KEY POINTS

  • China is still reeling from Covid-19 with 899 new cases and 118 deaths on Thursday
  • South Korea confirmed its first death from the coronavirus Thursday
  • A single prison guard with Covid-19 infected more than 200 inmates and staff at a prison in Shandong province

China reported an upward spike in COVID-19 infections Friday, reversing what health authorities claim has been a steady decline in the number of daily confirmed cases arising from the coronavirus for the past two weeks.

Health experts said the sudden jump seems to indicate COVID-19 hasn't peaked, which runs contrary to the findings of a new medical study claiming the outbreak peaked in the last week of January.

The National Health Commission (NHC) revealed 899 new cases and 118 further deaths, just one day after the number of new infections fell to its lowest level in weeks. Hubei province, Ground Zero for the disease, had 411 of the newly confirmed cases and 115 deaths. This compares to 349 and 108, respectively, on Thursday. The new cases and death toll are also an increase from the 394 new infections and 114 new deaths reported Wednesday.

The global casualty count as of 10:03 a.m., Friday, Hong Kong time, stood at 76,716 cases and 2,247 deaths. Of the new toll, 75,465 cases are in China, as well as 2,236 deaths.

There are now 11 deaths worldwide. These include the first death in South Korea confirmed Thursday, two deaths in Japan on Thursday and two deaths in Iran reported Wednesday. There was a second death in Hong Kong Wednesday.

New cases in South Korea jumped to 73 by Thursday, tripling the number of cases in the country. Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 53 new cases Thursday and 20 Wednesday. This unexpected jump brought total cases across the country to 104. Most of the patients in South Korea are from the southern city of Daegu and its environs.

KCDC said the first South Korean fatality was a long-term patient at a hospital in Cheongdo county. This person was among 15 patients and staff that had tested positive for the virus.​​​​​​​ Of South Korea's 104 cases, more than 40 are in a cluster in Daegu centered on the Shincheonji Church of Jesus.

The surprising rise in the number of new cases in China also seems to have been due to the infection of more than 200 prisoners and seven prison officials by a single guard that came down with COVID-19. The local government of Shandong province in eastern China reported a prison guard at Rencheng jail in Jining city started coughing and exhibited other COVID-19 symptoms in early February. All 2,077 prisoners and staff at the prison tested and, on Thursday, the results showed 200 prisoners and seven prison officers testing positive for COVID-19.

A top communist party official in Shandong and seven prison officials were fired for the unexpected outbreak. Zhejiang province reported 34 prisoners at Shilifeng jail are confirmed infected by Covid-19. Two prison officials were sacked for this incident.

The Chinese epicentre of Wuhan continues to be badly affected by the new coronavirus The Chinese epicentre of Wuhan continues to be badly affected by the new coronavirus Photo: AFP / STR