Amid the peak of COVID-19 scare, a ship with 19 Chinese crew members that sailed from Shanghai on January 29 has entered Kolkata port after being quarantined for hours. 

Medical workers work at "Wuhan Livingroom" in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, Feb. 8, 2020. The cultural building complex dubbed "Wuhan Livingroom" is a converted hospital to receive patients infected with the novel coronavirus.

A ship coming from Shanghai was quarantined for a few hours on Wednesday at Sagar island, about 150 km from Kolkata, in West Bengal's South 24 Parganas district, before the 19-member crew was allowed to enter the Kolkata Port in view of the coronavirus scare, an official said.

"The captain of the ship, Zhou Yingde, and 18 other members of the crew were quarantined at Sagar island where the doctors examined them. The ship was later allowed to enter the Kolkata port," he said.

Crew to be further screened in port and undergo thermal scanning

Chinese ship south china sea
Chinese ships in South China Sea near Haiyang Shiyou also known as HD-981 in Vietnam in South China Sea on July 15, 2014.Reuters

The crew would be further screened in the port and undergo thermal scanning — a non-invasive, no radiation procedure that detects, records and produces a careful analysis of skin surface temperature patterns as a reflection of normal or abnormal human physiology.

The clearance for the crew to set foot on the eastern metropolis would be given only after their condition is found to be normal.

Following a Union Shipping Ministry directive, the Kolkata Port Trust has made it mandatory for the crew of vessels using the port, especially those from China, to undergo screening.

A health camp has been opened at the port, where ambulances and other necessary equipment have been kept ready.

Death toll leaps in China's Hubei province

The total of confirmed coronavirus cases in China stood at 37,198 cases.Reuters

The Chinese province at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak reported a record rise in the death toll on Thursday under a new method for diagnosing cases, as health experts warned the epidemic could get worse before it gets better.

Health officials in Hubei province said 242 people had died from the flu-like virus on Wednesday, the fastest rise in the daily count since the pathogen was identified in December, and bringing the total number of deaths in the province to 1,310. The previous record rise in the toll was 103 on Feb. 10.

The grim new tally came a day after China had reported its lowest number of new coronavirus cases in two weeks, bolstering a forecast by the country's senior medical adviser that the epidemic could end by April.

2,015 new confirmed cases reported in China

Passengers wearing mask at the airport. Reuters

But the 2,015 new confirmed cases reported in mainland China on Wednesday were dwarfed by the 14,840 new cases reported in Hubei alone on Thursday after provincial officials started using computerized tomography (CT) scans to look for infections.

Hubei had previously only allowed infections to be confirmed by RNA tests, which can take days to process and delay treatment. RNA, or ribonucleic acid, carries genetic information allowing for identification of organisms like viruses.

Using CT scans that reveal lung infections would help patients receive treatment as soon as possible and improve their chances of recovery, the Hubei health commission said.

The new diagnostic procedure also could lead to a spike in the death toll, according to Raina McIntyre, head of biosecurity research at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

"Presumably, there are deaths which occurred in people who did not have a lab diagnosis but did have a CT. It is important that these also be counted," she told Reuters.

Under previous, stricter rules for identifying coronavirus cases, patients were often denied access to treatment or went undiagnosed.

The new testing methodology is only being used in Hubei province so far, Chinese officials said.