Health officials and Chinese state media said on Thursday that 242 people died in the past 24 hours from coronavirus, the largest number of fatalities in a single day since the outbreak began.
Chinese officials also reported 14,840 new cases in Hubei Province alone, prompting fears from analysts and observers that Beijing may have underreported the number of cases in the country.
China said that the huge spike in cases were due to a new method of detecting the coronavirus using computerised tomography. Previous tests were only confirmed by blood tests to look for signs of the virus in a patient’s RNA.
The new findings contradict accounts and statements made by leading Chinese health officials who say that the disease may have peaked in the mainland.
Zhong Nanshan, the Chinese epidemiologist who discovered SARS and an advisor to the Chinese government, said that he hoped that the outbreak would be over by April.
Zhong said that numbers backed up his prediction as, before Thursday, the number of new cases seemed to have plateaued.
The World Health Organization says they’re sending a team of experts to China to both monitors the situation and serve in an advisory role to the Chinese public health ministry.
Cruise ships scrutinised
44 more people tested positive for the coronavirus on the cruise ship the Diamond Princess which remains docked in Yokohoma, Japan. The total number of outbreaks on the ship now stands at 219 confirmed cases.
More than 3,700 passengers and crew remain on board the Diamond Princess and health officials are worried that the risk increases daily.
Some embassies have asked the Japanese government to allow their citizens to disembark, including the Israeli government which has offered to evacuate its citizens.
Another cruise ship, the MS Westerdam, carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, was finally allowed to dock in Cambodia on Thursday morning after being rejected by Guam, Thailand and Japan.