Coronavirus death toll leaps in Hubei

The virus - also known as Covid-19 - has spread to at least 24 countries, sickened more than 60,000 people worldwide, with tens of thousands more suspected cases.

The death toll in China's Hubei province from a coronavirus outbreak leapt by a record 242 on Thursday to 1,310, with a sharp rise in confirmed cases after the adoption of new methodology for diagnosis, health officials said.

Hubei had previously only allowed infection to be confirmed by RNA tests, which can take days to process and delay treatment.

US E-mini stock futures extend fall, drop as far as 0.5% after jump in coronavirus cases.

Markets had reached record highs in Europe on Wednesday, amid hopes Chinese authorities' tough quarantine measures were helping to contain the spread of the flu-like virus.

But in Geneva, World Health Organization officials warned Wednesday against reaching premature conclusions on the Chinese data.

"I think it's way too early to try to predict the beginning, the middle or the end of this epidemic right now", Michael Ryan, head of WHO's health emergencies programme, said at the agency's daily news conference.

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The surge brings the total number of deaths in the Hubei province to 1,310.

Meanwhile, Chinese state media reported that Jiang Chaoliang, the head of the Communist Party in Hubei province, and Ma Guoqiang, the party chief in the provincial capital, Wuhan, were both removed from their posts.

Tedros also praised Cambodia for agreeing to take in the Westerdam, a United States cruise ship that has been rejected at several Asian ports over coronavirus fears. The province is at the epicenter of the outbreak.

Japan's Health Ministry announced Thursday that 44 more people on a cruise ship quarantined in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo, have tested positive for COVID-19.

Holland American Line, the cruise operator, said it would charter flights to transfer some 2,000 passengers out of the coastal city of Sihanoukville.

The ship spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand.

The rise in the toll more than doubled the prior provincial daily record of 103 set on Monday, while the number of new cases soared by 14,840 - also a daily record - to a total of 48,206 cases.

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