- In Hubei province, 242 people died on Wednesday
- New test methods are only used in Hubei Province: Official
- Hubei previously allowed infections to be confirmed only by RNA tests
The Chinese province in the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak reported a record increase in deaths on Thursday after health experts warned the epidemic could worsen before it got better.
Health officials in Hubei province said 242 people died from the flu-like virus on Wednesday. This is the fastest increase in the daily number since the pathogen was identified in December and the total number of deaths in the province is 1,310. The previous record toll increase was 103 on February 10.
The bleak new record came a day after China reported the lowest number of new coronavirus cases in two weeks. This confirmed the forecast by the country's senior medical advisor that the epidemic could end in April.
However, the 2,015 new confirmed cases reported in mainland China on Wednesday lagged behind the 14,840 new cases reported in Hubei alone after provincial officials started using computed tomography (CT) scans to use to look for infections.
Hubei had previously only confirmed the confirmation of infections by RNA tests, the processing and delay of which could take days. RNA or ribonucleic acid contains genetic information that enables the identification of organisms such as viruses.
Using CT scans that reveal lung infections would help patients get treatment as soon as possible and improve their chances of recovery, the Hubei Health Commission said.
Raina McIntyre, director of biosafety research at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, said the new diagnostic method could also increase the death toll.
"Presumably there have been deaths in people who had no laboratory diagnosis but a CT. It is important that they are counted," she told Reuters.
Previous, stricter rules for identifying coronavirus cases often denied patients access to treatment or undiagnosed them.
The new test method has only been used in Hubei province so far, Chinese officials said.
Asian equity markets shook and the safe haven of the Japanese yen, gold and bonds rose after the new Hubei numbers destroyed hope that the epidemic would stabilize and the Chinese economy could recover quickly.
The results of Chinese studies testing a combination of antiviral drugs to treat HIV against the new coronavirus are due in weeks. However, experts say a vaccine could be months away.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned of the slowdown in the spread of the epidemic with "extreme caution".
"This outbreak could still go in any direction," he said in Geneva on Wednesday.
Hundreds of infections have been reported in more than two dozen other countries and areas, but only two people have died from the virus outside of China – one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.
The largest number of cases outside of China occur on a cruise ship that has been quarantined in front of the Japanese port of Yokohama. A further 44 cases were reported on Thursday. So far, 219 of around 3,700 people on board have tested positive.
There was a happy ending for another cruise ship, the MS Westerdam, which docked in Cambodia after being denied docking rights in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Guam and the Philippines, as it was feared that one of its 1,455 passengers and 802 Crew members could have the virus even though no one had tested positive.
"It was a breathtaking moment just seeing land this morning," Angela Jones, an American tourist on the ship, told Reuters. "I thought: is this real?"
The outbreak is said to have taken place in the provincial capital Hubuh in Wuhan in December. The city of 11 million people is still practically closed, and other major Chinese cities face significant travel restrictions.
United Airlines announced that it would extend the cancellation of all US flights to China until the end of April, which means that all US passenger airlines flying to China had canceled flights by the end of April.
The move is the latest disruption to international travel that has paralyzed companies and affected major conferences and sporting events.
The Mobile World Congress, an annual telecommunications industry meeting that draws more than 100,000 visitors to Barcelona, was canceled on Wednesday after a mass exodus of exhibitors due to concerns about corona viruses.
Another major event that had to be canceled, postponed or postponed was the Formula 1 Grand Prix of China, which was originally held in Shanghai on April 19.
Singapore's annual rugby tournament of seven, scheduled to take place in the city-state on April 11 and 12, would be postponed due to the outbreak of the corona virus, a source familiar with the matter said.
Hong Kong extended the suspension of the schools until at least March 16 to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the city, which confirmed 50 cases.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)