Beijing replaces officials in Hubei after coronavirus outbreak

A traveller stands on a bridge near a display showing government propaganda in the fight against the COVID-19 viral illness Credit: Ng Han Guan/AP

The leader of a Chinese province which has been hardest hit by the outbreak of a coronavirus has been replaced by the ruling Communist Party.

Ying Yong, a former mayor of Shanghai, will take on the role of the party chief in central Hubei of where the Covid-19 virus was identified late last year.

Two other senior officials in Hubei have been dismissed amid criticism about the handling of the outbreak which has killed more than 1,350 and infected thousands more.

State media has also reported that a slew of others have been expelled from the party for transgressions related to the epidemic.

Many countries have implemented travel restrictions on recent visitors to China, which has more than 99% of the world’s reported infections.

In an unprecedented measure to contain the disease, the Chinese government placed the hardest-hit cities — home to more than 60 million people — under lockdown.

Meanwhile, China’s ambassador to the UN said Beijing “is confident that it is capable of winning the fight” against the new virus.

Zhang Jun told a UN meeting in New York that China’s confidence has been further boosted by the decline of new confirmed cases in regions beyond Hubei province for eight consecutive days, and the significant rise in cured cases to more than 5,000.

Masked passengers are seen on the deck of the Diamond Princess docked at Yokohama port (Yu Nakajima/AP) Credit: Yu Nakajima

He called on the international community to maintain solidarity, increase sharing of information, experience and technology, “and work with the Chinese government and people to jointly meet the challenges”.

The Chinese ambassador stressed the need for mutual trust, saying people everywhere must “oppose politicisation of health issues and leave no breeding ground or space for any racist comments, discrimination or stigma”.

Authorities in Japan have said 44 more people on quarantined cruise ship have tested positive for Covid-19.

The country’s health ministry said 218 people of the 713 tested on board the Diamond Princess have been infected by the virus.

The ship, which is still carrying more than 3,500 passengers and crew members, returned to the Yokohama Port on February 3 and has been in quarantine since.