total.
In the new method, doctors can use lung imaging, rather than solely laboratory tests.
The pressure is mounting on the officials for their incompetence, particularly after the virus claimed the life of a Chinese doctor who was punished by Wuhan authorities for raising the alarm about the new virus.
A top Red Cross official in Wuhan was also sacked for dereliction of duty and the removal of health officials in other cities.