COVID-19: Over 1,300 dead in China, 14,840 new coronavirus cases reported
The virus has infected over 60,000 people worldwide. The vast majority of cases are in mainland China.
China's Hubei province announced 242 new deaths from the coronavirus on Thursday morning -- twice as many as on the previous day. The toll in mainland China now stands at 1,355, with a sharp rise in confirmed cases after the adoption of new methodology for diagnosis, health officials said.
The number of new cases soared by 14,840 - also a daily record - to a total of 48,206 cases. Officials say 1,310 deaths have been reported in Hubei alone. One person has also died in Hong Kong and another in the Philippines.
Health officials in the province, the epicentre of the epidemic, said they had started including people diagnosed using the new methods from Thursday. Excluding cases confirmed using the new methods, the number of new cases rose by only 1,508, the official data showed.
According to CNN, the global number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases has now exceeded 60,015, with the vast majority of cases in mainland China.
New methodology for diagnosis sees surge in cases
China’s provincial health commission said last week that it would begin recognising computerised tomography (CT) scan results as confirmation of infections, allowing hospitals to isolate patients more quickly.
It also said it had revised its old data and previous assessments of suspected cases.
Hubei had previously only allowed infection 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 infection would help patients receive treatment as soon as possible and improve their chances of recovery, the commission said.
It could also 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.
A shortage of RNA test kits in Hubei's capital Wuhan has been a problem and may have delayed patients from being properly diagnosed and treated, contributing to the spread of the virus in the early days of the outbreak, Reuters previously reported.
Meanwhile, a cruise ship carrying more than 2,000 people has docked in Cambodia - after it was turned away by five countries over fears that some passengers might be infected with the virus.
The MS Westerdam arrived on Thursday morning after Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand had all refused to accept the ship - despite having no sick patients on board.
Cambodia's decision to welcome the ship was praised by the chief of the World Health Organization (WHO).
It was "an example of the international solidarity we have consistently been calling for", Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said.
On Tuesday, top Chinese epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan said the epidemic should peak in China this month before subsiding.
The US Centers for Disease Control said it was preparing for the coronavirus to possibly "take a foothold in the US". Thirteen cases have been confirmed in the country so far.
Meanwhile, US airlines have extended China flight cancellations into late April.
United Airlines said it will extend cancellations of all U.S. flights to China through late April due to the coronavirus epidemic.
With the announcement by Chicago-based United, all US passenger carriers flying to China have now cancelled flights into late April. Carriers say part of the reason is a dramatic drop-off in demand.
The American government has placed new restrictions on travellers to the US who have visited China, barring nearly all non-US residents if they have been in China within the last 14 days.
The country is also limiting flights from China or other international flights with American passengers that have been to China within the previous 14 days to 11 major US airports for enhanced screening.