China said on Thursday that it had again changed the way patients with the novel coronavirus were counted and would now only include those diagnosed through sophisticated laboratory tests.
It is the second time in just eight days that the country has revised its criteria – a move that could mess up statistics and complicate efforts to track the spread of the disease.
Chinese health officials said last week that patients from Hubei province and its capital Wuhan – the epicenter of the outbreak – who were diagnosed through clinical methods, including lung imaging, would be added to the count in addition to those confirmed by laboratory studies.
This led to a huge increase in the number of confirmed cases by one day on February 13 – 14,840.
The change was made due to a backlog of patients waiting for nucleic acid tests that were deteriorating, said Wang Guiqiang, chief medical officer at Beijing University First Hospital.
"Patients needed active treatment," he said.
"Now the situation in Hubei has changed … There is no backlog of patients who need nucleic acid testing and we can now quickly test all suspected or undiagnosed cases."
The latest revision comes when China reported the biggest drop in new cases of the virus in nearly a month on Thursday, with 394 more infections nationwide.
In Hubei, officials said they were downward counting the number of cases previously reported in provincial towns after some patients diagnosed with lung imaging later tested negative in nucleic acid studies.
The death toll across China has now risen to 2,118 after 114 new deaths have been reported – most in Hubei.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)