Doctors in China adopted a new way of diagnosing the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, leading to a huge jump in both the official number of deaths blamed on the disease and the tally of confirmed cases in the country at the heart of the outbreak.
Officials in Hubei province, the Chinese region where the virus is believed to have jumped into the human population from wild animals, reported 254 new deaths and 15,152 new cases of the flu-like virus. The increase brought the worldwide death toll to at least 1,359 and the number of confirmed cases to more than 60,000. Only about 400 of those patients, and just two of the fatalities, have been outside of mainland China.
The sharp increase came after two days of reported declines in the number of confirmed new cases in China. The jump came as Chinese doctors began using lung imaging to diagnose the disease in addition to the standard nucleic acid tests they had been using.
The largest cluster of coronavirus cases outside of China, on a cruise ship that has been quarantined for almost two weeks in Japan, continued to grow Thursday. With 218 cases confirmed from the Diamond Princess, Japan’s government said it would allow some elderly passengers from the vessel to move into government-provided housing on land, where they would be monitored for symptoms apart from the general population.