After first reporting the number of new cases of the coronavirus in China dropped for a second straight day, health officials in the central Hubei province said the death toll actually jumped by a record 242 on Thursday, bringing the total number of deaths so far to 1,310.
The new deaths were more than twice the prior provincial daily record of 103 set on Monday.
The number of new cases in Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, also jumped to 14,840 as the province’s health commission said that it had begun including people who are diagnosed through new clinical methods from Thursday.
It also said it had revised its old data and suspected cases to include over 100 clinically diagnosed cases.
Earlier in the day world health officials cautioned against a possible glimmer of hope that the number of new cases were declining.
Dr. Mike Ryan, the head of emergencies for the World Health Organization, said it is “way too early to try to predict the beginning of the end” of the crisis in China. But he said: “The stabilization in cases in the last number of days is very reassuring and it is to a great extent the result of the huge public health operation in China.”
China has locked down an unprecedented 60 million people in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, which has hit hardest in the city of Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva that the numbers “must be interpreted with extreme caution,” adding: “This outbreak could still go in any direction.” At the same time, he noted that the number of other countries reporting cases – about two dozen – has not changed since Feb. 4.
All but one of the deaths recorded so far have been in China, as have more than 99 per cent of all reported infections in the world.
“In principle at the moment, there’s no evidence out there that this virus is out there causing efficient community transmission in other countries,” Ryan said. “We have a window of opportunity to shut this virus down.”
At the end of a two-day meeting aimed at speeding the development of new tests, drugs and vaccines for the new virus, WHO said scientists had agreed upon a set of global research priorities but warned it could still take considerable time before any licensed products might be available.