242 deaths & 14,840 new Covid-19 infections confirmed in Hubei, China overnight

A broadening of definition for Covid-19 cases.

Belmont Lay | February 13, 2020, 11:40 AM

Mainland China’s novel coronavirus death toll has hit 1,310 at the end of Wednesday, Feb. 12, after the hardest-hit province of Hubei reported a record 242 new fatalities, the country’s National Health Commission.

Hubei also saw 14,840 new confirmed infections, by far its biggest one-day tally since the crisis erupted.

Health officials said the sharp rise in confirmed cases is the result of the adoption of new methodology for diagnosis.

The huge spike raised the death toll to 1,355.

The total number of nationwide infections has hit nearly 60,000.

Why the spike?

Hubei officials said they were broadening their definition for Covid-19 cases by including people "clinically diagnosed" with the virus in the daily tally.

Officials now use lung imaging on suspected cases to diagnose the virus, rather than the standard nucleic acid tests.

Hubei health commission said the change meant that patients could get treatment "as early as possible" and be "consistent" with the classification used in other provinces.

The change was made "as our understanding of pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus deepens, and as we accumulate experience in diagnosis and treatment", it said.

Optimism before spike

This latest spike in numbers came just hours after President Xi Jinping touted "positive results" from the government's drastic measures to contain the virus.

Xi chaired a meeting of the ruling Politburo Standing Committee on Wednesday after figures showed that the number of new cases had dropped for a second straight day.

However, authorities in Hubei have been accused of concealing the gravity of the outbreak in early January because they were holding key political meetings at the time.

Before the spike, a top Chinese expert predicted the epidemic would peak this month.

Zhong Nanshan, a renowned scientist at China's National Health Commission, said on Tuesday he thought the outbreak would peak in mid- to late-February.

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