Some 242 people died from the new coronavirus in the Chinese province of Hubei on Wednesday – the deadliest day since the outbreak began.
There was also a huge increase in the number of cases, with 14,840 people diagnosed with the virus.
Hubei has started using a broader definition to diagnose people – which accounts for most of the rise in cases.
Until Wednesday’s increases, the number of people diagnosed in Hubei – where the outbreak emerged – was stabilising.
But the new cases and deaths in the province have pushed the national death toll above 1,350 – with almost 60,000 cases in total.
The province – which accounts for more than 80% of overall Chinese infections – now includes “clinically diagnosed cases” in the number of confirmed cases.
This means it includes those showing symptoms, and having a CT scan showing the infected lung – rather than relying only on the standard nucleic acid tests.
Of the 242 new deaths in Wuhan, 135 are such “clinically diagnosed” cases. That means, even without the new definition, the number of deaths in Hubei on Wednesday was 107 – a new high for the province.
The province’s 14,840 new infections include 13,332 clinically diagnosed cases.
Overall, the province now has 48,206 confirmed infections.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was “way too early” to predict the end of the epidemic.
“This outbreak could still go in any direction,” WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus warned.
On Tuesday top Chinese epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan said the epidemic should peak in China this month before subsiding.
The WHO has been able to track down the source of transmission in all but eight of the 441 cases of the virus outside China, its head of emergencies Michael Ryan said.
He added: “I think it’s way too early to try to predict the beginning, the middle or the end of this epidemic right now.”
Four possible vaccines were being funded for pre-clinical development, WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan told reporters.
“I think we will find a vaccine,” she said. “It will take some time. A vaccine cannot be made overnight.”
Dr Tedros, the WHO chief, also praised Cambodia for taking in the Westerdam, a US cruise ship that had earlier been turned away from ports in Japan, Thailand and Taiwan despite having no sick patients on board.
It was “an example of the international solidarity we have consistently been calling for”, he said. – BBC News