A delivery man carries goods near a health checkpoint into a office building in Beijing, China Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. That brings the country's total death toll to 1,367 as the number of people infected hit 59,804, according to the government.
Asian stock markets wobbled and the safe-havens of the Japanese yen, gold and bonds rose after the new Hubei numbers dashed hopes the epidemic was stabilizing and the Chinese economy could bounce back quickly.
The removals are the latest in a purge that saw Hubei's two most senior health officials fired earlier this week as criticism grows over the way the outbreak has been handled, with claims of under-reporting.
China has sacked the top political leaders of virus-stricken Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, the highest-profile figures to be removed so far in a crisis that has killed 1,355.
"Thank you Communist Party". This has fuelled concern that the epidemic is far worse than is being admitted officially.
In breaking down the large number of new cases in China, National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng said Hubei had adopted a revised diagnosis and treatment plan aimed at accelerating the identification and treatment of patients.
About 60,000 people have now been confirmed to have the virus, the vast majority in China. Two other places outside mainland China - Hong Kong and the Philippines - have previously confirmed one death each.
"One further patient in England has tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the total number of cases in the United Kingdom to nine", Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England said in a statement.
The new diagnostic procedure could explain the spike in deaths, said Raina McIntyre, head of biosecurity research at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales.
"This is the first death of a person who tested positive". "It is important that these also be counted", she told Reuters. Earlier in the day, Hubei officials asserted that they had discovered a new way to diagnose the deadly strain. "Under agreed guidelines between WHO, the World Organization for Animal Health, and the Food and Agriculture Organization, we had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease".
"This outbreak could still go in any direction", he told reporters.
Results from Chinese trials testing a combination of antiviral drugs used to treat HIV against the new coronavirus are due in weeks, but experts say a vaccine could still be months away. In all, 219 of about 3,700 people on board have tested positive.
Several countries have banned arrivals from China, while major airlines have halted flights to and from the country, as hundreds of people have now been infected in some two-dozen countries.