14-month-old coronavirus patient discharged from hospital in Hubei

Coronavirus cases appeared to be levelling off over the past week; unfortunately, that's no longer the case

Coronavirus cases appeared to be levelling off over the past week; unfortunately, that's no longer the case

Most of the deaths have been in Hubei and its capital, Wuhan, the epicentre of the crisis.

But in Geneva, World Health Organization officials warned Wednesday against reaching premature conclusions on the Chinese data.

Asian stock markets wobbled and the safe-havens of the Japanese yen, gold and bonds rose after the new Hubei numbers dashed hopes the epidemic was stabilizing and the Chinese economy could bounce back quickly.

Hubei health officials said 242 people had died overnight - the biggest single-day total yet.

More than 48,000 people have contracted the virus in the Hubei province while the death toll has risen to over 1,300.

But it has begun using quicker computerised tomography (CT) scans, which reveal lung infections, the Hubei health commission said, to confirm virus cases and isolate them faster.

The province also broadened its definition of COVID-19 cases to include "clinically diagnosed" patients, which results in a steep rise of 14,840 new cases.

He said it wasn't unprecedented for case definitions to rely on doctors' diagnoses rather than wait for laboratory confirmation, and that these kinds of changes usually happen when there are simply too many patients to process in a fast-moving outbreak.

Lawrence Wong, a co-chairman of Singapore's task force fighting the outbreak, says the virus is clearly circulating within the population and it's too early to tell how things will unfold.

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Authorities in Hubei have been accused of concealing the gravity of the outbreak in early January because they were holding key political meetings at the time.

"The new charts of infection rates look much more worrying, and have certainly dealt a blow to the narrative that things were beginning to improve, putting the gains of the past few days in doubt", said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG.

"Oddly, this now is a moment of greater transparency", Sam Crane, political science professor at Williams College in MA, told AFP.

He called on the worldwide community to maintain solidarity, increase sharing of information, experience and technology, "and work with the Chinese government and people to jointly meet the challenges". Health officials wearing protective suits sprayed disinfectant on vehicles.

Tedros said the World Health Organisation had chosen a name that did not refer to a geographical location, animals, an individual or a group of people to avoid stigmatisation amid a wave of anti-Chinese sentiment.

Japan's Health Ministry announced Thursday that 44 more people on a cruise ship quarantined in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo, have tested positive for COVID-19.

Several countries have banned arrivals from China, while major airlines have halted flights to and from the country, as hundreds of people have now been infected in some two-dozen countries.

United Airlines said it would extend cancellations of all USA flights to China through late April, meaning all US passenger carriers flying to China had now cancelled flights into late April.

Zhang also called on the global community "to remain rational", base actions on evidence, respect the World Health Organization's guidance, "evaluate the epidemic objectively and impartially, and take proper measures to avoid overreaction that would cause greater negative effects".

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