China coronavirus death toll surpasses 1,600

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The death toll from China’s coronavirus epidemic jumped past 1,600 on Sunday after 139 more people died in hard-hit Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.

In its daily update, the province’s health commission also reported 1,843 fresh cases -- the third day that reported new infections declined in the province.

At least 1,662 people have now died from the outbreak that first emerged in Hubei’s capital, Wuhan, in December and spiraled into a nationwide epidemic.

More than 68,000 people have now been infected, with most deaths occurring in Hubei.

The province added more than 14,000 cases in a single day this week after officials there changed their criteria for counting cases to include people clinically diagnosed through lung imaging, in addition to those with a positive lab test result.

The revision added nearly 15,000 patients to Hubei’s tally on Thursday, with the World Health Organization noting that cases going back weeks were retroactively counted.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the body has asked China for details on how diagnoses were being made.

France reported the first fatality from the new coronavirus outside Asia on Saturday, fueling global concerns about the epidemic.

China’s central bank said Saturday that to control the outbreak spreading, used banknotes were being disinfected and stored for up to 14 days before they are put back into circulation.

On Saturday, WHO chief said the coronavirus outbreak is still an emergency for China and it is impossible to tell where the epidemic will spread.

Tedros told the Munich Security Conference in Germany he was encouraged by actions China had taken to slow the spread of virus but was still concerned about the increasing number of cases.

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