COVID-19 infects 234 people in 2 Chinese prisons, top officials fired

Workers put up government propaganda to fight against the viral outbreak in Beijing, China on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. A viral outbreak that began in China has infected more than 75,000 people globally. The World Health Organization has named the illness COVID-19, referring to its origin late last year and the coronavirus that causes it. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

The new coronavirus has spread in two prisons in China, infecting 234 people, and top officials deemed responsible for the outbreaks have been fired, authorities said on Friday.

The infections found in the two jails, in the northern province of Shandong and the eastern province of Zhejiang, made up most of the 258 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases outside the central province of Hubei, the epicentre of the virus, on Thursday.

Authorities sacked the chief of the provincial justice department in Shandong after the extent of the outbreak in Rencheng prison in Jining city was detected. In all, 207 people at the jail tested positive.

The jail discovered its first case in a prison officer on Feb. 13. Seven prison officials were also fired, authorities told a media briefing.

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Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: WHO says 74,675 cases reported in China'
Coronavirus outbreak: WHO says 74,675 cases reported in China

The outbreak revealed that some departments had “poorly implemented their responsibilities, their work was not solid and epidemic prevention measures are inaccurate”, said Yu Chenghe, deputy secretary-general of Shandong provincial government.

A prison in Zhejiang province has also reported an outbreak, with 27 prisoners found to be newly infected this week.

The director and Communist Party chief of the Shilifeng prison in Zhejiang were sacked and an investigation into the outbreak has been launched, the provincial government said on its social media site.

Shandong health officials said they had designated a hospital in Jining to treat the virus patients and would also allocate facilities within the prison for treatment.

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The surge in cases detected at the two prisons ended 16 straight days of declines in new cases in China excluding Hubei.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: China reports new cases fall below 400 in single day'
COVID-19: China reports new cases fall below 400 in single day

China has found 74,000 cases of the coronavirus and more than 2,100 people have died, most in Hubei province and its capital of Wuhan.

Reporting by Dominique Patton. Editing by Robert Birsel

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