More than 14,800 new cases of the coronavirus have been reported in China’s Hubei province – the epicentre of the outbreak.
Health officials in the country have been using a new method to identify cases of COVID-19, the disease which is caused by the coronavirus.
A total of 242 people died from the flu-like virus on Wednesday – the fastest rise since the pathogen was identified in December.
There had been optimism that the number of infections was beginning to slow down. On Tuesday, China had reported its lowest number of new COVID-19 cases in two weeks.
But the World Health Organisation had warned that the apparent slowdown in the spread of the coronavirus epidemic should be treated with “extreme caution”.
A total of 48,206 cases of COVID-19 are now being treated in Hubei province alone, most of them in the city of Wuhan.
According to the region’s health commission, 33,693 people are still being treated in hospital – and 5,647 of them are said to be critically ill.
More than 158,000 people who came into close contact with COVID-19 patients are being tracked in Hubei, and 77,308 people are under medical observation.
In other developments:
- The outbreak has now sickened more than 60,000 people across China, and 1,310 have died in total
- Dozens of Britons rescued from Wuhan are going to be released after two weeks of quarantine in Merseyside
- London has had its first confirmed case of COVID-19, taking the total number of patients in the UK to nine
- The World Health Organisation has warned “this outbreak could still go in any direction”
- Several events – including the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona – have been cancelled
- A second patient has tested positive for COVID-19 in San Diego, California
It is not immediately clear what the region’s new method for diagnosing COVID-19 is, or why the number of fatalities has risen so sharply over the past 24 hours.
Global markets had surged to record highs when Zhong Nanshan, a Chinese medical adviser who played a role in combating the SARS outbreak in 2003, predicted that COVID-19 cases will peak this month.