The fight against the novel coronavirus took a turn for the worse on 12 February (Wednesday) night, as Chinese health officials in the Hubei province reported 242 new deaths and 14,840 new cases of the flu-like virus.
That brings the worldwide death toll to at least 1,357 and the number of confirmed cases to more than 60,000.
The rise in cases comes as Chinese officials broadened their definition of confirmed cases. Now, lung imaging can be used to diagnose the virus in a suspected patient, in addition to the standard nucleic acid tests, according to AFP.
Chinese officials said 13,332 of the new cases and just over half the new death toll can be attributed to the new classification, AFP reported.
The announcement comes after China had said the number of new cases confirmed inside the country had declined for two days in a row. All but two deaths from the disease, now officially named COVID-19, occurred in mainland China. The only other fatalities have been in the Philippines and Hong Kong.
As of Tuesday, there were only two clusters of the virus outside of China; one on a cruise ship docked off the coast of Japan, and a handful of cases in southern England. At least 174 people from the cruise have been diagnosed with the disease, and hundreds more were being tested.
The CDC also announced Wednesday that another American evacuee from Wuhan, China, had been diagnosed with the coronavirus, bringing the total number of U.S. cases to 14. Although that evacuee had been quarantined at the same base as another coronavirus patient, the CDC said there is no evidence of contact between the two.
The World Health Organization gathered top disease specialists Tuesday for a second day of brainstorming in Geneva to try and answer questions about the new disease. The agency's boss opened the meetings with a plea for global unity against "a common enemy that does not respect borders or ideologies."